Basel - Weinstube

 

« Hmm...ça a l’air bon... » a woman at the table next to me cooed softly to her husband, as the young waitress brought me my order. I winked at the woman, who gave me a sheepish smile and reluctantly turned her adoring gaze back to her own lunch.

There is something gratifying about arousing envy from one’s fellow diners...almost like strutting about in an elegant soirée with a truly desirable date. Well-fed vanity may very well be the ultimate aphrodisiac, or in this case, the supreme appetizer.

Looking down at my plate, I felt quite pleased with my selection off the 10-dish menu here at Restaurant Weinstube. Sticking a fork into this lovely culinary creation would almost seem sacrilegious, but someone had to find out if this dish tasted as delectable as it looked.

The last few days in Basel had been a blur. I could hardly recall the quick bites I managed between a flurry of work-related activities. Before heading off to Lucerne later this afternoon, I was determined not to leave Basel with an empty stomach. To be sure that my one shot at this city’s culinary scene turned out to be a hit rather than a miss, I consulted with Frau G, owner of the B&B where I was staying. In particular I asked her about Der Teufelhof, a supposedly eclectic culture and guest house offering a unique experience of haute cuisine, theatre and art. I was rather keen on sampling one of Teufelhof’s two restaurants, either the Bel Étage or the Weinstube.

Frau G said she had never dined at the Teufelhof, which to her knowledge caters mostly to tourists. She recommended instead a restaurant where the locals frequent. Having lived in Hawaii most of my life, I understand quite well the divide between tourist food and local food. Restaurants that cater to tourists can indeed go either way on the scale of culinary worthiness, and this afternoon I felt more inclined to play it safe and trust in tried and true local knowledge.

With an address in hand, I meandered in the quaint city center of Basel, looking for an alley described by Frau G. Fruitless in my search after half an hour, I realized I must have misunderstood her directions. I decided to leave things to fate and wandered off aimlessly, hoping to come across some worthy restaurant by chance.

I don’t recall exactly which route I took, but soon I found myself walking along the Leonhardsgraben when a building suddenly caught my eye—I had stumbled upon the Teufelhof without even looking for it. It felt as if I had run into a tall handsome stranger on my way to a blind date, only to discover that this stranger was my date. It really was meant to be after all, I smiled to myself.

As it turned out, the trio of fish I sampled at Weinstube satisfied my stomach’s every desire. Each piece of fish was succulent with a slightly crusty exterior, the fresh taste of the sea evident in every delicate morsel. The wild rice was fluffy while retaining a nice texture, and the earthy and smoky flavor of the braised fennel balanced the fruity champagne sauce quite nicely.

As I relished my meal down to the very last morsel, I could not help but ponder on the cosmic forces at work in this universe...