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Amsterdam; the Long Version

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Amsterdam; the Long Version

galleygirl | Mar 11, 2004 10:15 AM

It's take me forever to write up my Amsterdam visit, mainly because I didn't know how to treat the two Rijstaffel meals, at Samo Sebo and Kantjil en de Tijger...There was a little problem of being too overcome by various chemical intoxicants to fully critique the various dishes at Kantjil, but I feel safe in saying I was underwhelmed...We gave it a B-. Anyway, I wanted to post it seperately, instead of somewhere down in a thread, so EKBUFF, this is for you!

For what I do remember coherently;
We did hit the ground running, after a sleepless flight, at 9:30 AM...First order of business, after a shower, was a swerve into the first Haringhandel (Herring stand) I saw....Herring on a roll, 2.6 euros.....Imagine Russ and Daughters new herring, the North Sea stuff, with a little more salt. Served on a soft, white bun. Good for breakfast, but I needed a hit of the unadulterated fish...Okay, 1.8 euros for "een stuck"..Plump, fat, FATTY fillets, sliced into chunks, and topped with chopped, raw white onion, which seemed sweet in contrast to the saline , rich mouth-feel of the fish....Some places added a few slices of dill-ish, sweetish, pickle...Either way, we're talking delight at a myriad of places, in 12' square white boxes all over town. Also, every fish handel, or fish market, kinda like a cross between an appetizer store and a charcuterie, also had great herring, and other fishly delights...I have no list, because I *never* ate one that wasn't great.

The very best was the stall at Albert Kuypmarkt, only because it had a *slightly* lower salinity. I happily chowed each day at the most modest, at the corner of Kalverstraat and Spui, in the Spui, right next to a used book market...Several streets away, where Spui hits the Singel , there was another very good one, right before the Bloomenmarkt...Bigger selection, including lots of smoked-type items. I also tried the vaunted smoked eel, which was good, but so similar in taste to smoked whitefish (not eel-like at all, IMO), that I couldn't waste anymore of my fishy snacks in that direction. At one point, my companion pulled my turtleneck aside to see if I was growing gills. There's a slightly fancier one right in from of the Rijksmuseum, with lots of mayonnaise-y salads as well, and a very good one right in front of the Stedelijk(Modern Art) Museum, visible from the Van Gogh(my favorite, of course!) and convenient to both...Allow lots of time for the VG museum, BTW, there are things you've never even seen in any book there.

Also at the Albert Kuypmarket was the only stroopwaffel stand we saw in our whole visit...These warm, syrup-filled, thin wafer sandwiches are supposed to be the quintessential Dutch treat...The dessert hound certainly thought so, and we looked for more, to no avail. Be warned.

Warning #1---Herring stands aren't open on Sunday. Plan your Saturday gorging accordingly.

Warning #2---For some reason, many of our credit cards didn't work in Holland, esp. Amex and Mastercard...Make sure you have a four-digit PIN on your ATM card to use it here.

My companion did exhaustive research to find the right, er, "coffeehouse", and I have to say, he did well...We tried several, but the favorite was Commer, on a tiny alley called Eisteeg, that runs between the Singel and Spuistraat...It looked like a brown bar, tiny and vintage, warm and friendly...Behind the counter were fitted glass drawers, featuring a myriad selction of herb, which the proprietor made recommendations on, and allowed us to smell and savor...There was a menu as well, but our favorite was "Haze"...Beware all the warnings of the strength of the Dutch product...There was no menu for coffee, espresso or cappucino, or white or black coffee....One just told the counterhelp what one wanted; it was gratis with the purchase of a joint (4.8 euros)...Gottah love it...In the evenings, when it was too late for caffeine (in my book), they put a bowl of chocolate chunks on the counter, milk or semi-sweet...

My absolute favorite place was a tiny, warm, woody, 20 seat place called Tapas Bar Catala, 299 Spuistraat, in the center, almost down to where it hits the Spui.....We ended up there twice for dinner.

Share tables, and be careful of how much you order...We started with 4 selections, had to cancel the fourth, because we had *way* too much food...Guess we're too used to the 3 bite tapas we get in Boston...Here, 8 euros brought a heaping, dinner-sized plate of crispy, fried whole anchovies, that we couldn't stop eating, and swapped with the strangers at the table next to us for some of their pimiento-tasting steamed mussels..

The carnivore had ham-croquettes, meatball-sized fried torpedoes which had even more cheese than ham...He scarfed them down before the other dishes arrived. The octopus, tho tenderly cooked, lacked the flavor a good olive oil would have imparted.

On our second visit, we saw several people getting plates of what turned out to be cold, escabeche-style sardines, fried and pickled in a sweetish-sour sauce. Glad we got those. Also saw heaping little plates of my favorite marinated white anchovies, but didn't bother, because we get those all the time. If you don't, try them here. We finished off with our cabrales warm, which here meant melted on a huge slab of bread. The perfect comfort food for a cold evening.

But the absolute best thing on the menu had to be the cuttlefish and potato, cooked in garlic broth in a hot pot...The cuttlefish was the tenderest I have tasted anywhere, the same fork-tenderness as the potatoes....

Dinner for two one nite was was 28.80 (2 glasses of wine), 34.30 (3 glasses) another...If this place was near me at home, I'd be there once a week...If they had used a more flavorful olive oil in their preparations, it'd be heaven...Hey, it's Amsterdam....

Now onto the Rijkstaffl portion of our program.... If you are an Indonesian food novice, like I was, learn the different Indonesian Rikjstaffel dishes, so you can order a la carte, if need be...We went to Samo Sebo and Kantjil en de Tiger, and while the dishes were transliterated, there was NO English explanation, and we couldn't get anyone to go thru the whole menu and translate...Mind you, the menu itself was in English, this wasn't the problem....It was more like walking into a Chinese restaurant in the states, and seeing "lo mein" on the menu; fine if you knew what that is, no help whatsoever if you had never encountered a Chinese menu before...

I did think Kantjil en de Tiger was better than Samo Sebo(sp?)... I think I made a mistake, because Kantjil didn't blow me away (in all honesty, I had had a whiff of "coffee")..The peanut sauce, and other spicing, was more complex at Kantjil. In general, it may be that Indonesian food didn't excite me that much, because I'm used to such good Thai in Boston. Yes, I know they're not the same thing, but remember, we're dealing with the Dutch version of Indonesian here. ;) I think I would try Tempoe Deloe instead, given the reviews I've seen.

Sundays are taken seriously here, and it was even tough to find a place for a cup of coffee before our trip to the Anne Frank house. Chances are, you'll go early or late, because it has the most extended hours of any of the AMS museums.. Luckily, an old chowhound post had mentioned Cafe de Prins, on Prinsegracht, just north of (and across the canal from) the Anne Frankhuis. We were tired, cold and hungry, and knowing of a friendly place in a touristy area was a godsend...We drooled over the more interesting lunch and dinner selections on the menu, but were craving, and got, omelets and fried aggs covered with aged Gouda..Make sure you specify brown bread. Excellent selection of beers on tap.

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