Fusion Fish

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!

Wolf Atelier
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

 

This Is Not a Fake Bun

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

Chicken Little

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!

Temakery
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

Veggie Power

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!

Sàigon Caphê
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

Live and Let Fry

My Dutch-Indonesian mother thinks that all Asian dishes have to be made according to her recipe. The first time I bought her a portion of pad thai, she was amazed. ‘Crushed peanuts on top of fried noodles is a no-go. Lime? It’s a meal, not a cocktail.’ The fact that there are more ways to fry noodles than Melania Trump has dresses and that this was just the way this typical Thai dish should be made, didn’t seem to convince her. ‘It’s not correct. It should be made with meat or shrimp, garlic, soy sauce, spring onions and celery.’ Well mum, in this case I don’t think less is more. I just love the rich noodles of Thai restaurant/takeaway Mae Somjai. So good that the cooks combine shrimps, tofu, bean sprouts, greens, peanuts and lime. Have a seat in this pretty basic restaurant and see how the ladies ‘walk the wok’: quick, efficient and with great results. It reminded me of a small restaurant in Ko Lanta serving only one pad thai. While the mother was cooking, the youngest kid was sipping juice out of a coconut. Get the picture?

Mae Somjaj
Pad thai with shrimp, one, € 13.50
Koningsstraat 25, City Centre (Chinatown)
+31 (0) 6 51 17 50 49

My Beautiful Galette

Brittany is one of Europe’s finest coastal regions: rocks in numerous formations and colours, dramatic seascapes, quaint villages. On top of all that the food of les Bretons is very worthwhile. Superb shellfish – crab, scallops, lobster – seductive pastry and one-of-a-kind pancakes. Not the thick buttery ones the Dutch tend to make, but thin sweet (crêpes) and savoury ones (galettes) with a refined taste. At newly opened Cocotte by Hexagone you can eat copies of these Breton delicacies, including kouign amann, a rich Breton butter cake. Cocotte is located in the heart of the city and is as cute as you want your crêperie Bretonne to be: wooden tables, rotan chairs, flowers, blue-white tableware. Hartstikke gezellig (very cosy) real ‘girly’ and undeniably French. No wonder with French owners and a French cook, all with roots in Brittany. While listening to the marriage plans of my neighbours, two twenty-somethings with Chanel-bags, I had a galette to remember. One made from gluten free buckwheat flour with roasted hazelnuts, camembert and honey to soften the mildly strong taste of the cheese. Continue the oh-là-là feeling by ordering a crêpe with rose petals or, even better, a piece of tarte tatin with juicy caramelized apples on a crunchy butter biscuit.

Cocotte by Hexagone
Galette with camembert, one, € 12.25 (small salad included)
Spuistraat 127, City Centre
+31 (0) 20 737 20 15
Opening hours: Sunday-Thursday 9am-7pm, Friday-Saturday 9am-10pm

Tropical Tuna Treat

Let there be empanadas! These small pastry pockets with a savoury filling make great appetizers. Refusing an empanada lunch is a no-go. Dine on empanadas? Together with a soup as entrée and a ‘serious’ salad as a side dish! This little one offers lots of options. No wonder people in Spain, Portugal and South America have put this bite on a pedestal. Especially in Argentina it’s about the hottest food item around, according to Michiel, the co-owner of Baires Empanadas. This Dutchman worked in Buenos Aires for ten years. He discovered that local cooks truly master the art of empanada making; ‘doing the dough’ being the most difficult part of the process. Upon his return he was determined to create a piece of Buenos Aires in Amsterdam. One fine day he met Daniel, an Argentinian who had been selling hand-made empanadas from his home since 1999. And the rest is history. Ola Baires Empanadas! The one and only empanada place in town. The exquisite pastry pockets come in eight different flavours, the one with tuna, cilantro and lemon being my number one. What’s not to like about its tropical nature?

Baires Empanadas
Empanada with tuna, one, €3.25
Bilderdijkskade 25, West
+31 (0) 20 223 75 38
Opening hours: Tuesday-Thursday 11am-7pm, Friday-Saturday 11am-8pm, Sunday noon-6pm

Texel on a Bun

Last summer Lonely Planet labelled the isle of Texel as one of the 10 best European summer destinations. It takes about one and a half hour (car, boat) to get from Amsterdam to Texel. Sweeping white-sand beaches, cute villages, massive nature reserves. Breathtaking in summer, spring, autumn and winter alike. And, man, do they have good food out there! I discovered that at Texel Culinair, a popular, but intimate food event in the summer where you can taste the best Texel has to offer. I couldn’t get enough of the local oysters, smoked fish (sliptong) and most of all the famous local lamb. My favourite food truck, The Bully & Peek, served lamb bites I still dream of: lamb croquettes and Indian bread with lamb pastrami. Since my visit to Texel I was desperately seeking in Amsterdam for the taste of that tender lamb with its refined, mildly salty flavour. Raw pieces of that meat are offered by butchery extraordinaire De Leeuw in de Utrechtsestraat. A bit further, at Burgermeester, I feasted on ready-to-eat Texels lam on a bun. I choose for the classic lamb burger, the one with a confit of red onions, instead for the one with chorizo and jalapeños. A lamb like this doesn’t need much to excel. Except for maybe a glass of that lovely island beer: Skuumkoppe.

Burgermeester
Classic lamb burger, one, €9.50
Utrechtsestraat 8, City Centre (other branches: check site)
0900 287 43 77
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday noon-11pm

Sweet Salami of Mine

In the heart of the Jordaan you’ll find Amsterdam’s Little Italy. For some excellent scoops of Italian ice cream I stop at Monte Pelmo (Tweede Anjeliersdwarsstraat). Cute Hostaria, one of my favourite Italian restaurants, is a couple of meters away. Walk to the Tweede Tuindwarsstraat and you’ll find a highly popular pizzeria with an enormous wood-fuelled brick oven: La Perla. On the opposite side of the street La Perla also has a relaxed and a bit overlooked lunch spot for those in need of pasta and sandwiches. The array of pasta changes weekly, but the sandwich list at Caffè La Perla is the same the whole year through. Love that, since a month without my beloved baguette with mozzarella and finnocchiona cinta senese is a lost month. Picture chunks of genuine buffalo mozzarella from the Italian area of Campana, ultra thin slices of a refined salami seasoned with fennel seed and drops of the fruitiest olive oil. A combination that makes you go hmmm.

Caffè La Perla
Baguette with mozzarella and fennel seed salami, one, €7.50
Tweede Tuindwarstraat 53, City Centre (Jordaan)
+31 (0) 20 624 88 28
Opening hours lunch: Monday-Sunday 10am-4pm

The Sleeping Sausage

Thank god Vietnamese street food is hot. My three favourites items: shrimp paste on sugar cane, vermicelli noodle salad with fresh greens, roasted peanuts, cilantro, pork or beef and goi cuon, rice paper rolls. I recently had a very interesting version of these spring rolls at FRNZY, a happening place in De Pijp. These rolls are served with five-spice chicken, beef, grilled pork, tofu and shrimp, but I chose the ones with a grilled chicken sausage inclusive of black pepper. This beauty was sleeping like a baby on a soft bed of vermicelli noodles, fresh greens, carrots and pickled daikon. Best eaten with a bit of sweet-sour sauce. A touch of smokiness and a whole lot of freshness made up for a mental trip to one of the fabulous food markets in Asia. Copy my experience and finish your petit meal with the pandan waffle with fresh fruits, powdered sugar and condensed milk on top. Suitable for breakfast also.

FRNZY
Goi cuon with chicken sausage, one portion, €6.00
Eerste Jacob van Campenstraat 27, South (De Pijp)
+31 (0) 6 20 91 08 98
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 11am-10pm