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updated: 3/30/2016 12:54 PM

Chef Alain Roby tempts diners with new destination food, wine bar Primo in Geneva

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  • A cheese plate at Primo in Geneva might include a semi-firm cheese from Ludwig Farmstead, Bleu d'Auvergne and Gres Champenois. Add to that assorted charcuterie dishes, liver pate from France, bite-size cornichons and Aquaviva Pinot Noir and you have a meal.

      A cheese plate at Primo in Geneva might include a semi-firm cheese from Ludwig Farmstead, Bleu d'Auvergne and Gres Champenois. Add to that assorted charcuterie dishes, liver pate from France, bite-size cornichons and Aquaviva Pinot Noir and you have a meal.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Chef Alain Roby expanded on his All Chocolate Kitchen in Geneva with the recent opening of Primo, which his son, Adrian Roby, manages.

      Chef Alain Roby expanded on his All Chocolate Kitchen in Geneva with the recent opening of Primo, which his son, Adrian Roby, manages.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Primo's signature 23-foot-tall rig pumps about 200 pounds of melted chocolate an hour.

      Primo's signature 23-foot-tall rig pumps about 200 pounds of melted chocolate an hour.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Desserts, like the turtle cheesecake with caramel sauce, are a specialty not to be missed at Geneva's Primo.

      Desserts, like the turtle cheesecake with caramel sauce, are a specialty not to be missed at Geneva's Primo.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • The 24-seat Primo may be intimate in size, but it's big on taste and atmosphere.

      The 24-seat Primo may be intimate in size, but it's big on taste and atmosphere.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • The sugar sculpture behind wine bar at Primo in Geneva is a signature of restaurateur Alain Roby.

      The sugar sculpture behind wine bar at Primo in Geneva is a signature of restaurateur Alain Roby.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • This antique phone booth outside the entrance to Primo is used as a coat room for the restaurant.

      This antique phone booth outside the entrance to Primo is used as a coat room for the restaurant.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
By Thomas Witom
Daily Herald Correspondent

Chocolatier Alain Roby is branching out.

A master pastry chef widely known for his artistry with sugar and chocolate, Roby has spread his wings with the opening in late February of Primo, an upscale food and wine bar add-on to his five-year-old All Chocolate Kitchen in downtown Geneva.

The new 24-seat venue adjoins the retail chocolate shop, complementing it but operating as a separate entity.

Envisioned as a destination spot where diners can create a meal from its artisanal cheeses and charcuterie offerings or more substantial chef plates, Primo is only open starting at 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Because space is limited, management recommends booking a table.

To get to Primo, guests must pass through All Chocolate Kitchen where they can marvel at Roby's 1,200-pound enchanted chocolate tree. The intimate Primo shows further evidence of Roby's handiwork, including an eye-catching 23-foot-tall rig that pumps about 200 pounds of melted chocolate an hour.

Check out the wall behind the wine bar to see a sugar sculpture that looks like handblown glasswork.

Speaking of the bar, to complement the food, a number of domestic and imported wines from family-run vineyards are sold by the glass ($7 to $25) or bottle ($24 to $100). This includes half a dozen reds and whites from Aquaviva Winery in St. Charles. A few select beers also are available.

Primo's fork-tender short ribs pairs well with the accompanying spiced green lentils, according to our reviewer.
  Primo's fork-tender short ribs pairs well with the accompanying spiced green lentils, according to our reviewer. - Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

On to dinner: Diners can pick and choose from among 10 domestic and international cheeses. I can recommend the buttery semi-firm cheese from Ludwig Farmstead in Fithian, Illinois, as well as two French entries: an intense Bleu d'Auvergne and a smooth, creamy Gres Champenois.

From the assorted charcuterie dishes, the liver pate from France proved a tasty nibble, nicely complemented by bite-sized cornichons. Among other options were prosciutto di Parma, wild boar and soppressata.

The short ribs chef plate ordered during a recent visit pleased my palate. The meat, prepared in a red-wine sauce inspired by Roby's mother, was fork-tender and plentiful and it paired well with the accompanying green lentils.

Maman Suzanne's Smoked Salmon sits on a sugar art table at Primo in Geneva.
  Maman Suzanne's Smoked Salmon sits on a sugar art table at Primo in Geneva. - Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Another fine dish sampled was Maman Suzanne's Smoked Salmon, which was served with a poached egg in a fresh-baked brioche.

A special-occasion splurge that some guests may want to pursue is champagne and caviar for two for $99 or $125.

Desserts, not surprisingly, get special attention. You won't go wrong with the pots de crème trio: pistachio, apricot and grand cru chocolate. Other possibilities include a chocolate truffles flight, turtle cheesecake, flourless chocolate cake and made-in-house gelato with espresso.

For a sweet ending to a savory meal at Primo, try the Pots de Creme trio: pistachio, apricot and grand cru chocolate.
  For a sweet ending to a savory meal at Primo, try the Pots de Creme trio: pistachio, apricot and grand cru chocolate. - Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Alas, if one of the myriad chocolate confections on display in the All Chocolate Kitchen caught your fancy, you will have to order it there separately while on your way out.

Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.

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