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Showing posts with label Food to eat in Amsterdam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food to eat in Amsterdam. Show all posts

Friday, December 25, 2015

Bites NLD: Traditional Kaiseki @ Yamazato, Hotel Okura

Once again I was on the prowl for a great feast.  This time around, a trip to the capital,  Amsterdam.  Located on the outskirts of Amsterdam city centre is the Okura Hotel, a hotel that houses not one, or two but three different Michelin starred restaurants.  Tonight’s dinner was at the 1 star Japanese sensation, Yamazato. Nothing here gives Yamazato away as a 1 Michelin starred restaurant.  The entrance carries a similar vibe to that of a typical  upscale Japanese restaurant and the etiquette of the serve staff is unsuspecting as it is in the nature of Japanese people to be impeccably polite.  But when the food came progressively, things started becoming serious.

The Omakase started with a trio of appetisers called the “Tsukidashi”

Chopped up little pieces of water cress, amber jack flesh and roe in a tea consommé.   Very light on the palate but full in flavours.  I like how each individual element had a sense of individualism as their taste was apparent and not masked by seasoning.

A small serve of sushi from the counter in Yamazato.   The original Kaiseki menu serves a Mackerel and Anago sushi. 

For me, I got the salmon and prawn because I wanted to stay away from the fishy offerings!  

Both were amazing.  The rice was at the right temperature and the grain stay whole.  Picking it up, the rice held its weight and in the mouth it crumbled without much effort.  It carried a nice bite and more importantly, the rice seasoning was good.  However, a sushi is only as good as its toppings and Yamazato gave the glorious rice the treatment it deserved.

Slow braised daikon with mince and orange peel.

This was another sensational course served at Yamazato.  I could not fault with anything.  There was no bitterness in the daikon and the mince was super moist.  Above all, every bite carried a citrus note that really gave a sense of warmth and fruitiness.  Lovely.’’

After the trio of appetisers, we were served the Robin Mushi - Clear fish Soup in a Dobin Tea Pot

To ready us for our next course, we were served a fish soup that looked everything except basic.  The prawns was cooked just right, the shrooms plump and the pork mellow.  You can choose the squeeze lime juice into the soup but I thought it tasted best the way it is! A very refreshing course that cleanses the palate.

The Tsukuri, a sashimi course of brill, tuna, salmon and yellow tail.

Plate 1

Plate 2

Fresh fish! While it was every bit fresh, I was let down by the composition.  There was nothing wrong with what they served in terms of quality but it lacked dimension.  Give me some fish, some crustacean and perhaps an urchin too.  I was looking for different texture, and flavours if you get what I mean.  Perhaps, start off with a white fish, then some fatty tuna, a slice of smokey aburi salmon before sipping tea and enjoying the sweet crystal prawn and to finish, a briny sea urchin.  This is what I my expect from a great sashimi experience.

Orange Gratin -  Oysters with White Miso sauce

When I read the menu, I had in mind something that looked totally different.  Perhaps something baked and served on a shell.


Nevertheless, the flavours were what I expected but a lot creamier and decadent.  The way the fragrance of the white miso and orange complemented the dish was also another highlight.  That sweet miso bean flavour with a citrusy kick was a great pairing for the humungous oyster in the orange!  However, it can be a little daunting towards the end as it was a really rich dish!

Agemono - Tempura of King Crab and Scallops.

From the description, one would expect to have the best tempura of their life.  Unfortunately, this was not true.  In a case that the scallops was either left out for too long or not pat dry before being fried, so the batter fell of all the scallops when served.  Thankfully the king crab held together much better, so we did not have any such dramas.  But at this level of dining, every detail is critical and this is why my fellow diners were left wondering.

Shiizakana - Grilled Fillet of Beef

Grilled courgettes, mushrooms, minute fried pepper and an amazing beef fillet served with red miso.  Each bite was so tender with no resistance whatsoever.  It was lovely!  The best part was that there was no word of wagyu mentioned on the menu yet it was simply superb.  

Shokuji - Steamed rice with sea bream and miso soup

Most Japanese meals finish with a course of carbohydrate and this is no different.  Some might criticise this finishing course at Yamazato to be very bland and to a certain extent that is true.  But there is always something golden about a simple rice dish.  Perhaps this was the intention of the chefs at Yamazato after a roller-coaster of flavours presented in the earlier courses.

To finish the evening, we were served two desserts.  The first was the Japanese Ice Cream

Persimmon Pudding

A great end to the meal.  The Persimmon pudding at Yamazato was my favourite that night. It had the right consistency and balance with a pronounce fruitiness in it.  I was not bowled over by the ice cream for a couple of reasons.  The first being a soggy macaron and secondly, the ice cream itself was not churned to a state that I was looking for when I eat ice cream in a fancy restaurant.  I was looking for a sticky almost melting consistency that’s not icey but coats the spoon with a silky layer and is simply perfect for eating.  

Alas, Okura Hotel should be known as the foodies hotel with the amount of world class restaurants residing in it.  Yamazato, one of its oldest restaurant is delicious and fed me what I describe as “an over all  great meal”.  Was in an exceptional one that deserved 2 stars?  Perhaps not, but it definitely deserves its 1 star rating.  Note that despite the harsh comments I have made on several dishes, Yamazato is still a force to be reckoned with.  Its fully simple, yet sophisticated on the palate with all of its dishes retaining the original flavours of the core ingredients.  After my lacklustre encounter with Sushi at Morikawa in Den Haag, I am interested in going back for the sushi course at Yamazato!  Maybe next time.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Bites NLD: Dim Sum @ Oriental City, Amsterdam

Dim Sum is a culinary art beyond the norm.  Its presentation is fine, food tasty and variety plenty.    Wherever its Malaysia or Australia that I am at, Dim Sum is a monthly ritual for me.  My colleague and I went recently went for lunch at Oriental City, a recommendation from his Chinese barber in Amsterdam.  Oriental City is a popular family spot on the weekends with a 30 minute wait for a table even thought it was 1pm. This shows how famous Oriental City is with the locals.

At the table, you are given a list to tick the type and quantity of dim sum you would like to order.  Naturally, I quickly ticked the usuals suspects and before we knew it, we had about 10 dim sums presented before us (not all pictured).

The Siu Mai; Pork Dumpling


The Har Gow; Prawn Dumpling


The Char Siew Cheong; BBQ Pork Rice Paperoll


The Hor Yip Fan; Glutinous Rice in Lotus Leaf

These are some of the most traditional offerings that you can find at every Dim Sum place.  Oriental City did prepared them quite well although I was not too convinced by the thicker than usual Har Gow skin.  This was a surprise for me because the Char Siew Cheong skin was pretty thin which allowed the dark red colour of the BBQ pork to be exposed!  My favourite Dim Sum dish the Siu Mai was quite refined unlike the ones I usually have in Perth and Hong Kong where the meat inside is quite chunky.  Still every bit as more-ish!  The glutinous rice was average at best.  I felt that it was lacking something! 


The Oriental City Dumpling; Roast Duck, Prawn and Coriander Dumpling.


Shanghai Soup Dumpling


Fried Noodles

While Oriental City excelled with the classics, the same could not be said for its other offerings.  The fried noodles were good, I dare not call it classic Soy Fried Noodles in any way.  If it was, then its a reinterpretation by the chefs at Oriental City.  The reason why the Shanghai Dumpling and the Oriental City Dumpling joins the list of my dislikes it because of the skin wrapping the dumpling.  It was seriously thick!  So much thicker than the Prawn Dumpling ones! Eventually, I ditched the skin and only ate the fillings :P!   


Mango Pudding

Last but not least was the Mango Pudding.  Flavour wise it was spot on.  But then comes it consistency which was super hard and not like what the Chinese would often describe “Q-Q” which means springy jelly like!  Did I like it?  No.  But did I absolutely hate it no?  It was just not a good one that is all.

Oriental City was a promising prospect.  Serving over 3 floor of hungry dinners simultaneously shows how busy this place is.  But perhaps the 40 minute wait got the better of me and had me set my expectations rather high. Would I come here again? Perhaps yes if there was no wait!  The food was at best decent for a fussy eater like me!

But also note that prices for Dim Sum in Europe is more expensive compared to other places too!  Be prepared to fork out some €25-30 for decent meal here because 1 bamboo basket is typically around €4.70.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Bites NLD: (just a little..) Street Food Culture!

Looking for street bites while in the Amsterdam?  This post might just be for you because street food in the Amsterdam can be a handful if you do not know where to go.  For every food someone has told you about, there would be 10s of reinterpretations of it scattered within close proximity of each other.  Confusing? I did all the touristy homework for you. So sit back, relax and prepare to feast.

Its fresh, its touristy and its also more expensive than other markets in town.  It is the Albert Cuyp Market.  The location of the market is convenient, and for this reason alone it should be everybody's first destination.  After all, who's got time for that hipster market 1 hour away?  From Amsterdam Station, board tram no.4 towards Station Rai.  Take the stop at Stadhouderskade and Albert Cuyp Market is just a short walk.  Not many stalls at 10am but that would have to do for my tight schedule.

At one of the many Halal Chicken Stands, you can get freshly cooked chicken off the rotisserie.

I had three drumsticks for 2.50 and boy were they good.  Piping hot with a sweet sticky marinade that is also a little spicy.  Closer to the bone, the flesh can get a little blend so feel free to mix up your favourite concoction from all the sauces they have.

Further down the road, some research led me to believe that I have found the best Stroopwafel in town.  Commonly known as "that guy at the Stroopwafel stand",  little did I know how amazing a freshly made Stroopwafel could taste.

Fresh off the press, he spreads a thin layer of syrup before putting on another layer of freshly cooked wafel.  Before he handed it over to me, he advices me that the Stroopwafel (€1.50) is to be eaten laying flat so the syrup does not spill.  First bite in and it was amazing.  A warm oozy centre paired with a crisp wafel is something rave worthy for newcomers like me.  A hint of cinnamon spice felt existent albeit very mild.  No way in the world can you say you have eaten a Stroopwafel if you have not had it fresh.  The difference is simply too big!  

Not too far away from the Stroopwafel shop is another Dutch street food classic, the Poffertjes.  These mini pancakes are traditionally served with a tiny knob of butter and a heavy sprinkling of icing sugar.  But do not be fooled, butter and icing sugar is just one of the many ways to have it.  You can get chocolate, berries, honey, and syrup too!  The possibilities are endless.

Light, fluffy and warm, these were sinfully easy to devour.  $2.50 for about 8 pieces seemed like pretty decent value.  It was truly yummy.  Was this the best place to have it?  No idea at all.  But did I like it?  I sure did.
Mini Pancakes (Poffertjes) at the Albert Cuyp Market.

Recommended by Johanness Van Damme who was one of the most influential food critics in Netherlands until his passing in 2013, I ended up at Café Luxembourg. What for you might ask when I was supposed to be eating street food?  Simply for its famous Kroket or Croquette.  You can find Krokets anywhere but Johanness states that Café Luxembourg is the place to be.

.. and he is absolutely right.  Anywhere on the streets two Krokets would be €4.00, so was there any value in paying €10.00 for two veal Krokets? I  have been feeding on Kroket, Bitterballens and Frikandels at the lunch bar and none of them have came close to achieving what Cafe Luxembourg does. The perfectly crumbed Krokets were outstanding and to that tasty-gooey centre was oh so very good.  To enjoy the Kroket with the rye, start by spreading butter and mustard on the bread.  Cut the Kroket into half along its long side.  Place it on the bread and there you go, the BroodjeKroket or Croquette Sandwich.  Enjoy it with the little gherkins and pickled onions. Simple but every bit enjoyable.  (P/S: eating technique was by a Dutch guy seated next to me lol).

My final street food for the day was none other than the infamous Frites at Vlaams Friteshuis Velminckx.  

The kiosk looked plain,  a sign of humble beginnings.  In fact, one might get a little confused to see so many people holding little paper cones filled with frites with no fast-food joints around.  But it is in this little shop where its Frites were officially graded in 1984 and held a 9 out of 10 which still holds true for today. 

Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx does what every other Friteshuis do but with a lot more love.  Its assortment of sauces are nothing short of authentic and it was seriously good.  Double fried to perfection, and topped with the famous oorlog sauce (a mix of frittesaus and sate sauce, topped with onions), it was amazing how everything came together.   You get a crisp Frites with that creamy slightly tart flavour from the Frittesaus which contrasted with the sweet and nutty Sate Saus.  The toppings of mildly pungent onions gave the Frites a nice onion fragrant to sum up the whole experience.  This was easily one best Frites I have ever eaten.

1 week late I was back so Frites in the morning?  Why not if its for three?!  Coming off the station and across the first canal, we walked pass the super famous Manneken Pis. But that was not of our interest. Further down, you see Vlaamse Frites where its owner wears a catchy lab coat. But is it all for show or is there some magic in this place?

The fries came out quick!  His Oorlog sauce is generously topped with the lovely peanut sauce mixed with the usual suspect Frittesaus.  Finished with diced onions, each bite was unusually delicious.  Its some amazing Frites I must say.  Not that far off when compared to Vlaams Friteshuis Vlemnickx.  In fact it was almost difficult to tell them apart.  These were some seriously good Frites that Vlaamse Frites make.  It was pretty sensational.   From a sauce perspective, Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx had a less sugar sate sauce which helped the pungent onion shine a bit more.  So that wins by a dismal margin.

A few more things to strike of the list now.  But I have still got that apple pie so I am definitely heading back to Amsterdam lol. So keep a lookout on this space because it is surely to grow in the next few weeks :)!