There is something reminiscent of the Alpine regions in the hills of Antipolo, especially on that cool, rainy late afternoon that we spent there for an early dinner. The lush, green hills characteristic of the place evokes memories of the incredibly verdant hills surrounding Zurich during spring.
Hidden within the lush foliage of the hillsides is a piece of “Schweiz”. It has reportedly been around since 1984, and we’ve read about it online and in several magazines before, though this was our first opportunity to go there. It sits on an old house deep within the villages of Antipolo, and gives a good view of the lower hills and the city below. The restaurant is aptly named the Vieux Chalet, a lovely little, out-of-the-way restaurant that serves traditional Swiss cuisine.
The Swiss, throughout history, have been known to be the “rural folk”, among the Europeans…those yodelers and milkmaids who live in the mountains at the edges of France, Germany, Austria and Italy. The Vieux Chalet captures this character well. The place is simple, rustic and detached from urbanization (you have to travel through narrow, undulating, rural roads to get to the place).
The food they serve is as Swiss as any restaurant can get. They have on their menu the cheese fondue, the raclette, various sausages that include the “Swiss national sausage” – the Cervelat, and that native potato dish from Zurich – the Rosti. They also have Italian and “French-like” dishes such as pasta, and meats with red wine (parts of Switzerland are indigenously French and Italian after all).
We got there a bit too early for dinner, but it turned out to be a better arrangement. Heavy rain started to pour the moment we got there, and we would have been drenched making our way from the car to the “chalet” if we arrived a minute later. We just hanged out there for the rest of the afternoon, and enjoyed the driving rain and the green scenery around us, while waiting for the sun to set.
Since we still had the place to ourselves, I also took the time to take as much photos as I would like.
For that evening, we ordered the Assorted Sausages, and the Lamb Shoulder in Red Wine Sauce. We also had the Italian Farmer’s Soup (pumpkin and potato cream), for our little tot…and the little guy liked it so much, he finished the whole bowl by himself.
The Assorted Sausages was composed of a Veal Bratwurst, a Hungarian Sausage, and a Cervelat. The three came plated with Rosti, some Sauerkraut, and to remind you that you’re still in the Philippines – some Baguio beans. The sausages were nicely grilled, in the same fashion they were cooked at that roadside stall at Bellevue in Zurich. Hard to imagine that what we treat as semi-“haute-cuisine” here, is street food there. The Rosti (potato, served pancake or “torta” style) is also what I exactly remembered it to be, when I first came across the dish at that restaurant in Bern.
The Lamb Shoulders too, rested on a bed of Rosti, along with some mixed vegetables, and was covered generously with the wonderful red wine sauce. The lamb was so incredibly tender, it almost melts on contact with your tongue.
When you’re delving into meaty European dishes like these two, soda or juices would not do the experience any justice…you have to have wine or beer. In this case, I had the latter…a full bodied San Miguel pilsner, and none of that “light” stuff. Every gulp of the pilsner after several meaty mouthfuls, felt like Shangri-la in the mouth.
Overall it really wasn’t hard to put generous praises on the two dishes, and there was hardly anything to complain about, apart from the fact that they weren’t cheap. The two dishes cost around 2,000 PHP combined (yikes!), plus tax and service charge.
Was it worth it? Definitely, no doubt. That meal would rank up there as one of the best I’ve had, anywhere…no kidding. However, this isn’t a place that I’ll go to for just about any weekend. The distance from the metropolis isn’t that much, but, I’ll have to mention again, the place doesn’t come cheap. However, I can hardly fault Vieux Chalet for that. After all, transporting a piece of Switzerland to the province of Rizal, will understandably cost you some.
The place doesn’t really try hard to look “Swiss”, in fact the architecture and the decor of the place hardly looks “European” that much. However, the rustic ambiance, the green surroundings, the hilly landscape, and the food…the glorious food, all point to that place in Alps.
* We had this dinner on January, 2011. All photos were taken with Olympus E-420, and Zuiko 14-54mm f2.8-3.5.