This will be RIDICULOUSLY LONG, so hold on…
Reporting back (finally) on my recent (9/6 to 9/13) trip to Amsterdam. I got quite a few tips for the places we went to from this board, even though some recs seemed a bit old. But they helped! So thanks to all who wrote up their suggestions/experiences.
We outdid ourselves, foodwise, I have to say.
Had an afternoon snack of bitterballen when we arrived – found on every bar menu – essentially veal croquettes, though I’m told they come in all proteins. Very tasty!
Our first dinner - we did the tasting menu at Johannes, a place we’d heard about only from some older foodie t.v. show my sister happened upon it. Price was unbeatable for 7 courses, wine included.
Tomato peeled, marinated in honey with basil cream. Tomato was super sweet and delicious, but tomato flavor was not very discernible.
Pea cake with mint cream – pea cake was great, slightly sweet, tender, and mint cream not overpowering
Green pepper cream sphere carrot gel and citrus gel – green pepper cream sphere coated in carrot gelee – very mild bell pepper flavor.
Smoked salmon red onion, radish, sweet and sour cucumber, fennel, FANTASTIC – apart from the presentation – it came with a glass cloche over it which was slowly lifted at the table allowing the smoke to escape. Silky gorgeous salmon, the flavor was lightly smoked, pickled red onion, cucumber a little sweeter than sour. (sorry no pic, because i have a video. maybe i’ll post it later in comments.)
Mackerel with radish, sweet and sour cucumber, citrus – very nice.
Roasted cabbage - TO DIE FOR. With toasted walnuts celeriac, spring onions, vegetable demi-glace. The walnuts were so meaty and the cabbage too, and sweet and smoky. Wonderful, vied with the smoked salmon for best dish of the night, for me.
Spanish chardonnay - smokey and caramelly – stand out wine of the night, and of any chardonnay I’ve every had. The caramel taste wasn’t anything like the buttery/oaky CA chardonnays, and the smokiness was a perfect surprise.
Halibut fresh corn, carrot citrus basil. I know we loved this, but I’m not remembering much about it right now.
Duck two ways – seared and stewed, with pumpkin, kohlrabi and sweet potato. The seared duck was WAY to rare for me, and I love my meat cooked rare-to-medium rare. I found it chewy and not very flavorful. Loved the stewed duck, however
Flat Iron steak two ways, with beetroot, potato wedge, madeira sauce. Very flavorful.
Cheese plate: I don’t remember. Remember, wine pairing?
1st Dessert: Ice cream bars on sticks - chocolate shell over pineapple and cardamom ice cream – pineapple discernible, cardamom not. Very very good!
2nd Dessert: pear, caramel pecan and vanilla. I know this was good too, but by this point we were bleary eyed.
All in all, a wonderful first dinner, didn’t need that much wine, but enjoyed almost every bite. Most people we told we’d been here had not heard of it. I think it’s an older place, maybe not as popular now.
The Seafood Bar
This was a chain and we’d been warned that It would not be as good as Visaandeshelde, another famed seafood place we tried later, and it wasn’t, but it was still very good. We were nearby for lunch after museum time so we tried it. We split an absolutely enormous plateau des fruits de mer (although I’m sure it has its own name in Dutch), with mussels, cockles (the best) razor clams (the second best), whole head-on shrimps, clams, periwinkles, shrimps, house crab salad, Tourteau crab, seaweed salad, and oysters. A dish like this would have easily cost $120 in SF or more; we paid $62.25 eu with wine.
Highly recommend a wine bar called Glou Glou playing great soul/funk music inside but with a very wide covered patio outside where we sat and talked to a woman from Portland, OR, of all places, who had been living there for a year and who let us sit at her table as it was completely out of the sudden rainstorm. Lovely wine list.
Café de Klos
My cousin’s friend who lives in Amsterdam turned us on to a dive bar (there known as “brown bars” – supposedly for the smoke-stained walls) that served ribs. Ribs and French onion soup and escargot and baked potatoes and baskets of bread with the most amazing herby/garlic butter. We split an order of the mixed ribs and a FOS, and of course gorged ourselves silly on that bread and butter, so we shame-facedly left half the ribs behind. But, the ribs just weren’t all that great. They were dry and a bit tough and had no sauce. I know they’re not like “our” ribs but it was hard to see why this place was so popular – it was always packed (we stumbled by for beers one afternoon too) and sometimes the wait was 1.5 hours long. But the staff – two 30-something dudes – were hilarious in a dry, understated, gruff way and we had a great time, and even got (gruff) hugs the second time we left. I’d maybe try something else (I think there’s lamb on the menu too) but I’d definitely recommend it for local color and low-key ambiance.
Rijks – Modern Dutch
We went to the Rijksmuseum and then had reservations for lunch at Rijks, the one Michelin starred restaurant right outside the museum. They feature high end, modern takes on Dutch food. Fantastic. We went for lunch so the tasting menu was cheaper than it would have been at night, but still, it was a splurge. One we did not regret.
To start, three flavored butters with bread. Green garlic, Dutch soy sauce, bee pollen
Three amuses - one of which was a lovely little green gazpacho, the other a sweet tomato thing, the last a tartlet I cannot remember and didn’t take notes on. Trust me, all fabulous.
Oyster with fermented white asparagus, radish, and caviar.
A langoustine tartar with green curry, kohlrabi, and trout roe, apple, Espelette cream, Madame Jeanette pepper
Artichoke fried in lavender oil, bucking pureed and with agar, egg yolk, mushroom powder, pickled shallots
Glazed sweetbread, unripe plums, Boerenmeiden sauce (Farm girl sauce – yeah, I know, that’s weird in translation). It was rather a fruity sauce.
And then, the star of the show, the best bite of the entire trip, hands down: Beet millefeuille. Beets were thinly sliced and then compressed together, probably roasted, and then napped with a Dutch soy sauce beurre blanc that was caramel-ly and salty. We so wanted to find that soy sauce and bring some home. The dish had texture, was sweet and salty, had depth, umami, a little funk… just perfect. I will dream of this dish for years.
Pre-dessert/palate cleanser: pastry cream gooseberry red currant granita.
Dessert: white chocolate, apricot, elderflower oil and rhubarb juice.
And then the friandise (what we think of as mignardise): a bonbon with pecan, miso and caramel; fudge with Piemontese hazelnuts; violet sugar truffle (my favorite): a madeleine of chocolate and roasted yeast: and their take on a stroopwaffel – with caramelized white chocolate.
A stunning meal, lovely service, and for the quality of the food, a very good deal.
The “other” seafood place, and certainly a few cuts above Seafood bar. First of all, the people were so friendly and welcoming here. I had to call them twice because I thought we were late for our rez and then because we weren’t sure where the tram stop was in relation to the restaurant and they clapped and whooped it up when we finally arrived!
This was not our exact menu there, but very close (sorry, I forgot to take notes/ask for a menu):
CHEF’S CHOICE prix fixe:
starter - sea bass – shrimp – pear – mango – tom yam – puffed rice
second starter - anchovies – artichoke – barigoule – aioli
third starter - prawn – dashi – egg – courgette – nameko
main course - market fresh fish – bagna càuda – belgian endive – pumpkin – lemon – tomato
Dessert - chocolate – cherry – long pepper – kahlua
Sorry I’m a bit sketchy on the details – I did the wine pairing and was quite tipsy. (yet again!) Suffice to say everything was truly excellent. We loved it and would go back again.
We made a trip to Foodhallen, recommended by so many, but were underwhelmed with the choices (it just felt like a mall food court to us). We settled on oysters and fried fish. Tasty!
We also made it to the Albert Kuyp outdoor market late one afternoon and based on MANY recommendations, split a fresh, hot stroopwaffel (sorry, no pic). MEH. Too sweet for both of us. I’ve actually had the packaged ones you can get at the store and liked those better.
We also went to the Noordermarkt and tried pufferjies and smoked eel (not together). (and we didn’t get the sausage sandwiches pictured but they looked so good! Loved pufferjies - little flattened pancake balls with plenty of butter and powdered sugar. The smoked eel was absolutely fantastic – very rich, fatty, just delicious. I wanted to try the herring too, but we were just overloaded with the richness of the eel. A standout bite of the whole trip.
Floreyn – another modern take on Dutch food. And yes, yet another tasting menu!
Rollmops – beetroot, yogurt, horseradish
Fennel bisque with tomato and dill
Cauliflower with feta, hazelnut and chanterelles
Celeriac with lovage, pumpkin seeds, and buttermilk
Quail with pumpkin, blueberry and miso
Duck liver with coffee, pear and tonka bean
Chocolate with rosemary, sea buckthorn, hazelnut
I did the wine pairing because of course i did. this was another place that people we talked to in Amsterdam weren’t very familiar with, but we thought it was all just excellent. Would highly recommend!
For an afternoon snack, we googled wine bars and found both Bubbles and Wine and Bar du Champagne, and had a tasting at both, and oysters and a cheese plate at one, and beef tartare, loaded with capers and Dijon, at the other. Very tasty. We ended up going back for more bubbles after dinner there later that night.’
On another day, we just happened to pass by a Basque restaurant, Sagardi, at lunchtime and were intrigued. We got the beef tartare, a tuna tartare, txistorra (a wonderful smokey sausage), housemade sourdough bread, clams in a salsa verde, and La Gilda – that well-known San Sebastian pintxo made of skewered peppers, olives and anchovies. Greens came with everything and I gobbled them down – greatly in need of a salad by this time. Funny story: we asked the waiter when we ordered if we should order bread (because it was housemade) or would the dishes come with it. “You should get some bread.” Lo and behold, each dish came with bread! I asked him about it, and he said, “oh but that’s toasted bread.” Too funny.
Ron Gastrobar – we rented bikes and rode through Vondelpark and Rembrandtpark and ended up at this restaurant that we’d had reservations for at dinner because it was highly recommended but had cancelled to do something else, so we thought we’d just have a small lunch instead. Hah – one of our most expensive meals, but it was incredibly good and I’m glad we did it. But, cha-CHING.
We got the three oysters – Rockefeller, with a sauce Hollandaise, an Asian prep, and the classic raw with mignonette. Also, spectacular deviled eggs (or, eggs Mimosa here, with tarragon, ponzu and yuzu) with 10 grams of black pearl caviar on a nest of crispy potatoes and sorrel in a pool of beurre blanc. Then, an onion “martini” – the chef’s favorite dish, we were told, that never leaves the menu – basically something like a French onion consommé, cooked down until thick and almost gelatinous, topped with a comte cream/foam, and Amsterdam pickles – really delicious, and the pickles were wonderful. Next, we split a phyllo-wrapped dover sole, with peas, lovage, beurre blanc, parsley – crispy outside, juicy inside. Just beautiful. We finished with dessert – the “surprise” egg – eggshell made of white chocolate that opened to a panna cotta with basil ice cream, and sea buckthorn (tart berries). The runny yolk was a sauce made of those berries too. Pretty incredible. And THEN they served us an ice cream cone each, on the house – but it was yogurt! The creamiest coconut yogurt I’ve ever had, would never have known it wasn’t ice cream. With passionfruit. Scrumptious. another $$$ but I’d definitely recommend.
Pesca – “Theater of Fish” – a little gimmicky but very good. You pick your fish/seafood and they prep it how they deem best. We ordered a huge mess of razor clams (our favorite) in a buttery wine sauce – best plate of the meal. Also, salmon sashimi, fennel, dill, creme fraiche – a delight, and dorade - grilled simply, delicate, smokey, amazingly crispy-skinned, wonderful. Also a big salad with burrata, and thick cut fries that we didn’t need and mostly didn’t eat. Very good, and reasonable, but not something I’d need to do again.
Our last meal – highly recommended, again by my cousin’s friend, and then also by a couple of friends who were there a week before we were, and went on my recommendation, and they then went AGAIN the next night. However, we found it just ok. A very cozy, cute place, filled with youngish locals, packed, a lovely setting, but the food was not as good as it had been built up. We YES AGAIN did the tasting menu because we wanted to try everything. The bread again was housemade, and quite good, but it was served with the most swoon-inducing smoked butter – my eyes rolled into the back of my head with every bite. Next, Kingfish hamachi tomatoes, watermelon, tomato water. Lovely. I love tomato water, it’s so light and flavorful, and the kingfish was very fresh, had a nice firm texture. Next, fish cakes - made with white fish, shrimp, panko, chilies, caramel, picked red onion. More like a seafood meatball, with Thai flavors. I really loved this. Then, burrata with salsa verde, peach, apricot. Good, but nothing special. Next: Leeks, tarragon oil, pistachio, sweet and sour lotus. Leeks were a little woody, not soft nor sweet enough. Next, zucchini, cucumber, buttermilk beurre blanc, and sour berries. Refreshing, but again, not super exciting. Then we each got a different main dish – my sister got the sardine, mole, corn, coriander, kumquat, eggplant. Mediocre in the extreme. Weirdest “mole” ever. And mine: Cabbage, walnuts, duxelles, shaved truffles. This looked amazing on the table next to ours, but was extremely bland. Disappointing. Nowhere near as good as the cabbage dish we had at Johannes. Somehow I forgot to take a pic of dessert, but it was great - a slab of chocolate with cacao butter, berry sauce, macerated fig. A good ending to a hit or miss meal.
I brought back with me some Dutch cheeses – vacuum-sealed so I can save them for a while (we’ve tried the Petit Doruvael - rather Gouda-like, but a bit milder, with a nice creaminess). And Genever, which I surprisingly never got to taste there. Sadly, I don’t love it - not juniper-y enough for me, but maybe I need to try some different cocktails with it. (Also a package of stroopwaffel – the store-bought kind – for the BF. “She went to Amsterdam and all I got was a lousy….”)
That’s it! Sorry so long. Don’t ask me how we eat so much because I don’t know! We did walk a ton so weight gain was minimal and i was back to “normal” a couple of days back.
We loved everything about Amsterdam and the people, and want to go back again someday soon.