I have visited Montreux, Switzerland many times—for the festive Christmas market, to see Leonard Cohen perform at the legendary jazz festival and when I ran up to Rochers de Naye (in all honesty, I started from Caux). Never had I stepped foot into the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, a Swiss landmark hotel from the Belle Époque era, until this week. An invitation for a Japanese-Peruvian lunch prepared by guest chef Ben Dayag of Nikkei Nine in Hamburg, finally prompted my visit.
For one week only—from Monday, March 19 to Saturday, March 24, 2018—the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace’s MP’s Bar & Grill is hosting a special pop-up restaurant, featuring cuisine from Nikkei Nine.
Fairmont Le Montreux Palace – A Swiss Landmark Hotel
Built in 1906 on the shores of Lac Léman, the historic Fairmont Le Montreux Palace should be on your list of places to visit. This five-star hotel exudes elegance and grandeur, with its marble columns, impressive crystal chandeliers, impeccable service and more. Located a 2-minute walk from the Montreux train station and within close proximity to the Montreux Music & Convention Center, the hotel boasts 236 rooms. Plus, on a clear day, there are breathtaking views of the Alps across the lake.
In addition to MP’s Bar & Grill, the hotel has several other dining venues, including the Montreux Jazz Café; Funky Claude’s Bar, named for Claude Nobs, founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival; The Lounge and La Terrasse du Petit Palais.
Nikkei Nine Pop-Up Restaurant
Located at the Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten in Hamburg, Germany, Nikkei Nine specializes in Nikkei cuisine, a blend of Japanese and Peruvian influences. The restaurant opened in 2016 and has earned 15 points from GaultMillau. Nikkei Nine’s Chef Ben Dayag, an American chef of Filipino descent, previously worked at Nobu Restaurant in Las Vegas, California and Morimoto Restaurant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Rather than an intentional fusion food trend, Nikkei cuisine developed out of necessity. Japanese immigrants arrived in Peru for work on plantations in the late-19th century, and many decided to resettle there permanently. Over time, they started to incorporate Peruvian elements of cooking—whether specific ingredients or individual dishes—into their style of cooking. This blend of cultures developed into a creative cuisine that incorporates techniques from both Japan and Peru—such as ceviche with ginger and seaweed or gyoza with a spicy black bean broth.
To bring Nikkei cuisine to the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, Guest Chef Ben Dayag is partnering with Florent Risser, Chef de Cuisine at MP’s Bar & Grill. Their special menu is available at lunchtime (CHF 58 per person for a 2-course meal or CHF 68 for a 3-course menu, from 12:00 to 2:30 p.m.) and for dinner (à la carte, from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.). Reservations are required.
Bold Flavors, Elegant Cuisine – My Lunch at Nikkei Nine’s Pop-Up Restaurant
I arrived for lunch at the hotel on the first day of Nikkei Nine’s Pop-up Restaurant at MP’s Bar & Grill. The restaurant staff greeted me warmly and led me to a table that typically would offer exceptional views from the large picture windows, but clouds hid the majestic mountains instead.
To kick-off our meal, I shared four starters with my two other tablemates.
Nikkei Ceviche / Aji Amarillo / Cilantro / Tobiko
Hamachi / Leche de Tigre / Red Onions
Spinach Salad / Crispy Calamari / Yuzu Truffle Ponzu
Miso Eggplant Dengaku / Ponzu / Red Paprika Puree
I loved all of these dishes. The miso-glazed eggplant had an amazing flavor, slightly sweet, and a nice texture, firm yet tender. The raw fish dishes—the Nikkei Ceviche and Hamachi, were phenomenal, paired with Aji Amarillo and spicy Leche de Tigre, respectively. The crisp calamari in the spinach salad was incredibly light and flavorful. I could have eaten seconds of all these dishes and been very satisfied with my meal.
For our main course, we had four dishes at the table, which we also decided to share because we all wanted to try everything:
Koji Cod / Ginger-Parsley Chimichurri
Octopus / Aji Panca Anitcucho / Violet Potatoes / Crème Fraîche
Aged Duck Breast / Blood Orange-Teriyaki Sauce / Butternut Squash / Shimeji Mushrooms
Japanese Curry Udon / Lotus Root / Sugar Snap Peas / Shitake Mushrooms
My favorite of these dishes was the aged duck breast. With a crispy skin, the tender duck was nicely prepared, and I loved the addition of the blood-orange teriyaki sauce. The sides for this dish were also incredible—the savory-sweet butternut squash in particular was outstanding. The cod and octopus were excellent—tender, full of flavor and beautifully presented. The udon noodles, something I fondly remember from the year I spent living in Japan, were prepared in a curry sauce with lotus root, which I really enjoyed.
Finally for our dessert, we did the same thing—all three plates served at our table looked so appetizing, we shared them all again:
Yuzu Pie / Poppy Seed Cake / White Chocolate Sorbet
Chocolate Sesame Mousse / Almond Financier / Raspberry Wasabi Sorbet
Piña Colada / White Chocolate Coconut Mousse / Pineapple / Rum Ice Cream
Overall, the desserts were light and bright. The wasabi-flavored raspberry sorbet was a pleasant surprise. The poppy-seed cake, which reminded me of American cakes and muffins back home, was nicely matched with yuzu and white chocolate sorbet. Of the desserts, the piña colada—flavors which I do not normally like because they can be overly sweet—was my favorite. The yellow pineapple looked brilliant on the plate with the white chocolate mousse and a quenelle of rum ice cream.
The Fairmont Le Montreux Palace’s Guest Chef Week gives you a memorable taste of Nikkei cuisine—a style of cooking you should certainly discover, if you have not already tried it—in a beautiful restaurant set in one of Switzerland’s most prestigious hotels.
For more information:
- Guest Chef Week at MP’s Bar & Grill (ends March 24, 2018), Av. Claude-Nobs 2, 1820 Montreux, +41 (0)21 962 19 00
- Fairmont Le Montreux Palace
- Nikkei Nine at the Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten – Hamburg, Germany
- Montreux-Vevey Tourisme
Please note: I dined at the Nikkei Nine Pop-Up Restaurant at MP’s Bar & Grill as a guest of the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace. As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are purely my own.