Eight years ago Taka had an IT-job and was living in the area of Tokyo. He had been looking for a new adventure and decided to leave for Europe. Since October last year this somewhat shy, but very nice guy is living in Amsterdam and opened the one and only onigiri shop in town. As of March he makes and sells the Japanese version of a sandwich: snacks made from salted white rice formed into triangular or cylinder shapes and wrapped in seaweed. ‘Unlike sushi we eat onigiri on a daily basis. It’s great if you need a little bite on the go. Onigiri are ready to eat; no additions needed. You can carry them with you and have nibbles during the day.’ How convenient, no? Luckily these daily fresh snacks are tasty too. I tried the ones with salmon, tuna mayo and wasabi and really liked them: perfectly cooked sticky rice with pure fillings – more fish than I expected. Say bye bye to your usual slices of bread for lunch and have 2 onigiri and a bowl of miso soup instead.
Onigiri, one, €1.50 – €2.80
Ferdinand Bolstraat 37, South (De Pijp)
Opening hours: Monday noon-10pm, Wednesday-Sunday noon-10pm
Miguel Martín Goméz and Florian Stallinga worked together at Hugo’s Bar Kitchen. Unfortunately this funky Amsterdam place is gone, but thank god the boys started Pikoteo: a very alive & kicking café serving a creative mix & match of European, Latin-American and Asian flavours, reflecting their cosmopolitan background. Chef Miguel was born in Madrid and lived in France, Germany, Austria, China and Indonesia before settling in Amsterdam. Manager Florian lived in Austria, England, Dubai and China before returning to this place of birth: good ol’ Amsterdam. Their joint-venture is a spot where fun and good food rules, slightly adventurous food I’d like to add, such as a foie gras crème brûlée or quail lollipops. Among my many favourites are the scallop ceviche, the tataki of tuna, spring perfect egg, Johnny Bravas and croquetas de jamon, excellent croquettes with Spanish ham served with salmorejo, a tomato dip with a tiny bit of sour. If you want to spoil your inner hedonist, visit Pikoteo and don’t forget to say ‘hi’ to the ultra friendly lady with the red hair. She rocks!
Croquetas de jamon, one large portion , €9.00
Houtmankade 9, West
+31 (0) 20 774 89 40
Opening hours: Sunday-Thursday 11am-1am, Friday-Saturday 11am-3am
When I lived in Lyon I had three guilty pleasures: chocolate éclairs, quiche Lorraine and almond croissants. Loved these Frence classics then, still love them now. Unfortunately it’s a hassle to find good substitutes in Amsterdam, especially when it comes to almond croissants. I looked for them all over town and found the ultimate almond croissant at Simon Meijssen: a huge light crescent-pastry of perfectly airy dough filled with a heavy dose of almond paste. Wow, hello, gorgeous! How you’re doing? I bet life is good with powder sugar and almond flakes on top. Really, this almond beauty almost made me sing a love song. How often do you meet the perfect match? It’s not a big surprise that I found this dairy butter queen at Meijssen. This famous Amsterdam bakery (est. 1910) is known to deliver to the Dutch royal household. Apart from the superb almond croissants, you shouldn’t miss the cheese ones straight out of the oven. Hangover food par excellence.
Almond croissant, one, €2.30
Van Baerlestraat 23, South. Other branches: check website
+31 (0) 20 675 71 36
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 7.30am-6pm
Maggie Xu is the dumpling queen of The Netherlands. Her dumplings, jiaozi in Chinese, are handmade. The layers of dough being thin and deliciously fresh. Maggie fills them with among other things vegetables out of her garden. She grew up in the Chinese countryside where her parents had a garden that delivered all the greens the family needed. While studying in Beijing she hoped to have her own garden one fine day. Now she has one in Koog aan de Zaan, a village in the vicinity of Amsterdam. Maggie creates dumplings with meat and vegetarian ones. She sells them at food markets in Amsterdam and surroundings, for example at the Yada Yada Market in Zaandam. You can savour her dumplings also at one of my favourite Amsterdam spots: Brandend Zand, Westerdoksdijk 750. Do wake me up in the middle of the night for her jiaozi with shredded pork, Chinese cabbage and garlic-chives. Feed me her dumplings with shiitake and oxheart cabbage (spitskool) and I will cheer even louder: such a refined, pure and light – I guess – creation. Best eaten with a blend of vinegar and soy sauce.
Vegetarian dumplings, 4 pieces, €6.00
Food markets in Amsterdam and surroundings (check her FB-page) and at Brandend Zand
+31 (0) 6 39 55 72 57