Not Just Cheese
"Hey, where's the fondue?" my date exclaimed as the apps began to arrive. There was a salad of butter lettuce and bacon ($9.50), each leaf coated with a wholesome buttermilk dressing, andits polar oppositea dark slice of gelatinous terrine in which you could make out, as if through a smoky lens, fragments of oxtail and pig foot. Cool and smooth on the tongue, the terrine came with a green schmear of something that tasted pleasantly of mustard and capers. Even more inscrutable, but no less delicious, was the crépinette ($11). While we'd expected a French pancake, it proved to be a juicy puck of shredded pork, raised toward the sky on a bier of wilted nettles. The burger reminded us of Carolina barbecue, but the nettlesannoying weeds that sting you in the gardencatapulted the starter into Hansel and Gretel territory.
Restaurateurs have rifled through the cuisines of the world like cat burglars in a rambling Victorian mansion, and few cuisines have avoided being fused, reconstructed, and reworked in the service of the bistro god. We haven't had a good Swiss restaurant in town since Roetelle A.G. closed in the East Village a few years back. Indeed, Trestle on Tenth makes a convincing case that Swiss food, normally seen as the addled stepson of German, French, and Italian chow, deserves to be considered a major cuisine on its own. Even though Trestle on Tenth eschews fondue.
While most bistros offer a narrow range of crowd-pleasers, never straying too far from blandness, this joint has attitude to spare. What similar establishment dares offer veal kidneys ($18)? Cubed and heaped on the plate, they're bulbous and rubbery, bathed in an ale sauce that conceals the uric tang. Best of all, the immature bovine nephritic organ comes with rosti, a half-skillet of shredded potatoes fried dark and crusty. Other entrées include a salmon fillet tweaked with horseradish, a tender roast chicken in a pale broth jumbled with baby vegetables, and a giant slab of pork loin offered with caramelized carrots and other root vegetables. Have no fear of going hungry after encountering one of Trestle's main courses.
The most popular entrée is the so-called lamb saddle ($25). The four medallions of fat-rimmed loin arrive sided with mustard greens and caramelized cippolina onions, which makes a damn fine entrée, though sadly lacking in starch. To remedy the deficit, order pizokel ($6). These buttery tendril dumplings come casseroled with fried onions and Gruyére, possessing a texture somewhere between noodle and leather shoelace. The dish originated in Switzerland's Graubünden Canton, where a dialect of Latin called Romansch is still spoken.
Demonstrating that Switzerland is the Wisconsin of Europe, Trestle mounts a stunning appetizer of three cheeses and three meats ($12.50). Among the former are tête de moine (monk's head), a moist creamy cheese with a floral aroma that's sliced with a strange rotary garrote called a girolle. Another, l'etivaz, is made by a group of artisanal cheese makers who rebelled against the Swiss government's loose standards for Gruyére. After an app and a side, there's no way you're going to be able to down a dessert. Which is a shame, since the walnut tart and the pot au créme flavored with Earl Grey tea are both fantastic. You remember that Swiss nobleman Earl Grey, right?
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