Austrian Maria Lohmeyer has owned three restaurants in the Broadway theater district over the course of 35 years, garnering a devoted following. Coming from hotel management, she enlisted Swiss/European chefs. Today’s kitchen is led by Chef Pedro Ramos who learned under them and apparently makes as superior a Strudel as he does a pork chop.
Elisabeth Eggimann and her husband (respectively Austrian and Swiss) were among regulars at Maria’s establishments. When it became clear Maria’s Mont Blanc would close, the Eggimann’s stepped up creating Mont Blanc 52 at 344 West 52nd Street. (Maria is manager.)
Every bit of the new venue has been seen to with hands-on attention from the aesthetically pleasing painting of brick walls (you literally can’t tell) to artwork contributed by Elisabeth’s sister. Décor is simple, clean, and tasteful. Tables are far enough apart that one is not forced to hear other conversations or endure someone else’s shifting chair.
My companion and I dined on a Monday night. With theaters dark, one would have assumed few patrons, but between Maria’s supporters and locals, the restaurant filled. Despite this, I’m delighted to say, we conversed easily without raising our voices. Even recorded music was low and unobtrusive.
Swiss cuisine, Elisabeth tells me, has four influences: French, Italian, German, and Romansch, the latter a heavier, more farm-centric approach. Mont Blanc 52 offers three of the four. While most of the menu is Swiss/German with a bit of French influence – there’s Emince de Veau a la Zurichoise as well as Viennese Veal Dumpling – Italian style pasta is also in evidence and there’s pizza on a separate bar menu that includes small plates. (We tried neither of these.)
Good, crusty, warm bread arrived with glasses of Folonari Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 which provided an excellent partner to varying sampled dishes.
Viande des Grisons
Our first appetizer was Viande des Grisons, slices of paper thin beef treated with wine and seasoning, then cured and periodically pressed. The meat is a little darker than prosciutto, rich, and incredibly tender. It was served with splendid cornichons (mini gherkin cucumbers harvested before full maturity) adding piquancy to cumulative taste.
Next came a serving of two Pate de Foie, one duck, one country, surrounded by small dollops of salad: cucumber, potato, beet, and celery remoulade, all of a quality which we’d have happily eaten as side dishes. The pates were excellent, both flavorful, the duck, melt in your mouth delicious.
A third appetizer one might enjoy at the bar as well as pre-dinner is stuffed clams. The serving includes five, large, dense, delectable mollusks. (These are filling, not heavy.) Crumbs and chopped clam are so integrated, they achieve a single texture. Seasoning is subtle and pitch perfect. I’m told oregano is the secret.
Mont Blanc 52 prepares four main dish fondues, each for two people: Traditional Swiss Cheese Fondue (four mixed cheeses with bread), Bourguinonne (filet of beef tenderloin with dipping sauces), Seafood Fondue (shrimp, scallops, and salmon with dipping sauces), and Fondue Chinoise (chicken, pork, and beef with dipping sauces. Vegetables might additionally be apt with this version.) It’s often assumed that fondue must include cheese. In fact, the term describes a communal pot over a portable stove in which one cooks food speared on long-stemmed forks.
We tried Fondue Chinoise whose hot pot was filled with a chicken soup recipe mothers city-wide would envy. My companion had a hard time tearing himself away from that part of the dish to try what accompanied. Beef here was particularly savory. We both devoured light, seemingly fried, then baked potato pancake. Cooking in the pot is quick and efficient.
Next came absolutely scrumptious Pork Chops (with buttery green beans). Unlike most breaded chops, seasoned crumbs did not overwhelm succulent meat. Instead they added another layer of symbiotic flavor. I’d lay odds this is a venue at which Weinerschnitzel must be splendid. Applesauce and green beans rode tandem. My companion ordered garlic mashed potatoes (in order to evaluate another cooking style). They were superb.
The tasting topped off with house specialty, Chocolate Fondu. (I’ve been told both the plum cake and strudel rival this, but it’s hard to believe.) A pot of divinely decdent chocolate is heated over an on-table flame and served with pieces of pound cake, marshmallows, and various fruit. This doesn’t get better. My companion had a glass of Poire William as digestif. He declared it marvelous.
Caveats: Caesar Salad was disappointing. Sautéed Shrimps and Scallops and fondu dipping sauces were bland.
The Ladies: Elisabeth Eggimann and Maria Lohmeyer
Prognosis: A bastion of civilized atmosphere in which to drink, dine and talk. The better part of what we ate was very good, some of it seriously yummy. The restaurant is admirably getting its sea legs.
Mont Blanc 52
344 West 52nd Street
Lunch, Brunch and Dinner
Kitchen open till midnight, Tuesday through Saturday
A back room seating 35 is available for private parties as well as everyday repast
The entire restaurant seats 67
Some nights this includes availability at a Stammtisch= communal table.
A Take-Out Menu is available; Delivery coming
212 582 9648