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By Vicky Hampton

It probably won’t have escaped the notice of my foodie followers that I’m currently in the throes of moving house. And this means two things: 1) I’m broke; and 2) I’m permanently hungry. Biking between three different apartments (long story) and endlessly carrying boxes requires sustenance – lots of it, and cheap. Cue burgers and pizza. But not just any burgers and pizza – I’m still the Amsterdam Foodie even when moving house, which means that every mealtime is an opportunity to try somewhere new and review it. So this week I bring you meals for movers: burgers at Thrill Grill and pizza at The Commons.

Thrill Grill – “Peruvian Beef Thriller” burger

When I finished Vegetarian January last year, I briefly went on a bit of a burger crusade. I tried Lombardo’s wagyu burger for the first time, and rediscovered old burger favourites like The Butcher, Ellis Gourmet Burger, and the burger at the Walter Woodbury Bar. But there were still more I’d never tried. So last Saturday, finding myself unexpectedly in de Pijp, I was happy we were able to get a table at the Thrill Grill’s Gerard Douplein location. All their burgers are made with Dutch dairy cows and are (in theory) served medium-rare, although I felt mine was more medium than rare. I tried the “Peruvian Beef Thriller” – mostly because of the promise of aji sauce, which I’d grown rather addicted to in Chile. If I’m honest, the aji didn’t really come through for me, but the wasabi mayo and avocado did, and since I like both of those too I was fairly happy.

Thrill Grill’s “Peruvian Beef Thriller” burger

We also ordered the umami fries to share – whose umami was presumably supposed to come from the black garlic mayonnaise (it just tasted like mayonnaise) and the beige powder that coated the chips. I wasn’t sure it was really adding much, but I wolfed them down anyway. Sadly, roasted corn on the cob was rather dry, but griddled courgette was fine for what it was (albeit neither were very shareable). With a couple of glasses of the house red wine, dinner came to a little over €20 per person.

The Commons – “Nduja Chilli Freak” pizza

I am more than a teensy bit addicted to chilli, as evidenced by the fact that I even sell a custom-designed Chilli Addict T-shirt… So when I discovered that The Commons restaurant – right opposite my new abode – served a ‘nduja chilli freak pizza, I had to go check it out within a week. We prepped ourselves with a couple of beers on The Commons’ sunny terrace, and then got stuck into the pizza challenge – so hot (apparently) that it’s served with a glass of milk. The €10 pizza came topped with a spicy tomato sauce, ‘nduja sausage, and fresh red chillies (plus cheese, of course) – and I’ll admit that it was genuinely, properly hot. Like probably the hottest thing I’ve eaten since Bulelani’s atomic chicken wings. As pizzas go, it wasn’t the best – the crust was a little thick, not quite crispy and a tad sweet. But I admire the chef’s decision to own all that chilli heat and make this pizza their signature.

The Commons’ “Nduja Chilli Freak” pizza

We also tried some bitterballen and kroketten with our beers and some antipasti with our wines, none of which were really anything to write home about but all of which were perfectly pleasant in a Friday night borrel kind of way. And given The Commons’ huge sun-drenched terrace, reasonable prices and proximity to my new apartment, I’m pretty sure they’ll be seeing a lot more of me.

The post Meals for Movers: Thrill Grill and The Commons appeared first on Amsterdam Foodie

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By Vicky Hampton

Last week we had that miracle of miracles: a hot, sunny, spring week in Amsterdam. Of course, now it’s 12 degrees and raining again, but that’s why you have to make the most of these things while they last. And while tonight I might be making a late-winter stew, last week had me craving salad for the first time in months. Which is why when a blogger friend invited me to the new branch of Venkel on the Javastraat at the last minute, I said yes straight away. Work could wait.

Shamefully, I have to admit I’ve never been to the original Venkel in de Pijp, but I’ve heard the new one’s bigger – and it certainly looked the part with hanging baskets of greenery, mossy wall art and cosy lounge corners. The menu is much what Venkel fans would expect – plenty of salads, hummus and gluten-free bread – but the new branch is open for longer and has a horeca licence. So you can expect smoothie bowls at breakfast time and a range of (alcoholic) drinks and borrelhapjes for the evening. The interior at Venkel’s new Amsterdam branch on Javastraat

We tried what felt like almost everything on the menu: my green smoothie bowl was a healthy hit of spinach, avocado and banana, topped with various seeds. If I was paying, realistically I would never order a smoothie bowl (if I’m going out for breakfast, I’m ordering eggs Benedict or something that says “weekend” more than “detox”) but fans of these popular bowls will no doubt be thrilled.

Green smoothie bowl (in mini!) at Venkel

The hummus in itself was nothing remarkable, but the homemade bread it came with – a fibrous concoction of quinoa, flax seeds, oatmeal, chia seeds, raisins and pumpkin seeds – was surprisingly good and not too much like sweet cake (which is what it looked like).

Meanwhile, we shared five of Venkel’s salads, which were of course the real reason for my trip out east. Probably my favourite was the “Mangomania”, involving mango (obviously), chicken, chickpeas, cauliflower, peanuts and a curry dressing that was exotically fragrant from kaffir lime. Also good was the “Bloemetjes & Preitjes” salad, named after its cauliflower and leek, as well as lentils, pickles, raisons, cashew nuts and a creamy yoghurt dressing. The only salad I wasn’t a fan of was “Vol Lof”, whose constituent parts of kidney beans, apple, figs, walnut and crispy bacon just tasted like the sum of its ingredients rather than hanging together in a cohesive whole.

Just one of many salads on Venkel’s menu

We barely had room to taste the borrelhapjes that were put down in front of us last, so I happily left aside the dreaded stuffed mushrooms (my issue, not Venkel’s). Asian fishcakes were fibrous and flavoursome from coconut, and came with a spicy, tangy mango salsa. And finally, crackers with vegan dips did a very passable impression of an egg-based aioli.

Given the multitude of dishes we tried and the tasting-sized portions, I have no idea what our lunch would’ve cost us as regular customers. I do know, however, that Venkel’s salads sell for between €8.50 and €11.50 and will keep your belly satisfied for hours. So it’s probably just as well that I didn’t get to try the one salad I had my eye on – the “Sarada” – as now I have an excuse to go back…

Fish cakes at borrel time Want more foodie recommendations beyond salads and smoothie bowls? Download my Amsterdam Restaurant Guide!

The post Salad Days in Amsterdam: Venkel appeared first on Amsterdam Foodie

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By Vicky Hampton

In all honesty, I don’t eat a huge amount of Dutch food. Yes, I live in the Netherlands – but it seems that even the average Dutch person doesn’t eat that much of their national cuisine – especially those who live in Amsterdam. And yet, when I’m approached to write articles, it’s the topic I’m most likely to be asked to write on. A while ago, I wrote this post on Dutch food and drinks for Eating Amsterdam; they’ve commissioned a set of “foodie maps” – illustrations of the national cuisines of the Netherlands, Czech Republic, United Kingdom and (soon) Italy, and where each dish comes from in the country. I thought the Dutch one was cute (it’s so orange!) and I was interested to teach myself about the origins of the various Dutch foods I take for granted. So I did a little research and this was the result.

The Netherlands Foodie Map! (Image courtesy of Eating Amsterdam Tours)

But then I wondered where I go in Amsterdam when I want to eat Dutch food? And I came up with this (albeit short) list… These restaurants range from traditional to modern, and from places you might eat just a lunchtime snack to those you’d visit to pick up ingredients for dinner. I say this all the time, but on this occasion the words are especially appropriate: Eet Smakelijk!

Fine dining: Floreyn

There’s very little Dutch food in Amsterdam that’s both sophisticated and true to its traditions. But Floreyn walks that line perfectly. Think bitterbal, but then filled with Messeklever cheese and served with smoked beetroot, radish, apple and fennel. Or mustard soup that’s been deconstructed into a clear broth with a cheese foam and three types of mustard. Even dessert uses local, seasonal vegetables: carrot and parsnip ice cream with a sweet hutspot and citrusy crème brulee. This is very accomplished cooking that stays true to its Dutch roots. It may not be cheap, but the quality of Floreyn’s food and wines, as well as its great location in de Pijp, is more than worth the price tag.

Read my full review of Floreyn

Dutch fine dining at Floreyn Traditional: Greetje

The perfect place to take your parents to, Greetje serves charmingly translated dishes (pigeon’s hangover, anyone? Or perhaps the yoghurt marbles?) that are as tasty as they are endearing. Think pot roasts, mustard soup, and deer pâté, as well as some fish and vegetarian dishes. It’s not cheap, but the service is excellent – which is not to be underestimated in Amsterdam.

Read my full review of Greetje

Want to eat more than just Dutch food? Download my comprehensive Amsterdam restaurant guidebook here. Modern: Wilde Zwijnen

Whether you choose to go to the original Wilde Zwijnen or the newer Eetbar Wilde Zwijnen, you won’t be disappointed with the modern Dutch cuisine on offer. I prefer the Eetbar personally – they serve small, shareable plates of creative, seasonal food prepared with care. Slightly disappointingly, neither restaurant generally seems to have wild boar on the menu, but perhaps I’ve just been unlucky. The quality of the other meats, however, is excellent.

Eetbar Wilde Zwijnen: the new Dutch cuisine

Read my full reviews of Wilde Zwijnen and Eetbar Wilde Zwijnen

Local: de Kas

You can’t get much more local than plucking your fruit, veges and herbs from your own garden or greenhouse. And that’s exactly what de Kas (meaning: greenhouse) does at their Amsterdam restaurant adjacent to the Frankendael Park. What they can’t source from their own grounds, they procure from nearby farms. The menu is heavy on vegetables (unsurprisingly) so dinner at de Kas leaves you feeling light and a little virtuous, too.

Ultra-local food at de Kas (Dutch for greenhouse)

Read my full review of de Kas

Lunch: Gartine

While Gartine also has its own moestuin (allotment), it’s not quite as close to the restaurant as de Kas’s – which is hardly surprising given that Gartine is sandwiched between the Kalverstraat and the Rokin in the centre of town. I should more properly call it a “tearoom”, as it’s open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, but not dinner. The location is delicate and classy, but in an old-fashioned way – as if your grandma had taken a degree in interior design. The food is likewise: eggs benedict with salmon for breakfast, crayfish rillettes for lunch, and a plethora of tarts and cupcakes at tea time. While the menu doesn’t exactly scream Dutch, everything is made with such local products that I think it classifies for inclusion.

Read my full review of Gartine

Pancakes: Pancakes!

You can’t visit Amsterdam without trying the legendary Dutch pancakes (although the Honey Badger had been living here nearly four years before I finally remembered to pop his pancake cherry); and where better to try them than the place of the same name? Pancakes! (complete with exclamation mark) serves some of the best versions in the city, and while you will see plenty of tourists, locals do treat themselves to the occasional pancake there too. Of course, you can order the regular toppings (ham and cheese, apple and stroop, and so on), but you’ll also find some more adventurous combinations. I tried one of the house specials: camembert, ham, chicory and raspberry sauce – it sounds odd, but it was strangely addictive. The Honey Badger went for a sweet-n-savoury combo of bacon, bananas and chilli – it was equally tasty so I demanded we share.

Pancakes at Pancakes! Typically Dutch food Shop: Landmarkt

If you’re looking to buy Dutch (organic) produce and have a bit of time on your hands, hop on your bike and head over to Schellingwoude. As the name would suggest, Landmarkt sort of resembles a covered market (or perhaps just a very nice supermarket) filled with the best quality produce – including meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, cheeses, charcuterie and the rest. It’s not always Dutch (they do sell bananas that clearly don’t grow here, as well as some other produce that isn’t in season in Holland), but it’s still a good bet for finding truly local, top-quality food all in one place. Try some of the cheeses from the farms north of Amsterdam – heerlijk!

Salmon and sauerkraut broodje on the best bread – at Landmarkt

They also have a café inside the Landmarkt store, so if you decide to make a day of it you can stop for lunch before buying your ingredients to make dinner. Their bread is excellent, and so are their sandwiches.

On your travels and want to use this article offline with GPS-guided navigation? Download the travel guide app via GPSmyCity!

This post was first published in May 2016, but has subsequently been updated to reflect new openings.

The post Where to eat… Dutch food in Amsterdam appeared first on Amsterdam Foodie

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By Vicky Hampton

The two questions I get asked most frequently by visitors to Amsterdam are: “Where should I eat Indonesian food?” and “Where should I eat Dutch food?” (Well, that and: “Where should I go with my stag/hen/bachelor/ette party?” but I generally ignore them.) And lately, these questions haven’t been all that easy to answer. Indonesian food seems to have gone downhill since I first started eating it (or maybe I’ve just gone uphill as my standards have increased). And while there are a few good Dutch restaurants in Amsterdam, many of them are very traditional – not somewhere I’d necessarily want to go back to myself.

Enter Floreyn. Answer to my prayers – or at least, answer to my readers’ questions about where to eat Dutch food. The restaurant is modern but relaxed, bright but intimate. And the food is exquisitely Dutch without being old-fashioned. I was there to review it for another publication, so I wasn’t paying – but for €55, let me take you on a tour of the menu…

With our “Cumin Granny” (a G&T involving apple and cumin – surprising, fresh and savoury), we nibbled on tiny cauliflower cookies with pistou, and “Dutch” beef tartar with sweet pickles and crispy pork skin (to be fair, I’m not entirely sure what was Dutch about this). Both were delicious, but the bread with goat butter was an even bigger hit. Bread and butter done well are unbeatable – period.

But on with the first of six courses: rollmops (pickled herring) had been cured in beetroot and came with horseradish yoghurt, dill cream, pickle (a vinegary theme going on here) and crunchy grains of rye. For pickle lovers, it was heaven.

Next came possibly my favourite dish – almost undoubtedly because it contained Messeklever cheese. In a bitterbal. Two of the best things about Holland in a ball – what’s not to like? In this case, the ball came with a veritable medley of colourful produce: beetroot, fennel, radish, possibly apple – all cut and cooked in a variety of ways. Oh, and some of the beetroot was smoked (note to self: must try smoking beets at home…).

Things got even more Dutch at course three: a deconstructed mustard soup. Unlike the usual creamy variety, this was a clear broth: a salty, fiery rock-pool covering brightly coloured sea anemones, which also – surprise, surprise – turned out to be mustard. At the table, the waiter added a third element – a cheesy foam – and crispy rinds of pork belly. Simple, elegant but with a huge hit of flavour.

The next dish looked like “just an egg” (as one helpful Instagram follower pointed out), but was in fact anything but: the “white” was a fine potato mousseline, topped with a slow-cooked egg yolk and crispy cubes of potato that almost tasted like bacon (perhaps they’d been fried in bacon fat). Around the side was goat’s milk hangop with tiny sea-flavour bombs of salmon eggs.

Not “just an egg”

Our meaty main comprised venison fillet and neck with a ball of black pudding (blood sausage), braised red cabbage and hete bliksem – usually a potato and apple mash, but in this case constructed as a sort of gratin with caramelised onions separating the potato from a disc of apple. It was a classic late-winter dish, and possibly the most traditional of the evening, but elevated to greater heights by the quality of the game jus that pulled it all together.

Dessert used seasonal vegetables to equally spectacular effect: Dutch hutspot (usually a savoury mash of root veg and onions) was reimagined as carrot and parsnip ice cream, crème brûlée with crispy ribbons of sweet carrot and onion on top, a moist orange cake, and a white chocolate panna cotta. It was an excellent marriage of sweetness – natural and otherwise – with citrus.

The paired wines we drank were perfect in every case – but I’d advise asking for half glasses if you plan to get anything done the next day, as our waiter had a generous pour. Had we been paying the bill ourselves, dinner at Floreyn would’ve come to €75 all in – which is pricy but good value. And more importantly: it’s Dutch food at its very best.

The post Restaurant Floreyn: Dutch food, done different appeared first on Amsterdam Foodie

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By Vicky Hampton

A couple of months ago, I wrote about a time when the most exotic food you could find in Amsterdam was an Indonesian rijsttafel or a Thai green curry. Nowadays, you can get every kind of Asian food from Japanese ramen to Vietnamese fusion and much more in between. The quality of Asian restaurants in Amsterdam has soared – but then again, so have the prices. Asian dining has become more upscale, putting it on a par with the French and Italian restaurants of 15 years ago. No longer just takeaways or holes-in-the-wall, these are serious restaurants – which require serious reviews. On that note, here are my thoughts about three of them…

ichi-E

The most surprising thing about ichi-E is its quality:location ratio. This Japanese restaurant, serving mostly sushi, is at Bijlmer Arena – right next door to MediaMarkt, the Heineken Music Hall, Pathé cinema and all manner of other entertainment venues that mean guaranteed customers every night. You’d assume restaurants in that area wouldn’t have to try very hard to keep their clientele, but ichi-E proved my assumptions wrong.

Iberico sushi at ichi-E

The sashimi (especially the salmon) was excellent quality, while the unagi maki pumped up the flavour an extra notch through the addition of shiso leaves. Sake avocado rolls involved more of the excellent salmon, and felt virtuously fresh and healthy from the avocado, cucumber and lettuce. In the more adventurous department, ichi-E’s Iberico rolls were very interesting (and not in the British sense of the word): crispy panko-crusted shrimp filled the inside, while fried pata negra ham, pesto and cheese coated the outside. Deliciously different. Meanwhile, crispy beef rolls were given a twist with asparagus and a spicy coating on the outside, offset by a sweet-umami dipping sauce.

Sake avocado rolls with ultra-fresh salmon

Dinner came to €65 for two, including a Japanese bottled beer apiece. I might have to find more excuses to come to Bijlmer Arena (post-IKEA dinner, perhaps?) as Ichi-E served some of the best and most interesting sushi I’ve had in Amsterdam. What are the odds of that?

Bo Nam

While essentially a Vietnamese restaurant, Bo Nam has a few more tricks up its sleeve than the standard pho/banh mi fare. So many, in fact, that it took our waiter literally 10 minutes to tell us about all the specials that weren’t on the menu. He did a good job of explaining them all to us (or selling them into us, depending on how you look at it) and we ended up ordering several – which I guess was the point.

To nibble on, we tried two types of fresh spring roll: one filled with crispy shrimp, avocado and sriracha mayonnaise (which kind of reminded me of the fancy sushi we had at ichi-E); the other filled with duck and cucumber (rather like a Peking duck pancake). I liked the fusion of flavours in both versions, and the spicy peanut dipping sauce was definitely homemade.

Pimped up summer rolls at Bo Nam

Bo Nam promotes a sharing concept, so we got a fairly random selection of smaller and larger dishes, one of which was a kind of Asian steak tartar served with posh prawn crackers – all fine but not particularly memorable. We also tried a dish called something like “That Crepe Cray” (they like their food/hip-hop puns at Bo Nam), which was essentially pancakes stuffed with shrimps (presumably the cray comes from crayfish), spring onions and possibly a little cheese (although I couldn’t really taste it). Again, it was perfectly edible, but nothing life-changing.

On the surf ‘n turf front, we got a 250-gram rib eye that came ready sliced in a thin soy-based jus with fresh coriander. We also ordered the biggest lobster they had, which looked extremely impressive when it arrived coated in its shiny glaze. From a practical perspective, however, it was a disaster. I wrestled with one crab claw for about 15 minutes, so slippery was it from all the glaze that covered its shell. And to what end? The sauce couldn’t penetrate a shell that thick in any case. With my hands covered in brown gunk, I could grip the lobster cracker tool about as well as I could grip the lobster itself – which is to say not at all. It’s amazing I didn’t end up with the whole lot in my lap. With all that being said, the lobster meat – once I finally got to it – was sweet and delicious. And would’ve been just fine dipped in the sweet-umami sauce on the side.

The highly unmanageable glazed lobster

We probably could’ve eaten more but we had a concert to get to (Bo Nam is handily close to Paradiso and Melkweg) so we stopped before bursting point – which meant we spent €85 per couple, including drinks and a tip. Could we have spent €100? Undoubtedly.

JOYA

With an equally handy location – on the Spuistraat near Centraal Station – you’ll find another of Casper Reinders’ brain children: JOYA. The décor is intimate and relaxed, with natural fabrics, peachy lighting and soft wood hues. Good for a date arriving from out of town.

To whet our appetites with our glasses of Tempranillo, we ordered the dumplings filled with shrimp and pork, which were classic but tasty, and came topped with small slices of scallop. Given JOYA’s Japanese-Thai fusion concept, the dipping sauce could’ve been more interesting than just plain soy sauce, but as I say it seems like they’d kept this dish classic.

“Kai Kai Kai” involved crispy breaded chicken wings, some Asian greens and a slightly sweet and spicy sauce that was fairly unremarkable. “Tiger Lily” pork belly didn’t photograph well but tasted delicious; the shrimps it came with were well cooked, but the sauce was a little bland – perhaps the fact that it was green made me think of wasabi. It wasn’t.

Foreground: “Three Lions” beef. Background: “Tiger Lily” pork belly.

“Three Lions” beef was cooked just a minute too long for me, but I understand why they serve it like that. However, I did like the sweetly spiced onion chutney it came with and the asparagus spears that are just now inching into season. The noodles were sort of like Pad Thai but without any of the stuff in them: flat rice noodles with a sesame and soy-based sauce plus a few spring onions, which was sufficient for a side dish. Kailan Chinese broccoli came with what tasted like whipped up coconut milk – I didn’t love it but I appreciated they’d tried to do something different with the greens.

And finally, dessert was a chocolate mousse/brownie concoction with added coconut for good Asian measure. Dinner came to €120 for two of us, including a tip, which wasn’t cheap but at least it wasn’t fine-dining prices either.

JOYA is also part of the Tao Group, which shows through in the décor and the funky names all the dishes have. But it’s also something more than that: all the dishes I ate at both Bo Nam and JOYA were good – unarguably. They were just all a bit… safe. There was nothing that really stuck in my memory afterwards. Except perhaps grappling with that slippery lobster claw – which might not be the kind of memory they’re going for.

************

On a separate note, my food and travel articles – not just about Amsterdam but anywhere I’ve been, eaten and written about – are available for download on iTunes as walking tours via GPSmyCity!  And now, app users can purchase an annual subscription inside the GPSmyCity app at $12.99/year with full access to all travel articles for 900+ cities worldwide, or at $18.99/year with full access to all walking tours and travel articles covering 1,000+ cities. 10 lucky readers can win a free one-year subscription (worth $18.99 each) – to enter the contest, leave a comment with your favourite dish you’ve eaten on your travels! I’ll pick 10 winners at random at the end of the month. Eet smakelijk and happy travels!

The post Asian restaurants in Amsterdam: ichi-E, Bo Nam and JOYA – reviewed appeared first on Amsterdam Foodie

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By Vicky Hampton

A podcast buddy of mine recently published a book titled BRUNCH IS HELL (his caps, that’s how much he hates brunch). It’s actually a sort of dinner party manifesto, but predicated on the idea that brunch may be a sleepiness-inducing, freedom-restricting, wallet-emptying, pointless weekend pursuit that involves standing endlessly in line just for… eggs. Well, he might have a point. There are still pitifully few places I want to eat brunch in Amsterdam other than my own living room, because most of them over-charge and under-deliver. And yet still I find myself, like a character in Dante’s Inferno, fated to make the same mistake, weekend after weekend, paying 20 bucks for variations of avocado on bread. If I’m feeling particularly forgetful (read: hungover) I’ll pair it with a Mimosa or a Bloody Mary – and that’s it, Saturday afternoon is shot straight into napsville.

Still, since I’m not the only one doomed endlessly to repeat brunch in Amsterdam, I’m bringing you three new reviews. Nope, these places are not NEW new – you should know by now I don’t try and keep up with the Hotspot Bloggers – but they were new to me. For other lunch & brunch reviews, visit my restaurant finder (preferably before you berate me for not having been to your favourite brunch spot – you know who you are, people). Corner Bakery

Even if you’ve never been to the Corner Bakery, you’ve likely heard of it. Because: Instagram. I am tagged in at least one random stranger’s photo a week taken in Corner Bakery and another in Pluk. They are inescapable. Corner Bakery serves those milkshake/dessert/junk-food hybrids that Millennials call freakshakes – I think they look revolting but apparently the rest of the world disagrees. Anyway, expect to find pastel hues (Corner Bakery looks like a Millennial pink paint factory exploded in it), kids on a sugar high, 25-year old flippy-haired Instagrammers, and avocado – lots of it.

BLTA (+eggs) at Amsterdam’s Corner Bakery

So what of said fatty fruit? My avocado toast with salmon tasted very fresh and healthy, but it was a shame the avocado had been pureed to a smooth guacamole texture, rather than a chunky avocado smash. Mr Foodie’s BLTA came with avocado (obviously) and a fried egg. Again, the ingredients were fresh and good quality but it all lacked a bit of punch. Plus, the constituent parts kept sliding out of the sandwich – and Mr Foodie is a stickler for manageable food. We both got a cappuccino, which was fine – Corner Bakery’s coffee comes from Lot Sixty One so you’d expect it to be pretty good. And then, since there was already a line out the door by 10.30 am, we did the decent thing and left the Millennial pink to the Millennials.

Libertine Café Café

Apparently the people behind Libertine (the Tao Group) have had such success with it that they’re currently opening their third branch. Perhaps that’s why the one I went to in the Negen Straatjes is called Café twice. (Does that mean it’s the second branch? I can’t keep up.) Inside, the décor is relaxed with low but natural lighting and a bit of greenery to break up the wood-meets-concrete interior.

My first choice from the menu was unavailable (they were out of burrata), so I went with another smoked salmon number: this time two crostini spread with a nice lemony cream cheese, red onion, capers and of course the fish. I appreciated the citrusy freshness, but I could’ve done with a rather bigger portion. Having just got back from a three-week steak ‘n wine holiday, however, I declined dessert – so I’m afraid I can’t tell you much more about the food. My friend reported her coffee to be “above average”, and her flourless orange and almond cake to be good from a flavour POV but a bit dry.

Smoked salmon crostini at Libertine Café Café (so good they named it twice?)

In the eggs department, Libertine has some baked eieren that certainly looked the business from the plate the couple next to me were eating… so perhaps I’ll have to give the brunch thing another go… (sorry Rico).

Bar Basquiat

Basquiat’s brunch is tricky to review because in the evening they serve Vietnamese food from Viet View – which obviously bears no resemblance to eggs Benedict. So bear in mind that what I have to say relates only to their brunch menu as I’ve not been to Basquiat in the evening. There’s one exception to this caveat, however: the temperature. Presumably that’s the same whatever time of day you go, and when we were there it was freezing. A classic case of a restaurant heated to suit the people working there (who are running around) rather than the customers (who are sitting still).

But moving onto the food: I ordered the spelt bread with cottage cheese, tomato, avocado and smoked salmon (unwittingly, I seem to have ordered almost the exact same dish at all three restaurants in this post). You can’t go too far wrong by just piling up those ingredients on a plate, but I would’ve appreciated some lemon juice and better quality tomatoes (it was the middle of winter, but still – there are ways and means, if you insist on serving tomatoes in January).

Brunch at Bar Basquiat, continuing the salmon and avocado theme…

My brunch companions all got the eggs Benedict, and I’m glad I didn’t. The eggs were cold, Basquiat had decided to use brioche buns instead of English muffins (why is it so hard to get an English muffin around here?!), and the Hollandaise sauce tasted like mustard mayonnaise – i.e. nothing like Hollandaise sauce. The meal – complete with a coffee and fresh OJ apiece – came to €20 each, which seems to be just about standard for brunch these days. You’d hope they could turn the heating on for that amount of money… or maybe just serve a steaming bowl of Vietnamese pho for brunch instead.

The post Corner Bakery, Libertine Café, and Bar Basquiat: IS BRUNCH HELL? appeared first on Amsterdam Foodie

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By Vicky Hampton

Ok, so this is the third time I’ve made my “A-BAUT last night” wordplay in the past week… But I’m tired, and this is also the third article I’ve written about BAUT. Why? Because how else to capture a restaurant that calls itself a “Moving Circus” and describes itself as “forever temporary”? I popped my BAUT cherry back in 2015 when it was at its first location on the Wibautstraat. Then in 2016 I made a video of my dinner at BAUT Zuidas. And now these culinary entrepreneurs have popped up in the shape of BAUT Spaarndammerbuurt – literally right opposite my house. We are officially on the cool map, it seems.

Opening night at the restaurant was on 27 January, while BAUT’s cultural space upstairs (in what used to be my local salsa club) launches its programme of performances on 7 February. By now you’re probably already familiar with the BAUT formula: good food (accessible rather than fine dining), a buzzing atmosphere, and an array of weird and wonderful things going on – this time around at the aptly named “BovenBAUT”. So I’m not going to get into great detail about this latest incarnation – except to say that they’ve done the Magdalenakapel (the building was originally a chapel) and the Spaarndammerbuurt proud. The venue looks as edgy as ever, and the food is still good value at €41.50 for four courses.*

*Note: I was invited to a press event at BAUT so I ate for free; but I’ve checked their regular menu and all the dishes we ate appear on there, so you can expect to eat something very similar to what’s pictured below if you order the chef’s menu.

See you in the Spaarndammerbuurt?

Take a seat in a cosy corner… …or head upstairs to BovenBAUT to be entertained! To start: slow-cooked salmon with apple, peanut and radish For the fish lovers: bream with parsnip crisps, cauliflower purée and beurre blanc Meaty main: duck breast with prune jelly and Savoy cabbage three ways For dessert: coconut crème brûlée, pineapple, lychee sorbet and mango salsa

The post A-BAUT last night in the Spaarndammerbuurt… appeared first on Amsterdam Foodie

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By Vicky Hampton

I’ve been more than a little obsessed with Chile ever since I read Isabel Allende’s Aphrodite well over a decade ago. In it, she describes the Bacchanalian experience of the curanto: a ritual that starts mid-morning with the heating of stones and the digging of an enormous hole in the ground, and continues with the layering up of nature’s bounty from earth, air and sea: vegetables, meat, poultry and fish, all covered with a layer of banana leaves. At sunset, the curanto is unveiled in a puff of fragrant steam and everyone gathers round to share this aphrodisiac stew.

Alas, when I reached the town known for its curanto (it only happens once or twice and week and we were only there for two days for this precise purpose) there was an Ironman competition in full swing and the curanto was cancelled. I was devastated, and Chile had much to do to make it up to me. I had (and generally have) high expectations, which means disappointment is often swift and severe. But it’s testament to Chile’s fresh-from-the-earth ingredients, staggeringly diverse landscapes, big-hearted wines and even bigger-hearted people that I came away feeling even more in love with the country having got to know it than I did when Chile was just a teenage crush. A little pre-reading for my trip to Chile…

I can’t write about the whole country here – partly because I only saw a small fraction of it, and partly because even that small fraction was absolutely vast. But I can write about Santiago. It’s like Buenos Aires’ shy sister, and eminently more likeable for it. While I’d heard much about BA’s extrovert tango scene and in-your-face steaks, I’d not heard much about Santiago at all. Even the people who lived there didn’t seem too enthralled with their city. Perhaps it’s because Santiago, for me, was my gateway to South America; perhaps it’s because it was the start of my honeymoon. There’s no real accounting for how we feel in a particular time and place; all I know is that Santiago is somewhere I loved getting to know. And I think Santiago quite liked getting to know me back, too…

How I feel about Chile (I’m bonkers about it)

This ramblingly personal introduction is a very long way of me saying that a) there’s some really good food in Santiago; and b) it’s not just Chilean food – there’s cuisine represented from all over South America. The ceviche scene is outstanding, for one – I couldn’t get enough of the Peruvian classic, and in Chile it’s served in generous portions. The cocktails were also phenomenal – and phenomenally strong: a couple of pisco sours on an ounce of jetlag and you’re high on life. So let’s get on with the real reason you’re reading this article:

My Pick of the Best South American Dishes and Restaurants in Santiago, Chile

Boragó – for Patagonian lamb and ingredients foraged from across Chile

As a foodie in Santiago, you should seriously consider splashing some cash at Boragó: widely agreed to be Chile’s top restaurant, and ranked #42 on the World’s 50 Best list. I’m not much of a one for fine dining in general – I’ve had enough foie gras and foam to last me a lifetime – but places like Noma, Hiša Franko and Boragó are different in that they’re absolutely representative of the locality in which they exist. You will taste things you’ve never tasted before and probably never will again – ingredients that have been foraged from the salt flats of the Atacama Desert to the forests of Patagonia. You might not like all of them, but that’s not why you’re here.

For under €200, you’ll buy yourself a mind-blowing 15-course tasting menu with paired wines. I’m not going into detail about each course here – apart from anything else, the season will have changed by the time you’re able to do anything with this information – but I wanted to highlight a few standout dishes. Top right in the collage below is a copihue flower stuffed with rock shrimp and served with (you don’t see this in the picture) an animal’s horn filled with a cold pulmay broth (the fishy version of a curanto). It was so full of citrus and sea flavours, I have no doubt Isabel Allende would’ve pounced on it for its aphrodisiac qualities… (and served in a horn – come on?!)

Boragó: #1 restaurant in Chile, #42 in the world

In the middle row on the left, you can see jibia (a giant variety of squid) and aloe vera in an almond milk sauce – delicate and silky. In the very centre is a so-called “rock salad” that hides sea urchin – a very… female taste. It wasn’t for me but the boys wolfed it down – I rest my case. Centre right, the rock theme continues: god knows what the slate sheets were made of, but they separated spinach, samphire, sea aster and other greens that got progressively more smoky and citrusy as you worked your way from dark to light.

In the bottom row, the red plum leaves hide smoky fruity duck, painted with umami-rich miso: one of my favourites. And finally Boragó’s signature dish: Patagonian lamb, literally crucified and slowly roasted over hot coals (see centre images, top and bottom). It came with crispy apple leaves and zesty red berries that reminded me of sumac but undoubtedly weren’t.

Oh, and the water on the table is collected from the rainforest. Mental.

For more information on Boragó, visit: borago.cl

La Mar – for Peruvian ceviche

In the upscale Las Condes district, you’ll find a host of gourmet restaurants – including the Santiago edition of Peruvian chain La Mar. Now, I rarely go to international restaurant chains (and even more rarely write about them), but I make an exception for La Mar’s sublime ceviche. We tried the “Tiradito Sunset”, which looked as pretty as it sounded: a firm, pink-fleshed fish with sweet potato, citrusy leche de tigre and spicy aji (my new favourite chilli). That was just a starter but it was easily enough to share. Next, we shared the “Piqueo Nikei”, which comprised four small dishes from sashimi to ceviche – all impeccably fresh and competing for my favourite dish of the night. The bottle of Chilean Chardonnay we drank was equally delicious, but it might have had something to do with the sunset views we were enjoying from La Mar’s rooftop terrace. Hands-down one of my favourite meals of the entire trip.

For more information on La Mar’s Santiago restaurant, visit: lamarcebicheria.com/en/Santiago-de-Chile

Tiradito Sunset at La Mar, Santiago Tanta – for Peruvian lomo saltado (and more amazing ceviche)

In a completely different environment but no less delicious is Tanta, found in (wait for it) the Costanera shopping mall. Yes, it might sound unlikely but the locals swear by this place, and now so do I. Try the lomo saltado: a Peruvian dish of stir-fried sliced beef, tomatoes and peppers, served with rice (our friend loved it so much he went back three times in one week!). Alternatively, if you can’t get enough of the Chilean fish, Tanta’s ceviche is top-notch too and the portions are huge.

For more information on Tanta, visit: mall.costaneracenter.cl/shops/tanta

Lomo saltado at Tanta – better food in a shopping mall you will never eat Fuente Alemana – for Chilean lomito sandwiches

All over the city you’ll see sangucherías serving piled-high sandwiches that look big enough to feed the Chilean army. I only tried one, but it came highly recommended as an absolute classic: Fuente Alemana. It’s right in the centre of town, which makes it handy for a mid-sightseeing lunchbreak. There’s a strange ticketing system, and no one speaks any English, but you’ll figure it out with a bit of pointing and guesswork. I tried the lomito completo, which is essentially sliced pork cooked in broth, piled up with mild sauerkraut, tomato salsa and mayonnaise. Add hot sauce and eat with a knife and fork (and preferably a friend) – this is one sandwich that’s not going to fit in your mouth or your belly.

For more information on Fuente Alemana, visit: falemana.cl

The giant lomito sandwich at Fuente Alemana Liguria – for Chilean pastel de choclo

Traditional Chilean food was not too easy to come by in Santiago (a bit like traditional Dutch food in Amsterdam – it’s there but you have to look for it). One place I did find an excellent example of it, though, was Liguria – a buzzing spot for lunch or dinner with three central locations. I tried the pastel de choclo, which is probably best described as a meat pie but with a topping of maize instead of pastry or potato. Think stewed beef, chicken legs, eggs, plenty of thickly rich sauce – all topped with a sort of sweetcorn mash. It sounds odd but it tastes great, especially when paired with a crisp salad and an even crisper white wine. Liguria’s restaurant on Avenida Providencia is possibly the most atmospheric, decorated with colourful murals and old-school portraits and posters.

For more information on Liguria, visit: liguria.cl

Pastel de choclo at Chilean restaurant Liguria Mestizo – for wonderful green views (and yet more amazing ceviche)

Perched at the top of the well-kempt Bicentenario park, Mestizo is a stunning spot for a sundowner while gazing over the green lawns, fern-fronded ponds and tropical palm trees. And the food isn’t half bad either. I ordered the salmon and shrimp ceviche (again – I was a bit obsessed), while Mr Foodie tried a seared tuna steak with pistachio and parsley mash. Both were expertly executed, and felt as classy as the location. A great spot to impress a date.

For more information on Mestizo, visit: mestizorestaurant.cl

Lush green views from Mestizo (Mr Foodie not guaranteed) Avila Gourmet – for Venezuelan arepas

While wandering through the bohemian boutiques in Barrio Italia, we stumbled across an inner courtyard that was cool and quiet – the perfect respite from the midday heat and pollution. Avila Gourmet serves a fusion of Chilean and Venezuelan food, and we particularly enjoyed the arepa pabellón: think pita made from maize dough stuffed with pulled beef, black beans and white cheese. Equally delicious was the patacón sandwich, in which the “bread” was made from flattened slices of plantain, filled with various meat (we tried the chicken and pork), lettuce, tomato, cheese and mayo.

For more information on Avila Gourmet, visit: patioavenidaitalia.com/portfolio-item/avila-gourmet

Patacón from Avila Gourmet – an oasis of calm in Barrio Italia La Punta – for empanadas

You’ll find empanadas all over Chile and Argentina (and presumably further afield too), so we picked one up pretty much whenever we felt peckish and in need of a snack. I’ve got it on good authority that the best in the city (indeed, in the world!) is to be found at Cafetería Lyael, but it was closed for vacation the week I was in town (gutted). I did, however, enjoy the camarón queso (shrimp and cheese) empanada at La Punta very much indeed. And, given how busy the bakery and café seemed to be the lunchtime I was there, I can only assume the rest of the clientele agrees with me.

For more information on La Punta, visit: comidaslapunta.cl

Empanada o’clock at La Punta Signore – for pisco sours and caipirinhas

Pisco is the national drink in Chile, and while the Chileans I met mostly seem to drink it with cola (a “piscola”), I preferred the famous pisco sour – the more sour the better. The classic version comprises pisco (a grape-based spirit), fresh lemon juice, egg white and sugar syrup, although many bars will make their own variations on the theme. I tried a LOT of pisco sours while I was in Chile, and possibly my favourite came from the Italian bar down the road from our hotel: Signore. They also make a cracking caipirinha for those who prefer their spirits a little more Brazilian. The food was nothing to write home about, but the cocktails are a must – and as Signore is open earlier than many other bars and restaurants in the city, it’s a convenient option for us jetlagged Europeans looking to start drinking while we’re still awake.

For more information on Signore, visit: signore.cl

Seeing double after a couple of cocktails at Signore

********************

I’d like to extend special thanks to Nicholas Gill at New Worlder, without whose Santiago Eat List I’d have been completely lost. In fact, I almost didn’t write this post at all because his article is so incredibly well-researched and comprehensive. But, well, I don’t just write to be useful – I write because I want to write. And Chile made me want to write, so here we are.

The post A Foodie’s Guide to Restaurants in Santiago, Chile appeared first on Amsterdam Foodie

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