By Christine McLellan of Korea Times Fondue dates back to as early as the 9th century B.C., when Homer described a fondue-like recipe in Song XI of the “Iliad.'' By the end of the 18th century, the Swiss had turned to fondue as a staple to survive long, harsh winters with nothing but rock-hard cheese and stale bread. Since then, the fun, communal nature and agreeable taste that characterizes the dish has allowed it to stand the test of time, emerging as a popular traditional meal not only in Switzerland, but around the world. Thus it comes as no surprise that a critically acclaimed traditional Swiss fondue restaurant exists right in downtown Seoul. Little Swiss, located in the heart of Hyehwa, Seoul's theater district, is an authentic Swiss fondue restaurant boasting 10 different fondues in various set combinations and portions. While dinner specials also include alternatives such as fish and steak, the lunch menu offers pastas, fried rice, meat dishes, and other options for big eaters or those who may find fondue too heavy for daytime. Located in a back alley amid many other eateries, Little Swiss stands out with its endearingly kitsch patio adorned with flowery tablecloths, white plastic chairs fastened with brightly printed cushions, doily place settings and brass kitchenware. The motif, fitting of the restaurant's time-honored Swiss cuisine, extends to its slightly more toned down interior. We only hoped that such attention to authenticity in decor would be extended to the restaurant's fare.
The menu offers a variety of fondue sets at a range of prices, from the Sweet red wine fondue at 24,000 won to the Fondue Special Couples Set at 100,000 won. We ordered the Fondue Couples Set for 69,000. We began with pumpkin soup and a seasonal mixed green salad, the latter of which showcased a unique and not-too-creamy mayonnaise-based dressing with hints of melon and kiwi. Both portions were the perfect size to tide us over without satiating our appetites. Our next course was the cheese fondue. We opted for the classic Neufchatel style, which contains a blend of gruyere and emmental cheeses, white wine, and kirsch (cheery-flavored liqueur). Accompanying the fondue was the usual bread and vegetables. The fondue was rich and authentic, but a little too salty for our tastes; more potatoes or the addition of fruits would have helped to neutralize the salty tang.
The next course was the real chef d'oeuvre. The Bourguinonne and seafood fondue had an impressive variety of meats, seafood, and vegetables, all to be cooked in a pot of simmering olive oil fondue. The chicken was juicy, the steak was tender, and the seafood was fresh. While some items were already garnished with delicious seasonings, the waiter provided us with an array of sauces for us to dip at our discretion. The food was not only delectable, but fun. Topping off our Swiss excursion with coffee and tea, the bill seemed more than reasonable. Whether you're a fondue connoisseur or a newcomer to Swiss communal dining, a visit to Little Swiss is a worthwhile and novel experience. Little Swiss is located near exit 2 of Hyehwa Station on subway line 4. For more information call (02) 766-7704 or visit www.swisshouse.co.kr