My friend Linda could star in a Nike commercial. It only takes her a couple of minutes to decide whether or not she likes something. If so, she acts. She’s all about ‘just do it’. Some years ago she visited a lunch spot during the weekend. By Monday she decided that she wanted to have one herself. By the end of the weekend she rented a place in the Amsterdam city centre and started Lef, Dutch for courage, boldness. After a couple of years she reinvented herself and pursued a new career as content manager. Bye bye Lef, hello The Lebanese Sajeria! This family-run eatery gets its name from the saj, a traditional dome-shaped griddle used in Lebanon to bake manoushe, a freshly baked flatbread served with lovely toppings, such as hummus and beef. To me the ultimate manoushe is the one with halloumi cheese, fresh mint, tomatoes, cucumbers and zaatar, a mix of dried wild thyme, sumac (a tangy, lemony spice) and roasted sesame seeds. The perfect treat after/in between shopping in the surrounding neighborhood of The Nine Streets.
The Lebanese Sajeria
Manoushe with halloumi cheese and zaatar, €7.00
Wijde Heisteeg 1, City Centre
+31 (0)20 737 3386
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 11.30am-7.30pm
Post-it notes are a great invention and so is a paperclip, but no creation is more brilliant than a tartar-ia. A what? A place where you are treated to different tastes and seizes of a steak tartare! The only tartar-ia of Amsterdam (or the world) is to be found at Wolf Atelier, located in a beautiful glass building that rests on a 1920 industrial railroad-bridge near Central Station. Before opening this place the Austrian owner, Michael Wolf, gained experience at renowned restaurants such as Oud Sluis in Sluis and Villa Joya in Albufeira. This Austrian chef knows how to please his guests by using the freshest product for innovative dishes. The tartar-ia is one of the latest additions to the lunch menu. I had the best tuna dish around, served by a cute and attentive waiter who seemed to like the fish as much as I did: chopped tuna mixed with a vinaigrette of yuzu (Japanese citrus) and soy sauce, wasabi nuts, radish and jalapeño mayonnaise on top. Soft, crunchy, creamy, sour, sweet, spicy. Wow, talking about a fusion fish that will blow your mind!
Tuna tartare, €16.50 (150 gr)
Westerdoksplein 20, City Centre
+31 (0)20 344 6428
Opening hours lunch: Monday-Saturday noon-5pm
Opening hours dinner: Monday-Saturday 6pm-1am
Every time I visit the Kanarie Club I order the same dish. Look at this picture. Can you blame me? These juicy red heads sprinkled with almonds are floating on a lake of ricotta, situated on top of wentelteefjes, the Dutch version of French toast, drenched in lavender syrup. The taste of this dish is as good as its looks. The pretty cool interior and happy vibes of the club adding to the ultimate ‘Zen feeling’. This club for ‘free minded birds’ is owned by Tsibo Lin, Chong Chu, Zing-Kyn Cheung en Rakish Gangapersad, the founding fathers of the neighbouring Foodhallen If you can’t stand the heat of this food market anymore, do visit this club. It’s an ideal spot to have a drink or to dine before going to the movies at the Filmhallen. You need to get some work done? Relaxed free work places in abundance, the club even has some lockers to leave your laptop while you walk around. An oasis amidst one the most vibrant quarters of Amsterdam.
Wentelteefjes with ricotta and strawberries, €7.50
Bellamyplein 51, West
+31 (0) 20 218 17 75
Opening hours: Monday-Thursday 8.30am-11pm, Friday 8.30am-2.30am, Saturday9.30am-2.30am, Sunday 9.30am-11pm
I grew up in Alphen aan den Rijn, a city near university city Leiden. We lived close to a quarter inhabited by Moluccans. My Dutch-Indonesian father went there often to meet friends. Once a year he was sent on a mission: obtaining three boxes filled with kue cucur, a cookie made of fried rice flour mixed with palm sugar. Thick in the middle, thin at the edges. A snack with the looks of an UFO. Not exactly the most beautiful cookie on earth, but its taste and smell is divine, especially when it’s warm: exotic cinnamon flavor. The fact that it wasn’t available in shops, but could only be bought ‘illegally’ at the home of an old Moluccan lady added to the flavour of the kue cucur. Last week I found out that one of my favorite takeaways and restaurants, Toko Bandung, was selling THE cookie of my youth. I stared for minutes at the FB-picture where I saw three cookies in a row with a bit of liquid gula djawa on top. Saturday I was reunited with my ‘elementary school sweet hearts’. A trip down memory lane. A real good one.
Kue cucur, €1.65
Pieter Callandlaan 333-335, West (Osdorp)
+31 (0) 20 619 91 03
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 10am-7pm, Saturday 9am-5pm
Coconut in your Thai chicken soup, grated coconut in your dessert, on your pancake or in your pie. It’s always a good time to eat coconut. Coconut is present in most of the recipes of my Dutch-Indonesian mother, including the one of her super delicious ajam opor, chicken in a velvety coconut sauce. At home we called this ingredient by it’s proper Dutch-Indonesian name: klapper. Just like the owner of Stadsbakkerij Jongejans does: he sells a klappertaart to die for. The mere sound of the word ‘klapper’ takes me on a lovely trip down memory lane and makes me want to fly to the world’s most exotic places on earth right away. For the ultimate tropical experience I suggest you to buy this pie together with some kippasteitjes (Surinamese chicken pies). Don’t be fooled by the Dutch looks of this bakery. Jongejans has an exotic soul; the biggest branch of this small chain of bakeries is situated in the Bijlmer, Amsterdam’s most colourful neighbourhood. The one at the Haarlemmerstraat is perfect to get yourself some good stuff before taking the train at central station. Tell the friendly ladies there I said ‘hi’.
Klappertaart, one, €5.00
Haarlemmerstraat 4, City Centre (Haarlemmerbuurt). Check the site for other branches
+31 (0) 20 624 76 11
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 7am-6pm, Saturday 7am-5pm, Sunday 10am-4pm
Some weeks ago I was in Paris and had lunch at the boutique of restaurant yam T’cha run by Michelin-starred chef Adeline Grattard. Both the restaurant and the boutique are known for serving irresistibly light balls of goodness: steamed buns with amazing fillings, such as stilton and amarena cherries, smoked tofu and king prawns and chives. Back home I kept on raving about these amazing soft buns until my Dutch-Indonesian mother told me to shut-up. ‘The French have ruined our recipe. Our bapao should be filled with minced pork.’ The funny thing is that she/Dutch-Indonesians did not invent these buns. They stole it from the Chinese and changed it. Next time I will bring her the real deal, a char siu bao, bought by Toko Het Oosten. This shop sells dumplings, filled lotus leaves, pig’s ears, chicken feet and bao’s. The bao with barbecued pork will make her complain about the kind of pork used. I will make her stop talking this time. ‘Dear mum, this bao is the original. You’re just a copy cat.’
Toko Het Oosten
Char siu bao, one piece, €1.10
Zeedijk 147, City Centre (Chinatown)
+31 (0) 20 421 70 18
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm
Yesterday I had my first babka. This sweet yeast cake is linked to the (Polish) Christian tradition, but there’s also a Jewish version. The latter is made from a doubled and twisted length of yeast dough containing cinnamon and/or chocolate. Mine was made by a lovely lady from Israel. She bakes the cake at her home, but intends to open her own shop. Until that big day you have to order your babka by phone and pick it up yourself. But first of all: make up your mind. Will you be having one with chocolate, halva, speculoos or cinnamon? I choose a cinnamon babka. The moment she opened the door, I smelt the delightful scent of cinnamon and noticed that my babka came straight out of the oven. At home I had a slice with a cup of coffee and had to stop myself from eating the whole loaf. Such a perfectly sweetened and somewhat sticky cake, light and dense at the same time. Dear babka, where have you been the rest of my life?
Babka with cinnamon, one loaf, € 10.00
South (De Pijp), no shop (yet)/order by phone
+31 (0) 6 21 16 97 07
If choosing is not your cup of tea, you will have a hard time at Temakery. This new takeaway and ‘fast casual restaurant’ is specialised in the latest healthy food trend around: bowls, wraps and hand rolls with an explosion of vitamins. Choose your base of quinoa, brown or white rice and fill it up with fish, tofu or chicken. Add your preferred veggies and healthy fats and top it off with your favourite sauce and crunchy stuff. In front of me an excellent sushi wrap of white rice was made, including tuna, seaweed, crab, avocado, a mango dressing and sesame. Loved it. I bet normal people could lunch or even dine on such a wrap, well not me. Luckily Temakery has some side dishes to choose from, one of them being a bit naughty – well, according to FIT-girls that is. I am talking about the fried Korean chicken wings: covered in a somewhat spicy sauce and sprinkled with cilantro and crushed peanuts. Meat so tender that even your toothless grandparents could eat it. For sure that naughty is da bomb!
Korean chicken wings, one portion, € 5.00
Ferdinand Bolstraat 128, South (De Pijp)
+31 (0) 6 24 13 21 45
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 11.30am-9pm
The back of Amsterdam Central Station has transformed into a serious food Mecca. Longing for quality éclairs, organic raspberry clafoutis or scallops? This station has it and much more. Check all the Asian stuff you can eat here, ranging from sushi and ramen dishes to pho, the Vietnamese national soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, herbs and meat, usually beef or chicken. I had a version with chicken broth, tofu and pak choi at the latest addition to CS: Sàigon Caphê. Glad I did, since I had a cold and needed something to give me energy. Of course nothing can beat a Javanese chicken soup for that purpose, but this pho chay really did a good job. I was ready to run up and down the platform stairs after eating it. But instead of doing that I checked the menu minutely. Making my mind up for my next visit. For sure I will order this pho again, together with skewers with grilled chicken and lemon grass and salad rolls with pork and shrimp. At this station waiting is a bless!
Pho chay, one portion, € 11.50
De Ruijterkade 44a, City Centre. Other branches: see website
+31 (0) 20 489 79 18
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday noon-11pm
Fork, spoon? Attack! Impossible to eat decently, but this tartelette is worth the effort and the dirty fingers. The crispy bottom is like a cup, one containing a divine ‘soup’ of cream, caramel and last but not least thin slices of banana. Liquid sweetness at its finest and most irresistible. This banoffee pie is made by the cook of Sticky Fingers and is completely organic, just like the other pastry and savoury pies of this new ‘Eco Patisserie’ of the Conscious Hotel. Ecological Sticky Fingers is as girly as it gets: wooden chairs and tables, magazines, plants and a touch of pink. Check the bar stools, the wall behind the counter and the raspberry tartelette. Twenty-something ladies chatting and gossiping, working and bragging about their travel plans – ‘Thai islands are so last season, I am into Cambodian ones’. Some twenty-something men zipping cappuccino and latte macchiato from fair chain label Moyee. A no-frills place for a serious moment of Zen while being at one of the busiest streets in town: Overtoom/Amstelveenseweg.
Banoffee tartelette, one, € 3.50
Amstelveenseweg 3, West/Zuid
+31 (0) 20 820 33 32
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 7am-6pm