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Category Archives: Amsterdam

About a week ago, I had my fourth and final dinner in Amsterdam at Wilde Zwijnen restaurant at Javaplein 23.  When I arrived, there was a lively scene outside, the temperature was pleasant, and that is where I asked to sit. I was directly inside —  I was told that the outside would be emptying up and that the inside would fill up.

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My name was on the table so I was somewhat invested, but inside was hot and sitting there in an empty restaurant wishing I was outside colored my enjoyment of the meal.
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The view of the restaurant from where I was sitting: 20140729-232654-84414659.jpg The restaurant had a beautiful a la carte menu. I immediately saw dishes I would have liked to have. However the menu also offered a secret chef’s menu with two options– a three-course or a four-course option. They don’t tell you what is on the chef’s menu–you have to order it blind. I went with the 4-course chef’s menu, assuming that the dishes would be a creative representation of the chef’s cooking.

The first course was plaice with squid and octopus over potatoes, cucumbers, frise lettuce and red onions with a black ink sauce
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The second course was a garlic soup. It was delicious. But I thought the hazelnuts overpowered the soup so I pushed them aside.
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In the meantime, people had shown up for their reservations and most of them had asked to sit outside. Inside was still hot and, except for a couple of tables, empty.

From where I was sitting I could see the kitchen at the opposite end of the restaurant. I noticed the chef was running dishes to a number of tables. I was surprised he never brought a dish to my table. People dining in groups are there for the company and the conversation (in addition to the food), but a solo diner is just there just for the food. So, I thought if he was spending time greeting the tables, it would have been nice if he had said hello.

The third course was sliced beef with a fennel sausage with steamed vegetables, a couple of cubes of beef and a schmear of red onion purée. This was the most disappointing dish. Disappointing not just because the meat was a little bland and slightly tough, but also because it was boring. It seemed more like a dish on a prix fixe menu–simple, common dishes–nothing too challenging. I thought the chef’s menu was supposed to be something else, something more unique and interesting. I wished I had chosen one of the interesting sounding dishes on the a la carte menu instead.
20140729-232655-84415545.jpgDessert was a yoghurt mousse, which marinated strawberries, almond crumble, a red sorbet, and an earl grey granita.
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I spent the morning of the fourth day in Amsterdam doing my own walking tour of the Jordaan neighborhood, an old working class neighborhood that is now the equivalent to Amsterdam as what the Greenwich Village is to New York City.

I started out with breakfast of apple pie and coffee at Winkel’s:

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There is a Saturday farmers market in the neighborhood. Much nicer things for sale as compared to the Albert Cuyps market I had been to the day before.

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The neighborhood was mostly quiet residential streets with pretty old houses and some canals with nice houseboats.

 

One of the larger canals in the neighborhood:

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A couple of houseboats:20140729-222131-80491376.jpg

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Many houses have interesting carvings:

 

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I learned that that you could push open certain doors and find common gardens behind them.

 

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Lots of bikes and lace curtains:20140729-222435-80675754.jpg0

 


Night 3 in Amsterdam

I had one of those memorable meals that are so rare on my third night in Amsterdam. Gebr. Hartering restaurant offers a choice of a 6 or 9 course set menu. The extra 3 courses are a ribeye steak, a cheese course, and an extra dessert. I went with the six course option. I got there at 7:30 and didn’t leave until after 11. Three and a half hours of bliss.
Before the first course they brought me three mini pre-courses.

The first pre-course looks like someone had already eaten. It was a plate of fish bones–anchovy bones that have been fried and dusted with smoked pimenton. It tasted like whole anchovies.

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The second pre-course was an Italian green pepper roasted with chive oil and flakes salt

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The third pre-course was a red pepper roasted on a charcoal grill.

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First course: salted cod with oil, leek ash and watercress.

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Second course: lardo with arugula (from a nearby village), caramelized shallots, crispy capers, and peach infused oil.

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Third course: shrimp croquette with lemon mayonnaise

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The shrimp were the tiny Dutch ones I had the first night in the amuse bouche.
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Fourth course: monkfish liver with wild mushrooms

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The main course was a porchetta with leek coulis, endives, potatoes (also from a nearby village) and crispy pigs skin. It was a dish with some tang.

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Dessert was a creme brûlée that was not too sweet and creamier than most.
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This was truly a meal worth travelling for.


After breakfast of a coffee and a croissant at an outdoor café in the capital and nine Streets part of the Canal District, I headed to the Albert Cuyp outdoor market in the De Pijp neighborhood, a poorer neighborhood to the south.

The market had a lot of junk:

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And plenty of food including fish, cheese and berries.

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And even a food cart:

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I stopped at Van Dobben, a cafe famous for their croquettes. I had a beef croquettes on bread.

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Then I walked for a while and stopped at a herring stall for herring and pickles on a roll.

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I headed to Rembrandt’s house

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And learned about printmaking:

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Next up the Old Church. There were odd art pieces by various artists all throughout the church in every little nook and cranny

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One was a giant Jesus whose face was selfies anyone could upload:

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I entered the old churchmaster’s offices. On the wall were the shields of many of the church masters. Most were elaborate. Why did Nicholaus get a hotdog for his coat of arms?

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And inlaid in the ground just outside the church with no explanation is a hand groping a breast

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Dinner that night was at Geb. Hartering. A separate post to come on how amazing it was.


Dinner day 2 of Amsterdam

I decided I had to try some Rifsttafel while I was in Amsterdam. My second night I headed to Tempo Doeloe restaurant.

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Rifsttafel is a style of eating and type of cuisine that developed out of the Dutch living in colonized Indonesia.

There were two Rifsttafel options on the menu (not counting a vegetarian option). One was euro 32.50 and the other was euro 37.50. The menu stated that a minimum of two people could order the more expensive one. I asked if I could order the large one. The waitress tried to dissuade me from ordering the larger one she said it would be too many dishes and too much food. I proved her wrong. Later in the evening she said I did an impressive job.

They brought out 24 different items and two types of rice.

A plate of 5 cold items/accompaniments.

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One skewer of satay (no photo)

A plate of nine non-spicy items.

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And a plate of nine spicier items.

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This is what it looked like in front of me:

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Here is a list of what I had:

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It was a lot of fun trying everything and figuring out which I like the most.
Some of the meat dishes had some sweetness to them in addition to their spices and flavorings. I tended to like those the most. They reminded me of the type of dishes I loved in Malaysia. In addition, there was a chicken liver dish that was terrific, the satay was great, and the vegetables, especially the ones in peanut sauce, were great too. There were a lot of distinctive flavors and I liked that I found actual cardamom pods and stars of anise in my dishes. The dish that was the spiciest was truly spicy. One of the cold dishes was grated coconut and peanuts. That could be sprinkled on any dish to cool it down or to add a different flavor to it.

Everyone who worked there was very nice. The meal ended with a glass of a liqueur called Sayah. It was described as an anise type drink. I don’t love the flavor of anise, but I liked this drink. It was slightly sweet and more then anise, I noted flavors of spices like cardamom and cinnamon.


After spending the morning changing hotels, I headed to the Rikjsmuseum.
My new hotel:

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Here are some of the things that caught my eye at the museum.

A Vermeer:

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A man:
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What’s with the dead frog:

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An odd seeing-eye dog by Rembrandt:
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Another odd dog:
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For some reason I was focused on odd animals:

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Odd people too:
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The afternoon was more somber with a visit to the Anne Frank House
20140726-063111-23471925.jpgEight people lived on the 3rd and 4th floors at the back of the building which otherwise housed a pectin (for making jam) distribution business. They were discovered after about two years. Only Anne Frank’s father survived.

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I met an old friend for dinner. She happened to be in Amsterdam the same day–we had figured this out thanks to Facebook.

We ate at Restaurant Greetje, a restaurant that has revived old Dutch dishes in a new atmosphere.

Tourists don’t seem to eat Dutch food while they are in Amsterdam. There seem to be about three Argentine restaurants on each block.

But I’m a purist so no Argentine, Italian, Mexican, or French food for me while I am in Amsterdam.

We started with an amuse bouche which was a thin purée of cucumber and apple with tiny shrimp.

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For our appetizers I had blood pudding and my friend had mustard soup. The soup was the winner of this pair of dishes.

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We both went for the porkchops for our main course. The moist chops came with peas and truffled mashed potatoes and had a delicious sauce made with duck liver to pour over it.

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Surprisingly the best choices on the wine list were Italian. I picked a Corvina which I thought went perfectly with the pork chops.