The Matterhorn is having a wonderful comeback, and the former Belga has transformed into the plant-based Wildseed.
It’s pretty wonderful when a San Francisco classic can transition into new hands and get the right kind of careful update. This is how things are playing out for the Matterhorn, a Swiss fondue restaurant that was holding it down on Van Ness Street for over 25 years. Original owners Brigitte and Andrew Thorpe have passed the fondue fork to another couple, Natalie and Jason Horwath, who are big lovers of Switzerland — they lived there for a while, and Natalie staged at a couple bakeries there, which is why the new name is now Matterhorn Restaurant and Bakery (2323 Van Ness Avenue, 415-829-7362, matterhornsf.com).
They definitely fell in love with fondue while they lived in Switzerland, and are lovingly showcasing it in three kinds at the restaurant: Fondue Moitié-Moitié (traditional fondue made with two cheeses from Switzerland: 12-month aged Gruyère and Vacherin Fribourgeois); Fondue Emmental (a nontraditional fondue made with three cheeses from Switzerland: 18-month aged Emmental, L’Etivaz, and Vacherin Fribourgeois); and Meat Fondue (spice-rubbed beef tenderloin cooked at the table in a beef and red wine stock, served with dipping sauces, pickled vegetables, and rösti potatoes). The first cheese fondues will be served with house-made (and naturally leavened) bread, pickled vegetables, and potatoes. I got a peek at their walk-in, and was blown away with the huge 200-pound wheels of Emmental and Gruyère they had imported. Natalie is so committed to their sourcing, it’s admirable and exciting.
They are also serving three kinds of melted-to-order raclette (Swiss, French, or American), served with pickled vegetables and potatoes. (You’ve seen raclette melty magic before, yes?) Like the fondue, you can even order a single portion (I can easily see swinging by the bar on a rainy night for a glass of wine and a raclette, oh yes). There are American and European beers on tap and in bottle, and the wine list leans Old World, with careful consideration paid to what pairs best with all the cheesy dishes.
The menu also features a charcuterie or Swiss cheese board (served with house-made pretzels), Swiss potato rösti (a heavenly dish of grated and skillet-fried potatoes, with your choice of three toppings, like bacon, ham, egg, Chällerhocker cheese, roasted mushrooms, or tomato); veal Zürich-style with house-made spätzle and vegetables; and because they have a child, there’s also a thoughtful kid’s menu. Desserts include some pastries and treats from the bakery. They are making everything by hand and with such attention here.
The space looks great — there’s all that original knotty pine, and plenty of booths and cozy tables with custom pillows made from Swiss Army blankets. They painted the space, installed a new chandelier of antlers, and lugged back drapes from Switzerland, and there’s even a real Swiss gondola you can reserve to dine in (it has a set menu). And then there’s the entire Rhaetian Railway train scene installed outside the back of the restaurant, which you can see through the windows. Dinner Tuesday–Saturday 5:30–10 p.m.
Big changes at the former Belga on Union Street, which closed to become Wildseed (2000 Union Street, 415-872-7350, wildseedsf.com), a plant-based restaurant and bar. This is Adriano Paganini’s Back of the House restaurant group’s twelfth concept, and was designed to serve the health-conscious needs of the neighborhood (not unlike the changes currently happening at The Greenwich, formerly Cow Marlowe) and the larger plant-based movement happening in food and wellness.
Chef Blair Warsham is overseeing the menu of seasonal, healthful, flavorful, satisfying dishes, with some global influences, like a Vietnamese rice noodle salad, Japanese donburi, and Indian-inspired “neatballs.” Many of the dishes are designed to share, like Mexican corn cakes, king trumpet mushroom ceviche, and a mezze plate. Other dishes include a couple kinds of vegetarian hamburgers, rigatoni Bolognese with Impossible ground, and a paella for two. The cocktails were also freshened up, with fresh juices, herbs, house-made extracts, shrubs, and tinctures in the cocktails. In a commitment to keeping a minimal carbon footprint, all wines are local, vegan, organic, and biodynamic.
It’s a great location, full of light and with a fun sidewalk scene, offering all-day service. Hannah Collins of Roy Hospitality Design Studio is behind the update. Dinner Tuesday–Sunday 5:30–10 p.m., with lunch weekend brunch coming soon.
Marcia Gagliardi writes a popular insider weekly e-column, Tablehopper; subscribe for free at tablehopper.com. Follow
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