Tune in to Tuna

Nine times out of ten fusion cuisine is just another word for crap. But not in the case of Amsterdam’s funkiest papadum, poppadum in English. At Piet de Gruyter this thin fried bread from ground lentils and spices is dressed-up with a salad of seaweed, slices of slightly baked tuna, pickled ginger, rocket, teriyaki sauce and wasabi mayonnaise. This Indian-Japanese recipe may seem odd, but it’s pretty divine – especially without the mayonnaise. The cooks of this unpretentious café and restaurant are world famous in town for another unusual lunch dish too: the vlamtosti, toasted bread with cheese and spicy minced meat. People with less adventurous taste buds could stick to their omelette with confit de canard or the sandwich with sauerkraut and pastrami. Just a coffee is an option too in this ultra welcoming spot where students, sixtysomethings, actors and advertising people mingle. The owners of De Gruyter, Maarten, Allard and Floriaan recently opened a new place across the street: Viscafé de Gouden Hoek. A must-go if you like to eat good quality fish in a relaxed setting.

Piet de Gruyter
Poppadum with tuna, one, €8.50
Limburg van Stirumplein 4-6, West (Westerpark)
+31 (0) 20 682 35 97
Opening hours: Monday-Thursday 10am-1am, Friday 10am-3am, Saturday 11am-3am, Sunday 11am-1am

Happy Florentine’s Day

Yes, got it! I have been searching quite a long time for the ultimate Amsterdam florentine. A florentine is a French biscuit made of nuts, candied fruit, honey and chocolate. These biscuits ought to be medium thin and real crispy. It’s not the easiest cookie to bake, but the chocolate artists of Van Soest master the art of making florentines. Almonds rule in their delicate cookies and as a bonus they dip their creations in pure chocolate. We are talking about chocolate-nut chips extraordinaire, ladies and gentlemen. Bye bye diet plans for 2016. If you love chocolates – and who doesn’t? – Van Soest is a fatally attractive place. All the chocolate creations are home-made. You can even see the chocolatiers at work. They work with the best ingredients and according to family recipes. Get lost in a world of chocolate truffles, bonbons and chocolate bars – don’t miss the one with orange and pink pepper.

Van Soest
Florentines, 6, €3.55
Utrechtsestraat 143, City Centre
+31 (0) 20 620 80 25
Opening hours: Monday noon-6pm, Tuesday-Saturday 9.30am-6pm

 

The Spinach Show

Si, si, I know that Il Tramezzino is world-famous in Amsterdam for its tramezzini, triangular sandwiches constructed from two slices of soft bread with the crusts removed and filled with Italian culinary highlights, such as mortadella and olives, pollo e peperoni and  – my favorite – mackerel, truffles and radicchio. But today I would like to draw your attention to its home-made savoury pies. Recently I got hooked on the torta salata featuring spinach, ricotta, raisins and toasted pine nuts. It’s the combination of salt and sweet that adds panache to this pie. If you’ve ever had Palermo’s trademark dish, pasta with wild fennel, sardines, raisins and pine nuts, you have experienced the same sensation – well sort of. It’s the kind of pie that shouts for a talk about the exquisite simplicity of Italian cuisine. Dare to indulge in some serious moments of la dolce far niente at this peaceful spot in the bustling Haarlemmerstraat. If needed, an espresso of one of the best and oldest Italian coffee brands, Caffè Vergnano, will bring you back to reality in a split second.

Il Tramezzino
Torta salata with spinach and ricotta, one piece, €4.25
Haarlemmerstraat 79, City Centre (Haarlemmerbuurt)
+31 (0) 20 770 71 31
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 9am-6pm, Sunday 9.30am-5pm

Pancake Art From Tokyo

Taka had a dream: he wanted to have his own okonomiyaki shop. Packed with a mission he left Tokyo and landed in a less busy and more relaxed city. He opened a stall at ‘our’ Waterloopplein and gained fame as the ‘friendly Japanese pancake guy’. Some weeks ago Taka moved to a new location: the second floor of department store Toko Dun Yong. A great place – that view! – for a great guy serving excellent food. Not the usual sushi and sashimi stuff, but Japanese dumplings, ramen and, of course, his glorious okonomiyaki. This savoury pancake is filled with noodles and vegetables and topped with ginger, mayonnaise, a Worcester-style sauce and – in my case – shrimps. Japanese comfort food at his best! Watching Taka making this pancake, is like watching Rembrandt painting The Night Watch. The way Taka chops the ingredients, the way he checks the colour of the pancake, the way he arranges everything on a plate. Taka creates with the greatest care and tons of love. It’s as if he forgets the world around him. This cook is a master in mindfulness too.

Taka Japanese Kitchen
Okonomiyaki, one portion, €6.00, with shrimp + € 2.50 (cash only)
Stormsteeg 9, second floor Toko Dun Yong, City Centre (Chinatown)
+31 (0) 6 26 17 59 39
Opening hours: Wednesday-Sunday noon-5pm