The peak of enjoyment

On a journey of discovery in the Swiss Alps

Restaurant Silver in Hotel 7132 is located in the tiny Swiss Alpine community of Vals with just 1000 inhabitants, but it is not just any restaurant. Set in the midst of the Grison mountains, it is where the best chef in Switzerland, Mitja Birlo, and his team dispatch their guests on culinary treks to places no one has ever been before. On its homepage, Silver advertises the "best ingredients in the world". We find that no exaggeration, because where else would you find fresher and more aromatic flavours than here in the purest of mountain airs? And if you are wondering how we knew he is the "best chef in Switzerland": We read the sign at the hotel entrance. It states Mitja Birlo was voted Switzerland's Chef of the Year by Gault-Millau in 2022.


Our visit begins in the fresh mountain air. In the morning we meet Mitja, his sous chef Julian Weller and his patissière Sabrina Blum on the terrace outside the panoramic windows of the Silver. With the sun shining and as befits this illustrious occasion, we were convinced that the Grison mountains also wished to serve us the best weather in Switzerland. After an extremely warm welcome, the team led us to the kitchen. Actually, clean room would be a more appropriate term, because the whole kitchen area, consisting of three departments plus its own bakery, is deep-cleaned twice a day. One by one, the trio pull out their knife drawers and show us their treasured implements, while telling us a little about them.

Taste at the highest level


Mitja is first. He presents us a knife that has a particularly long blade made of three-layer steel made at the Hohenmoorer knife factory near Bremen. With its extremely clean cut, he prefers to use it for large pieces of meat, which it cuts through like soft butter. To everyone's amusement, he then takes out a larger knife from Porsche Design. Its deeply furrowed blade looks as if someone had mistaken chives for bicycle spokes. How could that have happened? Mitja laughs and explains that, without first asking, a colleague once used the knife to chop up duck bones. After the first defects appeared, they continued to use it, but only for chopping up fish bones or lobster carcasses. The good news is that even such a wrecked knife can be restored to good use with a HORL®2 and a little patience. In Mitja's knife drawer there is also a Myabi knife made of Damascus steel and a Tourne knife for paring. However, he says he mostly uses a light all-round knife made of very soft steel, which he can quickly resharpen and then use to prepare a variety of foods for his evening masterpieces.


Sabrina, Silver's patissière, uses a classic Santoku knife. This handy Japanese counterpart of the classic European kitchen knife is relatively light and ideal for her purposes. Sabrina mainly uses it to cut fruit and herbs.

Julian is not only the sous-chef at Silver, but also the biggest fan of knives of the three. For his work, he prefers to use the hand-forged knives of Yu Kurosaki from the Fukui prefecture, a master smith of traditional Japanese knife-making. Among other knives, Julian uses a handy kitchen knife and a long slicer for fish and meat. Due to his interest in blades that are so sharp that he can effortlessly slice food into close to its atomic components, he has naturally taken a keen interest in HORL® from the outset.

He says he has been a devoted HORL® fan ever since the first moment our sharpener was demonstrated to him in his kitchen, he immediately ordered the complete range. What does he like so much about HORL®? With the various whetstones, he can achieve the degree of sharpness he likes and he finds this very easy to do, without the effort required of a traditional whetstone. It almost goes without saying that he uses a HORL® sharpener at home as well.


Even though we could talk about knives all day, we are drawn out into the nature on the doorstep. After a short drive we reach Lake Zervreila, 1862 metres above sea level and virtually a chamois’ hop and a skip from Silver. In the fresh, sunny mountain air, the surroundings bring the word “idyll” to breathtakingly beautiful life. Mountain tours and fantastic views are well-known stimulants for the appetite, so we are glad to sample the delicious fare Mitja has packed for the occasion. He cuts up the food expertly with his pocket knife, the handle of which is Vals granite engraved with "7132 Silver". He has included Swiss mountain cheese (of course), air-dried beef sausages, homemade and wholesome sourdough bread and some sweet and sour pickled carrots - everything is so simple and so tasty that we briefly wonder if anything else is needed to be happy.


However, the true purpose of our excursion is not leisure. Together with Mitja, sous-chef Julian and patissière Sabrina, we want to discover what fresh treasures nature has in store for the Silver's kitchen. Because that is one of the secrets of the Silver: they look out for what is growing locally and use it to round off the menu coherently. As the mushroom season was already over, we look for alternatives - and fortunately we don't have to look very far, because the whole area beside the path is densely covered in juniper bushes and all we need to do is collect the berries.


Back at the restaurant, we have high expectations, but even these are exceeded. The compositions arranged by Mitja and his team are lined up on our plates in perfect balance. And they inspire us in many ways: one dish after the next is presented to us like works of art in a museum. The many gustatory nuances melt on the tongue, evoking a finely orchestrated series of “oh” and “ah” sounds from us. And as if all the taste experiences were not enough, Mitja also serves us some of his fascinating anecdotes as a side dish. For example, we learn that the prawns come from a salt mine in Switzerland and about some of the exciting creations the team is currently planning. One thing is sure, there is no shortage of ideas. All-round feel good is guaranteed – both in the restaurant and the internationally acclaimed thermal baths of Hotel 7132.


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