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

28Mar/140

It pays to be kind

One of my first memories of Amsterdam was when I was following my first photography course in the Bethanienstraat. I was seventeen or so and didn't live in Amsterdam then, but somewhere near Utrecht. To be honest, I was a bit green, and being accosted on the street by pimps and other shady figures in the red light district (shadier then than it is now) was new to me. "No thank you," was my go to response to offers of telephone numbers, drugs and dates.

Then one evening, as I was making my way to the Bethanienstraat for my lesson, after having been shopping on the Kalverstraat, a woman asked me for directions. She was from Iceland and very, very drunk. She was so drunk, she had no clue how to get back to her hotel. I didn't know either, but went inside a shop to ask, they told me the general direction. As it was on my way, I told her I would walk her halfway. After all, if I was hopeless and lost in a foreign city, wouldn't I want someone to help me?

The lady was drunkenly rambling, about her job (she was in town for a convention of some sort), her brother (who had been in an accident and had been run over by a car), and on and on, clinging to me with her heartstoppingly alcoholic breath.

On the Dam I pointed her in the direction of Central Station. I told her to go there, her hotel was opposite the station (according to the guy in the shop I'd asked directions in). She pulled me close, hugging me to her, while she fumbled in her trousers. I can remember being surprised, thinking: "What the?" Then she pressed a crumpled 25 guilder note in my hand and disappeared in the crowd.

I didn't get a chance to tell her I didn't want her money. I didn't even get a chance to say: "Thank you!" I just stood there, flabbergasted, with the money in my hand. I framed that note (in the exact crumpled state I received it in) and didn't spend it for over a decade. It hung on the wall in my room as a reminder that it pays to be kind.

28Feb/134

Skating on the Keizersgracht (2012)

Keizersgracht by Panorama Streetline (copyright Jörg Rom)

A friend of mine works for this amazing project, called Panorama Streetline. I fell in love with one of their works, a panorama of the Keizersgracht in wintertime, made last year, when the canals had frozen over and people were happily skating along in the centre of this great city I live in (click on the picture for larger image).

Keizersgracht detail of skating people (copyright Jörg Rom)The photographer's name is Jörg Rom. I got Jörg's permission to share this panorama with you. I love how you get to see the Keizersgracht stretch out on the horizon, as you never would in real life, as your view is always limited to the place you are standing.

And how rare is it to see people skating on the canals! I've lived here for nearly a decade and have not witnessed such a thing before. How cool and what a lovely coincidence that Jörg was there to capture the scene for immortality.

Keizersgracht
The pictures were made only a few hundred metres from where I work, as our headquarters are in a magnificent building on the Keizersgracht. The bridge you see in the centre part of the panorama is the Leidsestraat. The gorgeous, tall turreted building on the left corner of the Leidsestraat is Metz & Co, where I once had a very disappointing afternoon, that I blogged about in January 2011.

Walem, on the Keizersgracht a few doors to the left of Metz & Co , serves magnificent 'croque monsieurs', as they call them (the dutch call them tosti). Or a club sandwich, served with crisps (my friend Kari loves their club sandwich!). On the righthand side of the Leidsestraat, there is Greenwoods, also an excellent place for lunch. Although even if you're there for lunch, I would highly recommend opting for the all-day breakfast option of Eggs Florentine. It's the real deal!

Jörg has panorama's of different cities. As far as I know, they are for sale. So if you would like to own your own Panorama Streetline, contact Jörg Rom!

17Jan/132

Burgerbar, I love you

My friend Kari took me to Burgerbar. She was so excited about it, it was funny. But after having been: I am excited about it too!

Wedged in between a Burger King and a MacDonalds on Reguliersbreestraat in Amsterdam there's this small, usually incredibly crowded bar. The logo used to remind me of a gun, but it is a B with a bite taken out of it, lol. Never mind the line: go in, you won't be sorry. The people taking your order often don't speak dutch, but will understand your order in either dutch or english.

Irish, black angus or kobe
You can choose between three kinds of meat: irish beef, black angus beef and kobe beef. The burgers come in two sizes, 200 or 270 grams. And there's loads of toppings. Cheddar, onions, mushrooms, blue cheese, jalapeño peppers, and more. Don't forget to order fries! I love Burger Bar's fries: seriously good, golden and crunchy.

The entire kitchen is behind the bar and you can see everything that goes on. Burgers are weighed, made and grilled right in front of your eyes. If there aren't any seats available when you come in, seating space usually opens up while you're waiting for your order. There's a sink you can wash your hands in before (or after!).

Pure taste
When your order's up, they call out your number in English. Dig in! The burgers are luscious. So tender, tasting so purely of meat. I loathe the kind of burgers that have all kinds of spices and stuff in them, and then you don't taste the meat at all.

I've had the kobe beef burger once. I've also had the irish one a few times. I still have the black angus one to try. Seriously good burgers. I highly recommend.

Burger Bar
Reguliersbreestraat 9
Call&Pick-up service: 020 330 5968

Two more branches at Kolksteeg (tiny) and Warmoesstraat (large).

17Aug/115

Authentic Italian flavours at Mazzo

Tomorrow I am having my wisdom teeth taken out. It's my first time at the dental surgeon and it scares the living daylights out of me. So, to celebrate my last days of being able to eat solid food, my friend Matt and I had dinner at Mazzo on the Rozengracht in Amsterdam.

Mazzo on the Rozengracht in AmsterdamI've been wanting to go to Mazzo ever since Matt sent me an article on it on The Cool Hunter. It is a huge place, with an industrial and modern look, and yet a very homely feel about it. The enormous Chesterfield on the left wall looks inviting, but I'd advise against choosing to sit there, as it makes eating off of the low table a challenge.

Antipasti misti at Mazzo in AmsterdamWe started with the antipasti misti, which turned out to be a lovely big plate full of bruschette, cuts of meat and salads. We shared everything and enjoyed most of it (I especially loved the bruschette and the small pulpo salad).

Then we both had a pasta. Matt chose the Arabiata, I had the Carbonara. The pastas come in two sizes: small for around E9,- and large for around E13,-. Very tasty and good value too! It's also very Italian: the pasta is not smothered in sauce, like the Dutch tend to make their pastas.

Mazzo's signature Pizza MazzoLastly, Matt and I shared a pizza Mazzo. It's the one with buffalo mozzarella, lardo (baconfat), rocket and truffle tapenade. The bottom was thin and crisp, somewhat like the romans like their pizza. The topping was fresh, rich and gorgeous. We had thought to try a few desserts too, but it turned out we were full after the pizza. Next time, Mazzo, next time!

There were so many things on the menu that I'd love to try. A cold pizza Primavera for one, Stuzzichini (fried nibbles, like croquettes and stuffed olives) and the toasted tramezzino from the lunch menu. I definitely need to come back here!

Mazzo
Rozengracht 114
020 3446402
www.mazzoamsterdam.nl

 

10Aug/112

‘Dealing’ houseblend out of the KCC

The coolest thing happened to us today! Levi and I bought Italian coffee beans while on holiday in Rome. Gorgeous they were, strong and flavoursome, with a definite hint of chocolate. A little over three weeks later (three weeks already?!) they are almost gone. We can't go without our coffee! So when we happened to be in the city centre today, coming out of Magna Plaza, we lucked into this shop called the Koffie Cultuur Centrum, stacked to the rafters with espresso machines.

please excuse the crappy picture of the Koffie Cultuur Centrum!We asked the man behind the tiny counter which coffeebeans he would recommend. First, he wanted to know what we would be using the coffee for. "Espresso and cappuccino," I told him. Then he wanted to know what kind of machine we had to make this with. "A Rancilio Silvia," I answered. Well, then we had to take the houseblend, he told me with conviction. I had been eyeing the Ethiopian or the Guatamalan beans, which were more expensive (around E23,- a kilo), so his advice surprised me.

He told us that their houseblend was excellent coffee, but that it came with a warning  (u-oh?): "It's very addictive," he said. I laughed, but he was deadly serious. "Is there something funny?" the man asked. Quickly I shook my head no. "I'd like a bag of that then," I said. He weighed off 250 grams, put it in a silver bag, sealed it and said: "Most people know that dealers often give people their first taste of the best stuff...." I was getting money out of my bag "for free," he finished. I froze, money in hand.

"Really?" Levi and I both asked in unison. He nodded. Well now, here's a man convinced of the quality of his wares! So I put my money back in my bag, Levi took the silver bag, we said thank you and left. I am very curious now how this turns out! Will try the beans tomorrow.

Koffie Cultuur Centrum
Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 133
1012RJ Amsterdam
http://espressoadviseur.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

18Oct/101

Latei on the Zeedijk

Latei on the Zeedijk, signThis place near the Nieuwmarkt with oodles of charm used to be a favourite, back in the day when the coffee was still cheap, the pies always available and they didn't forget we were there. Lately though, the service at Latei has gone way down and every tourist knows where to find it. The shine seems to have worn off a little.

If you are patient, Latei on the Zeedijk can still have its moments. On a busy day like last Sunday though, patience was the key word. Sadly, not even patience could save Latei then. We went there with a friend, I was looking forward to the fantastic lemon cheesecake, Levi was looking forward to the apple pie.

uptairs interior at Latei on the Zeedijk in Amsterdam centreThe place was packed, but we found a table upstairs. We decided what we wanted (two carrot/beet juices, one coffee. One lemon cheesecake, one chocolate brownie and one of the huge apple pie pieces) and Levi went downstairs to order, knowing from experience that it's faster and easier that way.

brownie at Latei on the Zeedijk in AmsterdamOut of nearly everything
The staff is friendly and quirky, but not always fast. Sunday's waitress kept bringing things to our table that we hadn't ordered (a sandwich with cheese, orange juice...). After some time Levi returned with one chocolate brownie and informed us that this was all there was. They were out of cheesecake and apple pie and this was the last brownie to boot. There was an apple pie in the oven, but it was going to take some time.

Half an hour later we'd long since finished the one brownie between the three of us and got tired of waiting for our juice. The waitress who had previously wanted to bring us stuff we hadn't ordered did not show up with what we had ordered and so we decided to call it a day. We went downstairs and paid for the one brownie.

I said to the girl at the register "Since the juices we had ordered never arrived, I'd just like to pay for the brownie please." And all she said was "Oh. That will be 2,25." Not even an "I'm sorry, we must have forgot." Nothing. She didn't even ask her colleague about it, she just rang up the brownie and that was it.

Nothing to write home about
Needless to say I am disappointed in Latei. I've been there with Levi countless times before and I was expecting to be able to tell you guys about the great cheesecake and other scrumptious goodies (the menu is modest, but most of it is very good), but they never delivered.

window front at Latei in AmsterdamThe interior decoration is ecclectic, and everything's for sale! From the retro chairs you sit on and the tables you eat off of, to the fabulously ugly lamps hanging from the ceiling and the tacky embroidered art on the wall. There's also a selection of vintage wallpaper.

Latei is open:
Monday through Wednesday 8am - 6pm
Thursday and Friday 8am - 10pm (after 6 they serve Indian food)
Saturday 9am - 11pm (Indian food after 6)
Sunday 11am - 6pm

Latei
Zeedijk 143
1012AW Amsterdam

http://www.latei.net

17Sep/104

New students in Amsterdam

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, it may be known that I have decided to go back to school. It's been a while since I last had classes! I'm still getting into the swing of things.

The funny thing is, I noticed some other girls in the centre of Amsterdam, obviously new students, who had obviously joined a sorority and who were quite obviously being hazed. I couldn't stop myself from taking a picture to share with you, before I got on the underground.

Hazing new arrivals in Amsterdam city centre

the girls in the white shirts are the pledges, the girls with the mad hair their masters...

Judging from the dirty hand prints on the pledges' white t-shirts, they've been through a few things already. Let's hope it doesn't get any worse than this (standing in a corner, because they have been bad?)  and that they'll be allowed to have mad hair like the other girls soon...

1May/102

Gorgeous yoghurt-cherry icecream at IJscuypje

IJscuypje on the PrinsengrachtHaving just put the thumbcrews on a wellknown French actor at the Ambassade Hotel I decide to reward myself with an icecream on the way home. I stop at IJscuypje on the Prinsengracht. I've passed by here a hundred times on my way home from the centre, but I've never gotten around to trying it out. This cloudy/sunny/cloudy/sunny day is the perfect opportunity.

I opt for the chocolate cookie icecream and then decide to splash out and get the yoghurt-cherry too. The scoops are huge (as well they should be, for the hefty sum op E1,50 for one or E2,75 for two). You can get a cone or a cup, but there are no kiddie cones (as opposed to everywhere else, like Monte Pelmo).

The yoghurt-cherry flavour is divine. The cherries are tart and plentiful, the yoghurt full but fresh. The chocolate cookie icecream is creamy, with swirls of a crunchy cookie consistency and a nutella-like chocolate and nut flavour. The cone it all comes in is a bit thick and doughy for my taste. I prefer the silly light kiddie cones, as they don't interfere with the taste of the icecream. If ever I return here, I must remember to get a cup instead of a cone.

Perfect location on the Prinsengracht
And I may well come back, because as in real estate, there's one thing that is crucial: location, location, location. And IJscuypje is very well situated in the heart of Amsterdam.

When I was once in De Pijp, I noticed that there is a branch there too. As it is near the Albert Cuyp market, I am assuming the chain started there. But I can't find IJscuypje on the Internet, so I can't give you any additional addresses besides the one I got off the Prinsengracht branch's businesscard. (Stupidly, the website listed on the card is: www.ijscuypje.nl, but it doesn't contain anything to do with icecream)

IJscuypje
Prinsengracht 292
1016 HJ Amsterdam