The city's best fondues
Dip your way through these cheesy (and chocolatey) delights.
Mon Feb 15 2010
Swiss fondue with fixings at Trestle on Tenth
2 Park Ave at 32nd St (212-725-8585)
What you get: The fondues at Terrance Brennan's fromage-focused brasserie consist of top-tier curds. The dips are available year-round, but a fondue-a-day promotion runs throughout February—10 percent of proceeds from the special will benefit the American Red Cross. Caveat emptor: Bread comes with your order, but add-ons like crudits and beef tips are pricey ($3.50--$11.50).
The experience: This grand bistro setting is a mecca for cheese fans. The Artisanal blend ($28 for two to three people)—made with a combination of Emmentaler, Comt, Vacherin and sauvignon blanc—is mild and delicious. But don't overlook the specials: Upcoming fondues du jour ($28) include the earthy Truffle Tremor.
The Bourgeois Pig
111 E 7th St between First Ave and Ave A (212-475-2246)
What you get: Each of the six savory pots (roughly $25 apiece) comes with a kingly spread, from the standard dipping implements (bread hunks) to the unusual (black olives).
The experience: Diners sit elbow to elbow in this snug but sexy restaurant, where fondue is best shared in pairs. We backflipped for the curried 6th Street Special ($22), served with cubed paneer, crackly papadum, toasted pita triangles and a half orange speared with vegetable skewers. For dessert, we picked two sweets for the 50/50 special ($26): A moist wall of cake separated the Frangelico-spiked white chocolate from the molten butterscotch.
Black Mountain Wine House
415 Union St at Hoyt St, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (718-522-4340)
What you get: Visit on Tuesday nights for the $16 "Classic Swiss-Tastic Fondue," made with Gruyre, bchamel, Kirschwasser (cherry brandy) and cloves. Accompanying all that cheese: cubes of chewy peasant loaf and "lard bread"—a peppered, Brooklyn-made delicacy packed with lardons.
The experience: Step through a salvaged farmhouse door into this cozy Carroll Gardens nook. The bchamel lends the fondue a creamy consistency, while the slug of brandy balances out the cheesiness. If you're hungry, add a charcuterie plate ($10) to your order—you'll score big chunks of bread (the basket that comes with the fondue is a bit skimpy), and the cured meats pair nicely with the cheese.
97 Sullivan St between Prince and Spring Sts (212-274-0404)
What you get: An appetizer of classic cheese fondue includes bread sticks, sliced apples, bacon bits in a potato skin and baguette cubes ($16.75 for a serving that would easily feed two or three).
The experience: Though seafood takes center stage at this eclectic brasserie, it's an unexpected and cozy spot for enjoying fondue. Blue Ribbon's version—a blend of Jarlsberg, Emmentaler, Gruyre, white wine, kirsch and garlic—is mild, with the quirky addition of smoky, thick-cut bacon bits to sprinkle on top and fried potato skins for dipping. Despite the pork, the starter isn't so heavy that it spoils your appetite for dinner.
The Chocolate Room
86 Fifth Ave between St. Marks Pl and Warren St, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-783-2900) * 269 Court St between Butler and Douglass Sts, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn (718-246-2600)
What you get: Chocolate fondue ($14), presented in a ceramic crock over a tea candle, is served with pineapple, banana, strawberries, a pair of marshmallows and buttery pound cake.
The experience: The Chocolate Room is a sophisticated place for adults to enjoy dessert. The wood-paneled room looks more like a bar than a pastry shop, and the amuse-bouche of chocolate-chip cake that started our "meal" hints at fine-dining aspirations. As for the fondue, the 60 percent chocolate mixture was perfectly good, but the meringuelike house-made marshmallows stole the show.
282 Smith St between DeGraw and Sackett Sts, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (347-599-0294)
What you get: A tidy portion of fondue ($16) with torn bread, green apples and salami. There's also a dessert version ($12)—a gurgling vessel of dark chocolate (milk, Valrhona chocolate and unaged whiskey), plus banana, gooey marshmallows, graham crackers and apples. Bring a date on Monday nights, when the dip can be yours—along with two glasses of wine—for just $22.
The experience: The patrons at this consummate neighborhood bar are so friendly, you might soon find yourself dipping bread into your neighbor's pot. The cheese fondue ($16), which gets its pedigree from Gruyre, Pleasant Ridge Reserve—a Swiss alpine cheese with a sweet, nutty flavor—and a dose of chenin blanc, is sized perfectly for two, served in a mini cast-iron cauldron.
856 Ninth Ave between 55th and 56th Sts (212-581-8282)
What you get: Choose from four varieties of cheese fondue ($12 per person)—Swiss, cheddar and ale, Gorgonzola and Kashkaval—served with French bread. Additional dipping ammo comes in the form of sliced meats (kielbasa, chistorra, chorizo; $6) or raw veggies ($5).
The experience: This charming cheese-shop-cum-wine-bar evokes fondue's peasant origins, with deep cast-iron pots and generous baskets of crusty bread. Steer clear of the bland and rubbery Kashkaval (a Balkan sheep's-milk cheese). Instead, order the garlicky Gorgonzola—perfectly gooey and surprisingly mild—before devouring the bittersweet dark-chocolate fondue ($10 per person), a guaranteed crowd-pleaser served with fruit and mini marshmallows.
La Bonne Soupe
48 W 55th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-586-7650)
What you get: Emmentaler, Comt and Gruyre cheeses are melted with a bit of white wine and served with diced baguette (included) and green apples ($2 extra). The $22.95 feast starts with a chopped romaine salad.
The experience: This tightly packed, warmly bustling French bistro wins points for its menu of well-executed standards—the fondue is simply part of that solid lineup, not an added gimmick. Its flavor is mild, while the texture is luxurious, coating the chewy baguette slices without being too cloying or heavy. The Belgian dark-chocolate fondue dessert ($9.95, feeds two to four people) comes with pound cake from Tom Cat Bakery.
Shops at Atlas Park, 80-00 Cooper Ave, Ridgewood, Queens (718-416-3755)
What you get: Order full cheese pots or dessert half pots la carte, or go for the prix-fixe Fondue Sampler ($39 per person, minimum two people), which includes one cheese fondue, two salads, two entres and one dessert.
The experience: If you can get over the fact that this fondue chain is located in a strip mall with a California Pizza Kitchen, you're in for a pleasant surprise. What the restaurant lacks in ambiance, it makes up for in roominess (the two-person booths are bigger than some LES apartments) and value (the pots are more like vats). Skip the Spicy Pepper Jack fondue ($22)—really just glorified nacho cheese—in favor of the Traditional Swiss Chalet ($22), prepared tableside. Our waiter used tongs to heap a mountain of shredded Gruyre and Emmentaler into a bubbling cauldron of Kirschwasser brandy and chablis wine; she finished it off with a spritz of lemon juice and a dusting of freshly grated pepper. For dessert, we ordered a platter of sweets (Rice Krispie squares, pound cake, raw cookie dough and more) tailor-made for the Rocky Road fondue, a pouf of marshmallow cream swirled into melted chocolate and sprinkled with crushed pecans.
310 W 53rd St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (212-810-4444)
What you get: The Provencal cheese fondue ($23 per person) features a generous pot of melted Gruyre and Emmentaler cheese flecked with chopped mixed herbs, along with cubes of bread for dipping (add $3 for additional items like air-cured beef and shrimp); the Jacques Torres chocolate fondue ($22 for a two-person serving) is delivered in a small porcelain pot, with pieces of banana, pear, strawberry, pineapple and cantaloupe, along with marshmallows.
The experience: The plain room's most prominent feature may be its exposed brick, but a group of friends can still have a jolly time here while leisurely twirling hunks of bread through the simmering pool of molten, wine-flavored cheese; there are two chocolate fondue options on the menu: glaze your fruit with the darker, richer—and mercifully not-too-sweet—Jacques Torres version.
Trestle on Tenth
242 Tenth Ave at 24th St (212-645-5659)
What you get: Traditional Swiss fondue (Emmentaler, Gruyre and Vacherin) with slices of bunderfleisch (cured beef loin), speck, cornichons, cubed baguette and boiled potatoes ($24 for one serving, Sunday nights only through February)
The experience: This modern Swiss eatery is an unexpected oasis on Tenth Avenue, particularly when you order the fondue, with its plate of spicy and salty accompaniments. The "single" serving is more than enough for two, and the waiters keep the bread coming (they're also more than happy to direct you to the best pairing from the respectable list of German and Alsatian whites).