Amsterdam City Blog restaurants, shops, people and life in Amsterdam

14Jan/110

Four reasons to go to Fyra in Amsterdam

It was our anniversay today. Levi took me out for a surprise dinner. The surprise was not in that we went to dinner, it was the place he took me to. He was so pleased with himself for having found it, quite by accident, it made me really curious! He took me to Fyra, in the Noorderstraat in Amsterdam.

Fyra means 'four'. It's worth wandering off the beaten path for. First of all, it's not so very far from the beaten path. The location is a short walk away from the Muntplein. It's a quiet sidestreet off the Vijzelgracht. Second of all, the interior looks great. Classy, but not pretentious. A comfortable chic. The art on the walls may or may not be to your taste, but it's colourful and adds to the atmosphere.

interior of restaurant Fyra in the Noorderstraat, AmsterdamAnd the people, third of all, are so very nice, they make you feel at home. Truly. I can't really explain it. It was just the way they treated you as a real person, with sincere interest and hospitality. It's actually quite unusual in Amsterdam, where disinterested staff is the norm.

Last but not least: the food. It's not the kind of fare I usually have. As it turns out, duck liver parfait is not my thing. But the catch of the day was a sort of sandwich of a white fish (I forgot its name!) with a filling of tasty little shrimps and a beurre blanc sauce. Wow.

Then there was  a course which consisted solely of meat. Our hostess called it "succade", which is a piece of the bovine that is not often used in restaurants I think It can be tough, but this was cooked slowly and lovingly for probably hours. It was soft and the red wine sauce very tasty.

The main course turned out to be a barbequed piece of American Black Angus steak, which was so tender it hardly needed chewing at all. Double wow. There were seasonal vegetables and a tiny sliver of gratin to accompany it. Dessert was a tiny warm chocolate pie with a melted center, accompanied by vanilla ice cream and a dribble of passionfruit sauce. Tripple wow.

So there. Four reasons to go Fyra. Johannes van Dam, probably the most famous restaurant reviewer in the Netherlands, gave this place a 10-, which is about as close to perfect as you can get. I'm not sure I would rate it that high, but I did very much love the whole experience.

Sidenote: Fyra is a ways above the pricerange I normally visit. A 3-course (set) menu is 32 euro, 4 courses 38 euro. The chef's menu (5 surprise courses, which may or may not include duck liver parfait) is E49,50.

Open 6 days a week, from 6 until 10 pm. Closed on Tuesdays.

Fyra
Noorderstraat 19-23
1017TR Amsterdam
www.restaurantfyra.nl (only in Dutch)

19Dec/102

A quick bite at Julia’s at Amsterdam CS

When you're going somewhere by train and want to have a quick bite at Amsterdam Central Station, you can get fast food at the Burger King, a plastic sandwich from Albert Heijn to go or, as of November 2008, a box of warm pasta Julia's Pasta.

grab a quick bite at Julia's Pasta at Amsterdam Central StationThe dishes are more or less prefab, and heated up and assembled right in front of you. Choose your pasta, your sauce and additional toppings if you like (each dish has a predetermined standard set of toppings), pay around 5 euro and then watch as one of Julia's employees throws everything together.

A prepackaged portion of frozen pasta goes into hot water, a ladle of sauce goes into the pan, toppings are sprinkled over (in my case: bacon bits, spring onions and parmesan cheese flakes) and hey presto! You can take a seat at one of the tables in the back with your carton of food and a piece of plastic cutlery.

I had the carbonara. It's no five star meal, but it's warm, it's filling, it's nourishing and cheap.

Also serves salads, sandwiches, tiramisu, prosecco and wine.

There is no website that I could find, no contactinformation either, but if you enter the station on the west side, it's the first shop on the left hand side in what currently serves as the main hall.

2Dec/102

Another find in the 9 Little Streets: Nooch

inside view of Nooch in the 9 Litte Streets in AmsterdamI had dinner at Nooch in the 9 Little Streets with my friend Matt. Nooch serves all manner of Asian kitchens, including Japanese, Vietnamese and Chinese. The atmosphere is modern and friendly. We were early, so we had the place all to ourselves for a little while.

The menu consists of different kinds of small bites, but also offers bigger dishes for those among us who don't like small bites. Me, I love small bites, and I love to share. We had Tender Beef, Mandarin Pancakes and Chinese Pearls. It was all very good, the beef melting on your tongue, the Chinese Pearl in quaint small crispy cups.

But the high point of the evening came when Matt insisted we order the Fried Yuki Sushi, and, because he couldn't pick between the one or the other, the Crispy Salmon Tuna Sushi as well. I was in love! Crispy outside, moist and fresh inside.

delicious Crispy Salmon Tuna Sushi and Fried Yuki Sushi at Nooch in Amsterdam

It was a great experience. The friendly staff, the excellent and affordable food and the wonderful location in the charming 9 Little Streets are all good reasons to make a return visit.

Amsterdam restaurant Nooch from the outsideNooch
Reestraat 11
1016 DM Amsterdam

www.nooch.nl

23Nov/102

Lovely Brix in the Wolvenstraat

So I was studying my heart out for exams a few weeks ago and Levi decided I deserved a treat and took me out to dinner at Brix in the Wolvenstraat in the Nine Little Streets area in Amsterdam. We were in luck, because when we called to make a reservation, there had just been a cancellation. If that hadn't been the case, we would have had a snowball's chance in hell of getting a table here on a Saturday night!

inside Brix in the Nine Little Streets in Amsterdam

Writing this after having had dinner there, I can fully understand its popularity. The ambiance is great. Modern, classy, yet cosy, with an exposed brick wall, comfortable seating and smoked glass mirrors in the back. The tables weren't crowding the space, as seems usual in Dutch restaurants. There was room to walk, to breathe and to have your own conversation whilst not being forced listen to other people's conversations. I enjoyed the smooth jazzy music that was playing softly in the background.

The girls serving us were great! Informal, friendly, attentive and fast. What I love about Brix' menu, is that it contains starters only, which makes it possible to sample more than one dish. Levi confessed he'd never had snails before, so I got him those. Furthermore, I chose the black pasta and Levi got the entrecote.

The snails were a bit disappointing. They were not scalding hot, like they are supposed to be, and tepid snails... well, they're just not the same. That's what comes of using a metal dish instead of an earthenware one, it cools off quicker. I loved that there was enough garlic butter to let the snails swim, but the bread that should have been fresh and crunchy on the outside, while being soft and fluffy on the inside, was... toast. And slightly stale toast at that. I can't soak hard, stale toast in garlic butter! That's not how things should be.

Glorious black pasta
But the black spaghetti with the sauce made of Dutch shrimps made up for the snails. It was divine. Black food, it seems odd. It feels 'off' to order it, but my, my, my was this worth the trouble. There were pieces of octopus which had been preserved in fat and there was samphire. It all went together so well and the sauce was so incredibly rich and delicious.

Levi's entrecote was not half bad either. The taste of the meat was pure and it was tender. It came with a simple salad and a lovely, waxy baked potato. Upon the arrival of his dish, he wasn't sure if it was going to be enough, him being a man after all, and having a man's appetite, but there was plenty of meat on his board.

Both sort of having had enough, we decided to share a dessert, instead of each getting our own. We asked the nice girl if the chocolate pie was any good, and as she nodded vehemently, we decided to go for it. No regrets there! It came with homemade blueberry icecream, which was delicious in itself. But that chocolate pie, it was as chocolate pies should be. Rich, velvety, intensely dark and pure. So worth the 6 euro! The only thing I regretted was having agreed to share.

The sign at the entrance of Brix in the Wolvenstraat in AmsterdamThe food is very affordable and the location, right in the center of Amsterdam, is great too. Definitely a place to remember and come back to! I saw on their website that they are now open for lunch too. It also says there are live jazz sessions two nights a week.

Brix
Wolvenstraat 16
1016EP Amsterdam
www.cafebrix.nl

28Oct/101

Chinese chicken and squid at Nam Kee

Chinese restaurant Nam Kee on the Zeedijk in AmsterdamI probably have already told you that New King is my favourite Chinese restaurant in Amsterdam. It seems I am not the only person who thinks their food is good, as on a Wednesday evening me and my girlfriend Nina could not get a table on any of the three floors! We were told we would have to wait for about half an hour. We were quite hungry. Waiting that long was not an option, so we went to Nam Kee down the street.

We were in luck, a couple of people were just leaving and we were able to get a table at this newly refurbished (ugly grey faux-bricks on the walls) Chinese classic. There's a Dutch movie (after the novel by Kees van Beijnum) with national celebrity Katja Schuurman and the then not so famous Egbert Jan Weber (whose star is on the rise as we speak), named after an oyster dish from this restaurant (Oesters van Nam Kee, which translates to: Oysters at Nam Kee's).

Nina ordered the ti pan chicken dish with seasonal greens. Ti pan means the food is prepared in a cast iron dish, and is served, sizzling hot, on that same dish, placed on a wooden coaster. I selected the dry fried squid (without the chili peppers) from the extensive menu. We got some white rice and shrimp crackers (kroepoek) to go with that. Nina had a beer and I had Chinese tea.

Generous portions, great food
The food was great. The squid was fresh, not too chewy, and very tasty. The chicken was soft, the greens (Chinese broccoli and baby Pak soi) were fresh and crunchy, and complemented the chicken very well. The plate with shrimp crackers was heaped high. That's the way we like it!

hologram stickers in a raindeer. Très chi-chiWe were so hungry that by the time I thought of taking a picture of our food, we had already devoured most of it. I do however have this amusing little tidbit of interior decoration for you. Traditionally, cherrywood tables, inlaid with intricate patterns in mother of pearl are the epitomy of chic. But this is not mother of pearl. It seems to be... a hologram sticker? And if you notice the motif, it isn't very chic either! It looks like it's Christmas every day at Nam Kee.

Worth repeating
All in all, dinner at Nam Kee was a very good experience. Affordable too, between the two of us the bill came to 30 euro. I think I may be convinced to come here more often, and New King doesn't even have to be full for me to consider it!

Nam Kee currently has two locations in Amsterdam. Another location is to open soon on the Marie Heinekenplein. We went to the one on the Zeedijk (address below), which is open every day from noon until 11pm. See the website for the other locations and opening hours.

Nam Kee
Zeedijk 111-113
1012 AV Amsterdam

www.namkee.net

24Jul/100

New on the Haarlemmerdijk: Deksels!

Front and tiny terrace of Deksels! on the Haarlemmerdijk in AmsterdamLevi and I used to frequent De Vries on the Haarlemmerdijk until one day, after we got back from our travels, we rode our bikes to that spot to have lunch and... found it closed. There was mail piled up on the mat, the place was deserted. Today we discover there's a new place at that location, it is called Deksels! and we decide to try it out immediately.

Our welcoming host Guus makes sure we get a seat on the tiny terrace (a bench, two tables and four chairs). A few people are sitting there already, but no one minds sharing the bench so everyone can sit outside in the sun.

There are interesting things on the lunch menu, like a salad with leafy spinach, courgette, feta and a red onion compote, or an open sandwich with merquez, cucumber, yoghurt and mint. Lunch is offered from 11.30 am until 3.30 pm. Cook Ellas stretches the rules a little bit for us, and makes Levi and me a sandwich with smoked mackerel salad and a horseradish sauce (E7,50), eventhough we arrive after 3.30. I order a smoothie to go with it, Levi gets a German weissbier.

Dinner at Deksels!
Where De Vries was only open until 6 pm, Deksels! is also open for dinner. In the evening the kitchen is open from 6.30 pm until 10.30 pm. The menu includes lovely sounding main courses like steak entrecote with roseval potatoes, jus de veau and spring onions (E18,-), or redfish with roasted fennel and baby potatoes (E17,-).

Smoked mackerel sandwich with horseradish sauce at Deksels! When our sandwich arrives we are impressed by the size (which is just as well, seeing the price of the dish). Two thick slabs of good, brown bread (from the baker on the Zeedijk, Guus tells us) are topped with a few leaves of salad and a copious amount of smoked mackerel salad. The salad is a little lacking in salt, but that is easily fixed. The zesty horserdish sauce gives the dish a well-balanced punch.

My orange-banana smoothie (E4,-) is heavenly. I was a fan of the fruitsmoothies in Asia, and it has proven surprisingly hard to find shakes of the same delicious kind in our usually cold country, but I have found a friend in calm Ellas (who, after finishing his shift with our sandwich, joined us all outside). His smoothie is smooth, fruity, full and creamy. I love it.

Drat
The terrace is a lively place, great to observe people. The Haarlemmerdijk is always busy with traffic, people on bicycles, people on foot, and trucks unloading wares in the middle of the street.

Big pot lid serving tray at Deksels!Guus, Ellas and sous-chef Victor seem like a bunch of laid back guys who have put their heart into this new place. Their sense of humour is evident in the serving trays they use. Deksels! is a very old Dutch expression, that was used as a curseword, when cursing itself was still considered very offensive. Drat! might be a good translation. Literally though, a 'deksel' is a lid. Like from a pot. And the serving trays at Deksels! are big lids of what must have been very big pots. A nice touch, no?

I'd love to come back here for dinner some time. I'm adding it to my (very long) list of (lovely) thing to do.

22Jul/100

Vapiano: great pizzas, small prices

VapianoIf, after a hard day's work at the Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (the public library of Amsterdam, also known as the OBA), one feels a bit peckish, then a visit to Vapiano is in order. Don't go for the service (there is none), but do go there for the good and affordable food. Also a good tip if you're in the neighbourhood of the Amsterdam Central Station and looking for a bite to eat.

Vapiano has a system. Upon entering the establishment, each customer receives a card. Upstairs you can order pasta at the pasta counter, pizza at the pizza counter and so on with the salads and sweets. You touch your card to the appropriate place on the counter when you order (it says something like "your card here") and receive a pager that will tell you when your meal is ready. Then you have a seat, wait till the pager goes off and enjoy your meal. Before exiting the building you hand in your card at the cash register at the bottom of the stairs and pay for what you've had.

pizza bruschetta at Vapiano in AmsterdamMatt and I had pizza at Vapiano recently. I ordered the Pizza Bruschetta, with fresh tomatoes, garlic, rocket salad, parmesan cheese and mozzarella. He had the Toscana, with spicy Italian sausage, olives, fresh herbs, tomatoes and mozzarella.

Mine was very good. The crust was not too thin, not too thick, crisp but not dry. The topping was packed with flavour, thanks to the garlic and the very thinly sliced parmesan. It was also fresh, because of the rocket and the fresh tomatoes. All in all, a very good choice, for a mere E6,75.  The Toscana (E7,75) was stronger in flavour, the spicy Italian sausage was spicy indeed! Matt was happy with his choice.

Kill me again please
We had already spotted our dessert while we were picking out our pizzas: Death by Chocolate. For 3 euro a piece this extremely nice, dark brown stuff will slowly devour you (or you it). And you'll like it, I promise. At Vapiano Death does not ride a pale horse: Death is a pie, moist and tasty, not too sweet and not too heavy, and it comes covered in a thick layer of lovely ganache.

It was so good I licked my plate afterwards. That is, until I caught the stare of an elderly man at the table next to ours and I had to stop, because I was dying with laughter from merry embarrassment. I'm going back sometime soon, have another pizza or try one of the pastas and afterwards gladly request to be killed again!

interior of Vapiano near Amsterdam Central Station The interior styling is hip, but relaxed. Vapiano is open Sunday through Thursday from 11am till midnight. Friday and Saturday from 10am till 1am.

Vapiano
Oosterdokskade 145
1011 Amsterdam
http://www.vapiano.com/

15Apr/102

Craving for tapas? Paso Doble in De Jordaan

terrace at Paso DobleMatt and I have thing for Chinese. Once in a while though, we want something different, and yesterday I had a craving for tapas. I've been to one or two other places, but the best tapas in Amsterdam are to be had at Paso Doble in the Westerstraat.

So I reserved a table and there we were: drinking San Miguel on the terrace on a Wednesday afternoon, greedily soaking up the sun. It's not really summer yet, so after sunset the temperature gets a little chilly, but Paso Doble has terrace heating.

We started with pata negra and a basket of bread with aioli. I'd never had pata negra before, and for that money (E16,50! The most expensive thing on the menu, by far), I would never have thought of ordering it, but Matt insisted I should try.

According to Matt the cured ham was a bit thickly sliced, but my lord, the taste was gorgeous. The bread was fresh and the aioli was laden with garlic, creamy and sharp. We were off to a good start!

drinking San Miguel at Paso Doble in De JordaanA few San Miguels later we ordered calamari, gambas in garlic oil, merquez sausages and some more bread. The merquez are never my favourites, but you can wake me up for calamares with a squeeze of lemon.

Matt switched to red wine and we ended our feast with grilled veggies: eggplant, courgette, green asparagus and green and red peppers sprinkled with a little seasalt and a drizzle of olive oil.

You'd think we'd be full by now, but if you read my post about Monte Pelmo yesterday, you know better. Another thing you can wake me up for, as of yesterday: Monte Pelmo's lemon cheesecake icecream!

Paso Doble
Westerstraat 86
1015 MN Amsterdam

http://www.dobson-uzcudun.com/tapas/pasodoble.htm

8Feb/100

Best burger in Amsterdam: Nassau at the Wittenkade

One of the best places to have a great burger and a nice evening out in Amsterdam is Nassau at the Wittenkade in the Westerpark neighbourhood.

Nassau calls itself a café-slash-restaurant ('eetcafé') and this describes exactly what it is. It's a café, where you can meet with friends or business acquaintances and have a drink. In the evening you can also have a bite to eat.

The staff is friendly and relaxed and the interior design is comfortably hip, livingroom style. There's lots of wood and beige leather seating. Opposite the peninsular bar is a small fake fireplace and check out the funky lighting in the ceiling. The art on the walls is changed regularly.

The fare is homey and down-to-earth, but with a classy twist. Like the burgers, which are made from wagyu beef. This breed of Japanese bovines is renowned for its flavour, tenderness, and fatty well-marbled meat.

And -oh my!- this makes for excellent burgers. They are moist and tender and chockfull of flavour. A bun covered in sesameseeds, pickles, fried onions and beets accompanies my burger. It comes with crisp golden fries and a mayonaise that, according to the menu, is flavoured with wasabi (but in reality does not burn at all).

Ok, so the New York cheesecake we ordered for desert is awful (the cheesecake I make myself is about 12 times better, I swear), but I will (I am one hundred percent sure of this) come back for that incredible wagyu burger!

Nassau
De Wittenkade 105 A
1052 AG Amsterdam
no website, but the telephonenumber is:  +31 (0)20 6843562

25Jan/100

Tons of atmosphere: restaurant In de Waag at the Nieuwmarkt

Restaurant In de Waag is smack-dab in the centre of Amsterdam, a few minutes' walk from the Central Station, on the Nieuwmarkt at the end of the famous Zeedijk. Last weekend I made my boyfriend Levi take me there.

I'm not spoiled. I can cook. Actually, I can cook up a storm and all the world can go quiet around me (or is it just in my head where it finally goes quiet?). But there's nothing like going out to eat. Tasting the atmosphere of a place and enjoying well-prepared food and not having to lift a finger, except in the end, to pay the bill.

The thing is, I do this often with friends. But for some reason, I rarely go out to dinner with Levi. We do go out, we like to have lunch in the weekends and discover nice new places that serve good coffee and great pie. We go to festivals and go shopping and do so many more things... Just nearly never have dinner at a proper restaurant. So on Sunday we dressed up and went to In de Waag.

A restaurant lit by only candles
This monumental structure has seen many uses and many occupants over the centuries. Now, among other things, it houses an excellent restaurant. The interior is large, but has a very inviting and intimate atmosphere. Part of the reason why is the fact that the entire restaurant is lit almost solely by candles. Hundreds of them.

The menu includes starters like a tarte tatin of red onion and a pasta dish with horse mushrooms prepared in vieux. Mains include dishes like an entrecôte for two, or baked gravad lachs. Prices vary from E7-E12 for the starters to E19-E25 for the mains. The daily menu is a good deal at E34.

I chose the salad with homemade smoked salmon and the tenderloin beef for a main. Leev opted for the daily menu which consisted of a salad with smoked turkeyfilet, followed by beef with mushrooms and a coffee parfait for desert.

Attentive staff
The waiter was funny, a little flirty even, and attentive. It's funny how good staff can make or break your evening. At least as much as the quality of the food can. My starter was excellent. The homesmoked salmon was mild and silty, not salty. And everything on my plate went together beautifully, from the avocadomousse to the cherry tomatoes, to the green asparagus and even the big, fleshy, green olives. Leev was equally impressed with his smoked turkey salad.

Levi's main dish was huge. His plate seemed heaped to the point of nearly spilling. Oddly though, his steak was red (whereas he'd ordered it medium) and my tenderloin was medium (which I had requested rare). We had a bite of our own, then of eachother's and decided to swap. This is one of the reasons why I love this man.

My veggies had been in the oven too long and were overly salty and dry. Levi had enough for two, so he donated some of his. What was to die for though, was not the big chunk of meat, not the dry, salty veggies, but the mayonaise that accompanied my six Belgian-style fries (yes, only six, but because of the size of them, that was truly enough). Truffle mayonaise. Fingerlicking good. I want to kidnap the souschef who made that and make him make that for me ever single day.

We shared Levi's desert (our waiter brought us two sets of desert forks and spoons, a sweet touch), and eventhough Leev doesn't like icecream very much and I'm generally no fan of coffee-flavoured things, we finished the whole thing. Enough said.

Good for a revisit
So the food was excellent (starter), ok (main) and excellent (desert), but the gorgeous candlelit atmosphere, the great waiting staff and the good location make In de Waag one of those places I'd like to revisit.

The pricerange is well over the budget of most tourists (the bill came to E75,75, which includes two drinks and a pitcher of water). Most of the clientele is over 40.

Restaurant In de Waag
Nieuwmarkt 4
1012CR Amsterdam
http://www.indewaag.nl/