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
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.
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
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
Ever heard of matcha? Well, it’s ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea. Hong Tong Wu and his sister Yiemie, the owners of Tea’s Delight, know how to treat this ingredient right. They put it in their ice cream, cookies and pancake, one topped with a slice of apple – fresh, slightly sour – and perfectly green cream. Eating this pancake may be a (tiny) sin, but it make’s you feel super zen in return. Not only since it’s delicious, but also because of the well balanced nature of this place. On the lower ground floor, you’ll find the dark yin space, including light teaware made of glass and porcelain. Upstairs you’ll find the lighter yang space with dark tea pots on the floor. Add to all this the soft voices of the sweet owners who patiently tell you all about the origins of their loose tea leaves and you’ll float to another world. To China where most of their tea comes from. Or to Taiwan where their fabulous Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea is born.
Green tea pancake, one, €3.50
Kinkerstraat 58, West
+31 (0) 20 616 17 49
Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10.30am-6.30pm
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?
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.
After two weeks of Sicilian breakfasts – brioches with ice cream, pistachio-ricotta pies – I craved for a less sugary kick-off. By which I don’t mean (boring) sandwiches with cheese or cereals with yoghurt, but rather something in between. I found exactly what I was looking for at Goût Deli, the latest healthy take-away and coffee spot in De Pijp. My home-made discovery is free of refined sugar, contains fruit and is seductively sticky. It is … a banana oat cake. Bananas, honey, dates, walnuts, blue berries. Bet this will get your motor running too! If for some reason you still have difficulties waking up, buy one of the good-looking smoothie bowls in the fridge. This cool shop of Paul Koster and his sister also offers quality lunch stuff, including sandwiches with Vietnamese chicken, noodle salads and – really – detox bowls. So it’s just another vegan and organic place? No! Goût Deli is also full of guilty pleasures like Oreo brownies and bags with Europe’s best potato chips, the ones with sal de Ibiza. My kind of place.
Sticky banana oat cake, one piece, €2.00
Eerste van der Helststraat 31, Zuid (De Pijp)
+31 (0) 20 612 34 56
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 8am-8pm, Sunday 9am-8pm
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
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