Falling in Love With Heartbreak in the East Village

Staff Writer
GutterGourmet finds fondue worth pining for at Heartbreak Restaurant in New York's East Village.

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

I have searched in vain in New York City for decent authentic Swiss fondue since the heartbreaking shuttering in 2002 of Roetelle AG (abbreviation for Actien-Gesellschaft — a Swiss stock corporation). Despite the name, we're not talking about Credit Suisse. We're talking about the coziest, most romantic tiny Swiss restaurant on East 7th street just west of Avenue A where Ingrid Roetelle presided over a rabbit warren of candlelit rooms with a few windows looking out at brick walls where couples fell in love while drinking German beer and wine and dunking stale bread into a blend of cheeses, wine, kirschwasser, cloves and garlic the likes of which have not been experienced outside of Zurich. Indeed, we used to joke, my wife and I, that there was so much booze in Ingrid's fondue that we would get drunk from the fondue alone without the aid of the beer and wine.

With the opening of Heartbreak Restaurant on East 2nd and 2nd Avenue, the heartbreak of a fondue-less city is finally over. A sleek, bright red modern industrial minimalist design is a far cry from the old maze-like restaurant, but Ingrid herself greets guests. Stellar service ensures that your fondue pots remain well heated to avoid any chance of gloppiness in the perfect cheese blend.

Though fondue is a must, start with the charcuterie plate consisting of smoked duck, lamb, speck, bresaola (or what the Swiss call viande de grison or bündnerfleisch), and alpine cheese. Other appetizers include the thickly sliced house-smoked salmon, which appears as a rose petal atop Switzerland's other great contribution to world cuisine: roesti, a pan-fried light airy potato pie that is insultingly compared to heavier, greasier Jewish latkes or potato pancakes. If word among Jews (and I'm Jewish) ever gets out about Ingrid's roesti, the miracle of Hanukkah will be forgotten.

The fondue has enough wine and kirschwasser (a cherry liquor) in it to sedate a wild boar. The wiener schnitzel (choice of veal or pork) would do any Austrian proud accompanied by perfect spaetzle. For dessert, an apfelstrudel with a vanilla bourbon sauce that makes American apple pie seem unpatriotic.

I'm begging you. Get out of the cold and snow, go to Heartbreak with someone you love and fall in love all over again with Ingrid's fondue and with each other.