Restaurant in Flüh serves well balanced menu
“Jetzt ist es perfekt!” Now everything is perfect, our waiter said with what I took for a strong Italian accent, while he lit the candle on our table. We hadn’t had a bite or a sip yet, but we caught his drift. The tablecloth, ironed and starched, was sparkling white, the Dibbern bread plate was shining and the heavy glass candleholder reflected the candlelight like a diamond. Wirtshaus zur Säge in Flüh (canton Solothurn, Switzerland) has a cosy, traditional dining room without being stodgy. The blond wooden panels against the otherwise white walls gave the room a warm and airy touch despite the low-beamed ceiling. It was a dreary Sunday and we were ready for a treat, hoping it would be as perfect as our invitingly laid table.
Säge is run by chef Patrick Zimmermann and his wife (heading the front of the house), both French, and living just across the border in the southern Alsace. The five-course set menu we chose was however rather classic French than specifically Alsatian.
To warm up we first got a small cup of leek soup, soon followed by two more appetizers: a tiny scoop of veal tartar topped with a piece of grilled cheese lacework, and the best of all three: a mini fish burger. Perfect how the bun had remained crisp despite the fact that it was bathing in a delicate saffron sauce.
About our first starter, a terrine of duck liver, we could have an argument. Should you eat it or not? The horrendous conditions under which the birds are often kept and fed, is shocking. Hence I never choose duck liver à la carte, but I accept it once in a while as a part of a set menu. I agree, not highly principled. At Säge I didn’t regret the choice. The terrine had the right size (not too big) and temperature (room), a velvety texture and a creamy, rich, livery flavor. Drops of fig mustard and honey added sweet notes.
Just the week before we had been watching the episode of Chef’s Table France where star chef Troisgros tells how challenging it is to create an outstanding dish based on just two ingredients, in his case milk and truffle. Inspired by a painting by Lucio Fontana it was visually spectacular in its simplicity. Our second course at Säge, potato foam and Périgord truffle, reminded us of Troisgros. Deceptively simple, yet perfectly executed, utterly delicious. Just as when we had the homemade spaghetti with truffle at Bord’Eau in Amsterdam, we realised that, when in good hands, less can be more. Truffle is certainly one of those ingredients where one mild flavor (pasta, potato, milk) can be the base on which the tuber shines.
Sole in pink Champagne sauce
The sole with spinach in a Champagne sauce and a little lovage twist (hard to detect) was competent, but we really veered up again when the duckbreast was served. It was not only visually attractive – with colorful dollops of carrot, broccoli, topinambur and celeriac cream -, it was also fingerlickingly tasty. The duck breast was a deep reddish-pink and tender, had a perfect, not excessively wide, rim of fat and was high on flavor. Crispy topinambur chips and deepfried pieces of salsify added structure and crunch.
The very well balanced menu was rounded off by chocolate ganache and mandarin ice cream. The ice cream had such an intense fruit flavor, I erroneously supposed Zimmermann had added a drop of Napoleon liqueur. When I asked, he willingly explained he only used pure, fifty percent reduced, mandarin juice.
Looking back, our waiter had presaged the meal. It was quite prefect. Perhaps not the most experimental or innovative cuisine, but this level of perfection can be exciting in its own right. When we stepped out, it was still drizzling, but the afternoon had been saved by a perfect lunch.
Wirtshaus zur Säge
Steinrain 5 – Flüh
T: +41 (0)61 731 1717
Five-course menu: CHF 138,- (with cheese CHF 155,-)
To do before or after: Visit Benedictine Monastery Mariastein, three kilometers away.
Why?: The monastery’s Gnadenkapel (chapel of mercy) attracts people from all over the world.