Brief Stop in Amsterdam, Two Stellar Dinners (report)
I had a stopover in Amsterdam both ways on a recent trip to France, and I lucked into two exceptional meals, one of which came from a tip here (so thanks for that!). I was pleasantly surprised--from friends and colleagues who've visited recently, I'd only heard bad things about the city's culinary offerings, but the two meals I had here stood shoulder to shoulder with my favorite restaurants at home.
This was the one tip that I picked up here, and it paid off in spades. The restaurant was about a 15 minute walk from my hotel through streets that were largely deserted, but it was very pleasant to arrive somewhere that felt more neighborly than touristy. The atmosphere reminded me of my favorite places in my hometown of San Francisco--a sort of refinement without pretension, warmth and coziness combined with precision and instinct. My favorite dish was an appetizer of local pike in an herbal cream sauce perfumed with anise along with celery, small cubes of blood sausage, and (I think) barley. Main was a small but decadent slice of ribeye with cabbage salad and veal jus. Only thing I didn't really get was the dessert, a spice cake (which was nice) served with citrus sorbet that wasn't appealing given the weather outside (high 30's F, misty). House cocktail was champagne dosed with calvados and cider--I thought it might be leaden and oversweet, but not the case. Very pretty dining room, refined Dutch aesthetic, a bit tongue-in-cheek.
This was a surprise--I was supposed to go elsewhere for dinner, but walked into that place and didn't like the scene at all, so turned on my heel and found L'Ozio after drifting for a bit. I had to 30 euro tasting menu: small portions of the kitchen's best hits, plus a choice of a dessert course. Here's a sample tasting menu which resembles mine but isn't completely the same: http://www.ozioamsterdam.com/en/eetca...
My favorites were swordfish carpaccio, a near diaphanous herb ravioli, and a torta sbrisolona (sort of a hard cookie studded with whole almonds and laced with marmalade). My server was a wonderful Italian national who told me some favorite Amsterdam restaurants, and when the first restaurant on the list was Wilden Zwigen, I knew to take these recommendations seriously. I should encase the note in plastic or amber for my next trip.
Hope this helps someone planning their trip!