I just got back from a 2-week business trip to The Hague (Den Haag), followed by a few days in and around Amsterdam. As an avid Chowhounder (though infrequent poster), I felt I should put in my two cents on the places we ate.
But first I want to thank mgarland, whose thoughtful and thorough posting (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/366212) provided me and my wife with much direction.
Restaurants in The Hague
Zeestrat 58, Den Haag Centrum
(070) 360 06 50
One of the best meals we ate in The Netherlands. We ordered the rijsttaffel, which was expensive but definitely worth it; a truly delicious meal. Bright, vibrant flavors in virtually every single dish. I cannot remember everything we ate, but the satay to start was the certainly best I have had outside Malayisa, and perhaps the best I have ever had. Following the satay came eggs in red sauce, beef rendang, spicy green beans, a whole fish, and a few other items. All were delicious. I should also mention that the rice itself was phenomenal, steamed inside a banana leaf with nuts and spices. (The only unexciting part of the meal was a green curry, which was somewhat bland.) Overall, Bali was fantastic.
Prinsestraat 65, Den Haag Centrum
(070) 364 99 79
Dayang was an interesting contrast to Bali. We again ordered the rijsttaffel, and got a relatively similar set of items (eggs in red sauce, beef rendang, spicy green beans, etc.). Everything was delicious, spicy, and flavorful, though not quite as lively as the food at Bali. Still, our meal at Dayang was €40 instead of €120, so Dayang was obviously a much better value. And you could get a truly amazing value ordering a la carte, which would cost maybe €10 each instead of €20, for a mountain of deliciousness.
Kneuterdijk 18a, Den Haag Centrum
(070) 346 53 19
We also had the rijsttaffel at Garoeda (i.e., Garuda, Vishnu’s mount), which was not good at all. Even though some of the dishes were “spicy”, in the sense that they were hot, none were flavorful. The beans, for example, were limp, watery, and barely even green anymore. It looked like they had been steamed for 6 hours. Everything else was similarly disappointing.
To be avoided
Denneweg 10B, Den Haag Centrum
(070) 360 92 24
Along with Bali, the other great meal we had in the Netherlands. Top-notch nouvelle cuisine for a reasonable price. Maxime serves two set menus, each for €29, I had one, my wife the other. Both were excellent. Indeed, every single item on both menus was delicious; weeks later, I can still clearly envision the flavor of their shrimp bisque. Wow. The black cod I had was perfectly cooked, and set it a ridiculously good sauce. Another highlight was the winelist; affiliated with a wine shop down the street, every single wine was offered by the glass, allowing us to pair wine with our food without spending a fortune. Sadly, I know of no restaurant in my now-native Washington, DC that is serving food of this quality at this price.
Denneweg 39A, Den Haag Centrum
A nice tapas place along the Denneweg. Everything I ate was good, fresh, and flavorful. I recommend their tasty sardines, grilled chorizo, and jamon iberico. The waitress was nice as well.
Korte Poten 12, Den Haag Centrum
(070) 364 41 96
This appeared to be an attempt at New York-style pizza (rather than Italian style). But, as a New Yorker, I can confidently report to you that this was not good pizza; not terrible, but certainly not good.
Javastraat 134a, Den Haag Centrum
(070) 392 47 84
An Argentinean steak place that was relatively expensive but not memorable in any way. You know a restaurant is bad when the salad bar is the highlight. I ordered corn on the cob, which for €5.50 was half an ear of limp, lukewarm grilled corn. And the steaks were also a disappointment. For €20.00, the steaks were relatively thin, not terribly juicy, and just not very flavorful. Also, they were not seared on the outside, so instead of being golden brown, they were grey. Uggh.
Buitenhof 5, Den Haag Centrum
(070) 392 46 07
Uninspiring Mexican right in the center of town. You know exactly what bland Mexican food tastes like, so I’m not even going to describe it.
La Mano Maestra
Noordeinde 138b, Den Haag Centrum
A nice little eetcafe along Noordeinde, the kind of place that really makes me feel like I am in Europe. Just a pleasant place to sit, drink coffee, and read the paper, plus they had quite good simple food. We really enjoyed their thick slices of brown bread served with goat cheese and honey. Tasty stuff.
[Ooh, I forgot one. In the Hague, on Oude Molenstraat, there is a shwarma place with a very typical name (something like Ali Baba) that also serves "Turkish Pizza", i.e., lahamacun (lamb "pizza" with cilantro and lime). I honestly don't understand why lahamajun isn't incredibly popular. It is a near perfect snack. This place was good, though the gold standard for me is a place in the center of Sanli Urfa, in eastern Turkey, up on the second floor, which served lahamacun wrapped in newspaper, a treat I will never forget.]
Restaurants in Amsterdam
Japanese Pancake World
2e Egelantiersdwarsstraat 24a, Jordaan, Amsterdam
Following numerous recommendations on these boards, our first stop in Amsterdam was Japanese Pancake World. What a trip. This was the most chowhoundy place we saw in the Netherlands (Dayang in Den Haag a distant second). The owner, operator, chef---and indeed only employee---is a German guy (Joachim, I believe) who married a Japanese woman and through her, fell in love with Japanese pancakes. I highly recommend sitting upstairs by the grill so that you have a chance to watch him cook (they take surprisingly long to make; almost 30 minutes), but more to get a chance to talk to the owner, who is fascinating and profoundly devoted to the art of properly making these amazing creations. We had the Shogayaki Special Osaka-style pancake, and the Hiroshima-style pancake with mushrooms. They were both delicious but surprisingly different. The chef said that he was working on plans to expand internationally. Foodies everywhere can just keep their fingers crossed.
(020) 626 60 40, Rembratsplein Amsterdam
Uninspiring French food at fairly high prices. The only highpoint was the service; the waitress was friendly, and on the way out (it was Valentine’s day) they handed my wife a rose.
Nieuwe Spiegelstraat 5a, Amsterdam
(020) 420 70 22
A South African restaurant specializing in game. The highlight was the peri peri, devilled guinea fowl livers in spicy cream sauce, served Durban-style in hollowed-out bread. Very spicy, tender, and really quite delicious. The pumpkin papadam was also delicious. My wife had the “Bokkie’s Salad” with goat cheese, grapes and cashews, and I had “Eliza’s Salad” with sliced blesbok and parmesan. The salads, however, had waaaay too much dressing, and just weren't that good (though they were enormous; more than enough for dinner alone).
Recommended with reservations.
Utrechtsestraat 124, Amsterdam
(020) 422 62 50
Mediocre tapas joint open late, but rather greasy and really nothing special (Limón in Den Haag was much less greasy and much better). The gambas al ajillo were sweet and very flavorful, but everything else was mediocre: the chorizo incredibly greasy, and the tortilla español was both thin and rubbery. Annoyingly, when the kitchen was closing, I asked if there was anything left I could order, and they pointed to the ham, so I did. However, they neglected to mention that while most things on the menu were between €4 and €7, the jamon iberico was €16.50. Anyway, I am being a little unfair. This place is more of a place to drink than a place to eat, and it had a great drinking atmosphere.
Kinkerstraat 18, Amsterdam
(020) 616 06 35
A little Lebanese place; we ended up sitting at the bar and ordering the 10-mezze platter, which was pretty good. In particular, I liked the selection, moving past the normal hummus, babaganoush, and tabuleh, and into several bean and meat dishes I have never had before. A fine meal, but nothing was really delicious, and this was nowhere near as good as Lebanese food can be, so this was something of a disappointment. The first warning sign was that the pita bread was clearly packaged rather than home-made, and was served room temperature.
Recommended with reservations.
Herengracht 413, Amsterdam
(020) 624 31 54
Similar to Maxime’s in The Hague, but more expensive and not as good. A beautiful restaurant with friendly service, good wine, and an amazing menu. My wife ordered the Scottish beef tenderloin with garlic, paprika mousseline, Brussels sprouts, new potatoes, chervil carrot, salsify and béarnaisse sauce. It was perfect; incredibly delicious. I had the raw marinated salmon with nutmeg sabayon, langoustine, cold couscous salad and quail egg, which was really salmon served three different ways. This was also incredibly delicious, in particular the langoustine. My main course was wild boar with chicory, chestnut cream, bacon, shiitake mushrooms, pearl barley and game sauce. Frankly, this was somewhat disappointing. It just didn't have that much flavor. We closed with desert, a bombe of milk chocolate and orange with caramelised pear and gold leaf. Also delicious. Overall the food was mostly fantastic, but my main course was a disappointment. So, I recommend it, but order something different.
Kanis & Meiland
Levantkade 127, Amsterdam
(020) 418 24 39
A great coffeshop/bar on KNSM Island. An excellent place to spend a few hours reading the paper, playing games, and looking at the harbor with a bunch of locals and their kids. Plus, if this motivates you to go, KNSM Island is a really nice change of pace from Amsterdam Centrum.
Berenstraat 19, Amsterdam
(020) 330 60 06
Good coffee, a nice atmosphere, and a surprisingly good club sandwich. Feels more like a good American brunch place than anything else I’ve had in Europe.
Anyway, those are the places we ate. Overall, the food we ate in the Hague was better than what we ate in Amsterdam, with Bali, Maxime's, and Dayang providing the real highlights.