Restaurant Review: Chalet la Suisse, Santa Cruz, Bolivia
I hate to write bad reviews of a restaurant, but I had an experience so overwhelming that it simply must be done. My wife Chary, the Zen Master, and I went to have lunch at Chalet La Suisse. A beautiful restaurant it is, with bright cheerful alpine influenced decor and pretty little dark-skinned beauties in Swiss-miss outfits bustling around in the sunlit high ceiling rooms.
Now, we have eaten there many times down through the years. Sometimes it was great and sometimes it was not so great. I have tried numerous items on the menu that were excellent. Once or twice though I felt really let down, even cheated, by the quality. But hey, Chef Trent is a realist and sometimes restaurant kitchens produce failures due to the staff not behaving properly and not paying attention to precise preparations.
Things happen to even the best of us, oh foodie brethren, and we all know it. But there is no room for a bad recipe and this is where I will jump off into what I hope will be my last rant ever.
Chefs listening around the world: Taste your own food before you serve it!
My wife and I both ordered the turkey stuffed with spinach and sun dried tomatoes in curry sauce for the same reason anybody orders a dish: It looked delicious in the description and because that caught our imaginations. So this is what they brought us: A beautiful presentation with rolled turkey slices spilling over with a filling of spinach. It looked so inviting! Then we tasted it.
You know that moment when you look into each other's eyes and realize you have just made a horrible mistake? Like when you kiss one another after only one of you has eaten a lot of garlic? We had that moment.
The sauce was a mixture of ketchup, mustard and curry. I am a chef and I know. My wife is the Zen Master and she spiritually divines such things. It was like when you order asparagus and you just know it comes from a jar.
"This is ketchup!" she said. And of course, as usual, the Zen Master was right.
I must admit that it takes a lot of nerve to try and pull off a stunt like that for 98 Bolivianos a plate. It takes an utter lack of respect for the palates of one's clients to attempt to prank them at such exorbitant expense.
Let's assume for argument's sake that it was not ketchup. Let us assume that it was a highly complex fusion of sauces, herbs and spices... composed to taste like ketchup. Why would anybody do that unless they think that, in the restaurant world, they have achieved such a lofty status that they do not need to care anymore; because they believe people will still continue to dine there despite being insulted by their product.
We did not complain though. We walked out smiling. We smiled in the knowledge that we were not being served this concoction in a prison somewhere relying on it for survival. Yes we were free. Free and happy to know that we can choose to dine where we please.
Fridays in Paradise with Chef Trent Wauson
Published 4 April 2014
Chef Trent Wauson owns the La Luna Verde Resto Bar
and La Posada del Sol boutique hotel in Samaipata, Bolivia. He contributes his favorite Bolivian recipes, restaurant reviews and food commentary on www.BoliviaBella.com. Visit Chef Trent's Food Page
on BoliviaBella.com for more.