Savoir “fare” with Parisian flair in downtown Geneva
Walking into Primo in bustling downtown Geneva, there is a distinct Willy Wonka vibe, evocative of the Roald Dahl book-turned-movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
For one thing, there is a floor-to-ceiling chocolate “fountain,” comprised of colorful wheels, gears and pulleys and interspersed with sugar-art rock candy. Then, and delightfully, there is the aroma of fine chocolate, wafting under the frosted door leading to All Chocolate Kitchen, a dessert café adjacent to the restaurant. Both are run by Alain Roby, a Paris-trained master chef. When developing the concept and menu for Primo nearly two years ago, Chef Roby went back to his roots, creating dishes based on gourmet specialties prepared with the best local ingredients. He also chose to strictly target the adult crowd — Primo is for those 21 and older only.
On a balmy summer night, a perfect starter is the Mozzarella di Buffala and Heirloom Tomato salad, with slices of soft cheese laid over seedless slices of tomatoes so ripe that they seem to have been plucked from the garden moments before the meal. Even midsummer, the Creamy Corn and Poblano soup is rich and rewarding, served with a house-made soft corn breadstick presented on a small plate that looks like a modern art canvas, with swirls of spice-infused olive oil and a sprig of rosemary. Another delectable option is the Bresaola and Grana Padana salad — greens married with lean cured beef filet and nutty cheese shavings.
Palate meets palette on artfully arranged boards of charcuterie and artisanal cheeses. Choose Prosciutto di Parma, Varzi Salami and Citrus and Lemongrass Salami or opt for French pâté and, apt for the setting, Chocolate Salami. Soft fromages like Gres Champenois, Papilllon Parail Brie and Jacquin Crottin goat cheese pair with piquant choices like Sarvecchio, St. Agur Blue Cheese or the intriguing coffee-rubbed cheddar.
A variety of entrées underscores Chef Roby’s artistic flair and acclaimed culinary skills. Homespun dishes include Grandma Louise’s Eggplant Confit, Three Cheeses Crostini, Seared Lamb Shank with White Beans and Short Ribs with Spiced Green Lentils. In these and other dishes, sublime French Provençal flavors are a reminder of Chef Roby’s background in classic European techniques.
As one might expect, Chef Roby infuses chocolate into several desserts. A standout is the trio of crème brûlée, including a Grand Cru Chocolate Cup, as well as classic and seasonal versions. Chocolate lovers may not be able to pass up the flight of chocolate truffles, the devil’s food cake served with more than a dollop of whipped cream, or the chocolate flourless cake with a refreshing raspberry coulis.
Like the beguiling Willy Wonka, Chef Roby is omnipresent in this intimate venue that seats just 25. His quotes sprinkle the menu and on a busy Saturday night, guests will likely catch glimpses of him checking in with staff while creating culinary magic in the kitchen.
29 S. Third St., Geneva
Mozzarella di Buffala & Heirloom Tomato salad, Trio of crème brulee
Appetizers: $6 - $14
Entrées: $15 - $25
Desserts: $7 - $12
Wed & Thur: 5 – 9 p.m.
Fri & Sat: 5 - 10 p.m.
Must be 21 or older