Just returned from another wonderful trip to Amsterdam. I used to plan my trips through my stomach: using restaurants as guideposts to take me from one area of town to the next. This time, I was too tired to research and just decided to wing it. This is the bad and the good of my 5 days eating in Amsterdam.
Our train from Germany arrived early afternoon and after checking into our hotel (of Lennon and Ono fame), we decided to grab something to eat on Cornelius Schuytstraat.
We chose Brasserie de Joffers because it had a nice covered patio where we could sip wine, grab a sandwich or something and watch the tram and people walking by. My hubby had a burger, which wasn't that great. I had the beet carpaccio as a starter and then the pumpkin soup. Beet carpaccio was better than the soup. We had couple glasses of wine. I wouldn't go back there for the food, but the service was very friendly and nice and it's a great location to have a glass of wine or cafe while people watching. http://www.brasseriedejoffers.nl/home
For dinner we dined at an Indian restaurant called Diya Indian on van Woustraat. The place was packed and the wait staff stretched thin, but the food was tasty and enjoyable. If I was in Amsterdam and craving Indian food and I was near it, I would go back. http://diyarestaurant.com
For lunch the next day, I walked around de 9 Straatsje. Because of the windstorm, there were many trees that had fallen on top of cars and lampposts, apparently one had also killed someone. It was very windy and cold so I popped into the only crowded cafe I saw, van Harte on Hartenstraat. I ordered a club sandwich and a glass of a Cab Sav mix from South Africa. The sandwich and wine were delicious. I am usually not a big sandwich eater, but the club sandwich disappeared quickly. It's hard to tell if it was because I was famished or because it was really good. I just remember devouring it. The sandwich came with nachos and chili sauce, which I thought was a little weird. I would have preferred duck fat fries and aioli, but...oh well. What I liked about the cafe is that it was packed with all Dutch speakers and young locals who seemed to know the staff; and the cafe has free wifi. As I ate my sandwich I used their free Wifi to text and chat with my friends. I returned there another afternoon to enjoy a different red wine and to grab a quick bite. Unfortunately, their kitchen was closed until 6 pm and we had a train to catch so we didn't eat anything. http://vanharte.com/
We were craving ethiopian, so we went to Semhar in Jordann. Instead of ordering off the menu, we told the cook what we liked to eat and told him to put something together for us. He asked if we could eat spicy and we answered 'ja...'. In the meantime, we enjoyed the unique banana, coconut and quinoa beers from Afrika. The food was well prepared, delicious and very filling. Ethiopian food is best enjoyed in a group, to be shared. Our table of four included two who had never had Ethiopian food before. They were surprised by how tasty and spicy it was. I wouldn't say it was the best Ethiopian I have had. Having lived in DC, I have been spoiled with amazing Ethiopian food. Of course, I am sure it's nothing compared to what is available in Ethiopian, but I haven't visit that country yet. One day I hope I can. http://www.semhar.nl/
For lunch one day we walked over to the Seafood Bar on van Baerlestraat. We got there a little before 1pm and the place was about half full. By 1:30 it was a packed house of business men, ladies who lunch, and families. I was skeptical about the place because of the name. From a U.S. standpoint, it just didn't sound like a place that I would like. Seafood bar brought images of buffets or bar-type seafood restaurants that cater to families who want quantity over quality. But once we walked in, I liked the white walls, the clean lines and, seeing the bottles of Veuve Cliquot on the wall, I thought, "Okay, if the food is bad, at least we can enjoy the Champagne." The seafood was not bad! My husband enjoyed his Belgium-style mussels but he complained that the broth could have been richer. He likes to drink the broth or dip artisan bread in it after eating his mussels. This time he didn't do either. Surprisingly enough, I thoroughly enjoyed my grilled shrimp with garlic and lemon. Although I am not a shrimp fan, I ordered it after I asked the waitress her opinion among the grilled Mackerel, Sardine or Shrimp. My preference originally was in that order, but after she said, "Shrimp. I love it." I decided, "why not?". Is it because I didn't expect much or because I am not a big shrimp fan? Whatever it was, I LOVED the shrimp. I literally licked the oil, butter, garlic, lemon off the peels before I peeled it. I have never done that before. I thought that shrimp was cooked perfectly-succulent, meaty and flavorful. Both of our dishes were served with fries and a mixed mesclun salad. We drank Prosecco and wine with our dishes. For dessert, we split the Apple cake. It was nothing to write home about. If I returned there, I would not order the Apple cake again. They have free Wifi; so if you're from out of town and needing a simple seafood meal with good selection of wines and free wifi, I would recommend this place. There is also a small bar where one could sit alone, if you're on your own. When I travel alone, I love good restaurants with bars where I can dine alone without feeling like I am missing a companion or tying up a two or four-top table. http://www.theseafoodbar.nl/home
For Dinner we walked to the Red Light district because my husband wanted ramen - he was cold and wanted something warm. As we walked there, I noticed a small little alley and I though it might open into a nice courtyard so while he was busy talking on the phone, I walked into the courtyard and noticed a dimly lit restaurant at the end. The space looked interesting and very tiny. I noted it to myself. Then I joined my husband and we walked to Stormstaat. We looked for Le Fou Fow but couldn't find it, until we saw a little poster advertising that the place was on the 2nd floor of the Asian market and that it was only open for lunch. My husband didn't know where else to go, and he didn't want to try the Thai place, called Bird, that was across from the Asian market. Thus, I led him back along the canal and looked for the little alley. That's how we stumbled into Blauw aan de wal. Immediately I loved the ambiance-small, intimate, only a few tables. The exposed brick walls reminded me of an old warehouse and, accordingly to our waiter, it used to be an old warehouse where spices or something was stored. We started off with one of the two recommended cocktails. It reminded me of a Cremant. We were offered a choice between a three or four course meal. The four course included a risotto course that I did not want so we opted for the three with wine pairings. Salmon carpaccio with oysters, beef with red cabbage and lambs feet mushrooms, sole with mussels, venison with brussel sprouts, cheese creme brule with fresh figs, chocolate cake, espresso, banyuls,...ahhhhh. After all the other tables were full, we noticed that more people continued to enter the restaurant but they disappeared into the coat check area. When we asked, the waiter informed us that the restaurant had couple more floors above. All in all, a great meal in an intimate setting with excellent service.
One day I was walking around Beethovenstraat looking for a cafe with wifi and a quick lunch. I stumbled into Fidelio, a corner spot with an L-shaped bar and an illy sign outside. 10 years ago, it was hard to find any place outside Italy that sold illy cafe, now it's as ubiquitous as Starbucks or McDonalds throughout the world. They have wifi, which is free, but you have to ask for the password. They have specials written on a chalkboard over the bar and their pasta special looked interesting. Unfortunately, the waitress informed me that the only special available for lunch was soup. So I ordered their other soup, the soto ayam. I should have thought better than to order an Indonesian dish in a non-Indonesian cafe but I didn't want the fish soup, which was the special. The soto ayam was too salty and lacked the rich broth or flavor that I had enjoyed often in Indonesia. However, I was happy for the wifi and for a warm, friendly place I could sit, sip my tea and read my book for a break from the rain and the windy storming outside. Would I go back there for the food? Probably not. If I was in the neighborhood and wanted a cafe, would I stop by at Fidelio's instead of the chains like Starbucks, Coffee Company, etc. up the street, yes I would. http://www.caferestaurantfidelio.nl/
For our last dinner, we walked around Cornelius Schuytstraat and the only place that looked interesting was Di Sale. What I liked about the place is that it is a small dining room - intimate and warm- and, apparent from the constant conversations with the staff, full of locals. Again, my husband and I started off with bubbles. Bubbles are always a good way to start a meal. They brought out amuse bouch with beautiful rich olives from Napoli. They were meaty and so delicious. They reminded me of the olives we ate at Komi in DC many many moons ago. Ahh-I miss Komi. I started with the broccoli soup, which was more flavorful than I expected. My hubby had a winter cabbage ensemble that he devoured. Next we had the papardelle con ragout, the Salsiccia toscana, Spalla di agnello and we ended with the parfait and espresso. The chef came out several times throughout the night to ask how the food was. The service was excellent and the food very well prepared. My only reservation is that the portion sizes are rather big. Next time, I would probably opt for an app and main, and exclude the pasta dish in between. http://www.disale.nl/
We ended up returning to try the Tonkotsu ramen at Le Fou Fow. Maybe it was the high expectations that I had upon seeing that he only has a very limited menu, or the fact that I have eaten more than my share of Tonkotsu ramen throughout Japan, and the U.S., but I didn't think the ramen was anything to write home about. I liked the chewy noodles better than the ramen broth. The broth wasn't rich enough for my tastes. I liked the open kitchen and the service was very friendly and good. But I hope that it's not the best ramen in Europe. I am sure there is better ramen somewhere else, like say Dusseldorf or even France?
We had breakfast at our hotel, the Hilton. They have the usual grand hotel breakfasts but what I found particularly enjoyable about this Hilton was the service in their dining room. All the staff were so friendly, cheerful and outgoing. And most of them seem to speak at least five languages! Some mornings, the chef would come out and offer sunny-side fried eggs, special order pancakes, organic berries and other bio products. On one morning, he walked around offering Prosecco to all the breakfasters. That was a pleasant and welcome surprise! All in all, I highly recommend the Hilton. However, if you are used to executive lounges in Asia or other major cities in the world, this one will surely pale in comparison in its size and offerings. However, it is still better than nothing. And I especially like that the hotel is in a residential area, far far away from the tourist crowds, but still within walking distance to everything.
I can't wait for my next trip to Amsterdam to discover more eateries