2323 Van Ness
hearing at the bar
evening was very exciting for me, knowing that I would not only be a guest
judge of the beloved F¸d Court but that we were also eating at The
Matterhorn! I remember fondue from my childhood in the suburban 70s of
California and with its resurgence I'd hoped this meal would be the fondue
that I'd judge all others against.
met at the bar and I should've known that the story here would be the
story for the rest of our dinner. It was hard to get the bartender's attention
to order a drink and even harder to get her attention to pay for it!!
I guess that's only half-bad though... We sat in one of their comfortable
blonde wood booths, and we sat and we sat and we sat. Finally our waiter
explained apologetically that they were understaffed that night. But even
when things slowed down the service wasn't any better.
the Half and Half Fondue Moitie, a blend of Fribourg Vacherin and Gruyere,
the "Oh La La" Fondue Normaindie, a blend of French Raclette and Camembert,
and the Fondue Bourguignonne, hot oil and beef cubes. (We also got a side
of sausages, yummm!) Karin chose two wines, a white Fondant 2000 for the
cheese and a red vins des Chevaliers Dole 1998 for the beef, both of them
Swiss. It's hard to say which of the cheese combos I liked better. The
flavors were very similar and I must say I ate plenty of both! The white
wine, slightly sweet, worked very well with the tanginess of both cheeses.
All in all a thumbs up! The hot oil and beef, however, was a different
story. At first it was a lot of fun having a boiling pot of oil in front
of us and the sizzle and crackle of the beef just added to the excitement!
The first couple of beef bits tasted great because the oil was hot and
the beef cubes came out crispy. But alas, the oil cooled and so we were
forced to leave the beef cubes in for a very long time to properly cook
them. Yes, they did indeed turn into tough greasy chunks. Very sad. Also,
the red wine was weak and lacked any zippidy-do-da that would've countered
the richness of deep-fried beef.
were given an large assortment of beef dipping condiments but of them
all I only liked the curry, horseradish, and the tartar. The apple compote
just didn't do it for me. We were also given several little dishes of
things like pickled cocktail onions, kiwi, pineapple, marinated olives,
and mushrooms. I didn't understand it and didn't need any of it.
while I really liked the cheese fondues, but could've done without the
beef. At the very least (next time) I would try the beef with hot broth
instead of oil. I liked the atmosphere of a recreated Swiss Chalet, but
we shouldn't have had to ask for our second bottle of wine three times,
nor should we have had to ask for water and ask for water and ask for
water! Overall I'm happy I went but don't think I would go again.
all that said I give it 2 corn dogs. Get a good fondue book and try it
Counsel Ask Andy
special counsel Ask Andy was unable to make the fondue fest and instead
sent Bad Andy, the notorious loud-talking, inappropriate comment making
fool who seems to be popping up with a frequency unseen since about 1998.
You have been warned.
were joined by expert witness Ruppert, I will refrain from making any
real judgments on the fondue. Overall it was pretty durn good... the Camembert-Gruyere
mix (I think) was nice: mellow and rich. The vacherin-gruyere mix was
even better, adding in a bit of that good old cheesy funk that we all
know and love. I'm sure the Swiss have some better cheese at their disposal
but we weren't there and their cheese wasn't here so we made do. All in
all my comment is this: I was surrounded by cheese all day. I even ate
cheese all day. And then what did I do? I went and ate more cheese...
so, how bad could it have been. Rumor is that restaurants are notorious
for stretching their fondue with a little cornstarch... rumor also had
it that the Matterhorn falls prey to such insidious budget-minded practice.
But it still tasted good.
there was the meat. Gluttons that we are, we opted for the meat in oil
just in case we hadn't reached our fat and cholesterol limit with the
two cheese pots. At first the meat was great... crisped up nice and toasty
in a bubbling vat of fat. Topped with one of the zillion condiments it
was a nice break from the cheese. However, as the night wore on and the
oil cooled down the meat began turning out gray, greasy, and lifeless.
No amount of horseradish mayo is gonna fix that. Eat the meat hot and
quick. Lesson learned. My experiments with deep frying the little side
dishes were largely met with failure and a number of morsels (artichoke
hearts, kiwis, olives) met their doom in the depths of the oil pot. The
fried potato dipped in cheese, however, was an undeniable success.
on the wine: The first effervescent Swiss white (seeming something Alsatian-like)
was a perfect foil for the cheese. The repulsive, lamentable red, however,
was an embarrassment not only to Swiss winemakers but also the the grape
itself. Thankfully by that point, even Bad Andy knew to call it quits
and passed his glass to Judge Turner.
was pretty sad. We had to ask for the wine three separate times before
it arrived. Then again, seeing how bad it was, perhaps the waiter was
trying to do us a favor. I suppose I'd be surly too if my livelihood consisted
of dressing up in somebody else's faux-traditional garb and giving thankless
tourist buckets of bubbling cheese (though, I suppose that is more or
less what I do) in exchange for paltry tips... but we all have to live
with our decisions.
should be eaten at home where both the kirsch and bathroom are close at
hand. However, just for kicks, the Matterhorn is worthy of one visit.
You'll leave full, happy, probably a little sick.
what an outing for the Füd Court. We had the pleasure of dining with
our very own special counsel Ask Andy as well as guest judge Suzanne and
fondue expert Karin.
my first try at the fondue -- in a restaurant, that is -- I foundue it
nice to share with a large group.
is on the 101 or Van Ness if you like, sorta off on its own but there
is Polk Street just a block away. The restaurant is pleasant enough but
even with posters of nice-looking Swiss places it lacks the charm I was
hoping for. The dining room is more on the sterile side but not uncomfortable.
fondue, which is all we ordered, it works like this: Pick your 'due from
a variety of cheese or meat types, or a little of both. They sell them
to serve two people at about $28 for the cheese and $40 for the meat.
I believe they can easily feed two and maybe even three. You can also
order some sides for 'due-ing, like sausage or shrimp. I say the cheese
fondue is the way to go. You don't get much better than drowning hunks
of fresh bread in hot cheese and eatin' it right up. Then again, how hard
is it to melt some cheese, thicken it up and flavor it with some wine?
Could be very difficult -- I don't know.
fondue was... eh. It started off pretty good: tender bits of beef that
fried up nicely in the hot oil and had plenty of sauces to choose from
for dipping. The problem was that after a couple dips the oil went cool
and after that all you got was a warmed up chunk of meat that barely went
past gray -- no more tasty crispy bits. The salad that came with was very
nice, topped with egg, tomato, and a tangy dressing.
at our particular outing was poor. Sure it was Saturday night but the
waiter was not very attentive and had to be asked repeatedly to bring
the wine or fill a water glass. He even seemed put out. I don't know if
it was directed at us or at the place he works but I say strive for good
to great service or don't serve at all.
recommend you give the Matterhorn a try. It definitely has something going
Francisco isn't exactly brimming with fondue restaurants, let alone Swiss
restaurants. So when guest judge Suzanne suggested The Matterhorn, who
were we to argue? And we're certainly not going to argue with a meal of
melted cheese. Good God no.
All of my previous
cheese fondue experiences have been of the homemade variety. Lovingly
prepared by actual Swiss people in residential kitchens with only the
choicest ingredients. That means a blend of quality cheeses like Gruyere,
Vacherin and Emmenthaler (what we call Swiss Cheese), dry white wine,
Kirsch (cherry schnapps), special secret spices and plenty of garlic.
This is comfort food elevated to a cosmic level, I can assure you.
And I have to say
The Matterhorn stood up fairly well in comparison. Perhaps not quite as
rich and complex, but pretty good. We got a couple of cheesers and one
oil fondue, known as Bourguignonne or French-style over there in Switzerland.
Skip the oil one. But our two cheese choices worked out pretty well. We
got a traditional Gruyere/Vacherin mix and a more exotic one with Camembert.
Both good, but not as good as homemade. Expert witness Ruppert presented
evidence of excessive cornstarch filler by pointing out that the cheese
did not congeal quickly when dropped on a plate. Interesting. Little skimpy
on the garlic, too.
But still, they make
a fairly honest fondue there. It's a warm, woody, festive atmosphere,
and there's not much competition around. So check it out for a group-outing-treat
kind of deal. Not cheap! And our service sucked. But I think they were
shorthanded. We'll continue our search for a better fondue joint, but
until then, The Matterhorn is about all we can recommend.
Matterhorn goes down
as one of the largest Füd Court trials in history, and the appearance
of Bad Ask Andy likely landed artist renderings on Court TV. Surrounded
by tables full of zero San Francisco residents -- this is strictly a tourist
destination -- we managed to make it through two cheese fondues and one
For my money (and
the place is not cheap), cheese is the way to go. The oil is too much
stress for too little return. Are you cooking the meat enough? Too much?
Who the hell knows. Especially when the oil's getting all mucked up and
losing its clout. So, go with the cheese. How can you go wrong with melted
cheese? But be warned: They cut that stuff with corn starch galore. If
you're feeling industrious and want fondue done really right, find yourself
a pot, petition expert witness Ruppert for a recipe, and have a little
party at home.