Okura Cooking Workshop Open For Business

okura amsterdamThe Okura hotel with its two Michelin star restaurants Ciel Bleu and Yamazato started offering culinary workshops back in November 2009. The sessions take place several times a month on topics covering French cuisine as well as sushi and have been very popular often selling out weeks in advance.

Okura has now added sessions that cater to businesses wanting to invite their business partners for a special culinary experience with the possibility to actively participate. Okura can accommodate groups from 20 to 100 people and charges between € 25 and € 50 per person depending on duration and selection.

Valentine’s Day in Amsterdam

valentine's day cookiesI think Amsterdam is a great destination for Valentine’s Day with its pretty canals, little bridges and picturesque old houses. Not surprisingly, the tourist industry is doing its best to promote the event pitching visits to the flower market, horse carriage rides, dinner cruises on the canals and diamond factory visits. And also not surprisingly, these are rather fake than romantic.

Since I got several questions and also a comment about my Valentine’s day recommendations for Amsterdam, I decided to post a few more genuine and naturally food oriented suggestions for some romance in the Dam.

As always, my list of best Amsterdam restaurants is a great starting point. While De Kas is big and classy and Balthazar’s Keuken buzzing and packed, both De Witte Uyl and Marius are small, personal and intimate and hence good options for a great and romantic Valentine’s day dinner. Marius has a cute enclosed patio in the back. You might want to get a table there. And De Witte Uyl might be able to put together a special menu with inspiring champagne and wine suggestions.

A classier but nonetheless heavenly option would be restaurant Ciel Bleu, decorated with two Michelin stars and located on the 23rd floor of the Okura hotel. The vibe is a typically French and formal Michelin star experience, but the evening view of the city’s lights from high above is amazing. If you want the altitude but not the restaurant bill, you may want to consider a glass of champagne in the adjacent Twenty Third Bar.

Another possibility that meets all the criteria for Valentine’s is Koevoet. It’s located in a typical old Dutch house and very cozy. It’s small and intimate. And it’s Italian. What more can you ask for? Well, most importantly the food is very good! And since I wanted to include at least one restaurant located on a boat, I will suggest De Odessa. De Odessa is docked east of central station opposite of Java island. It’s slightly bigger than the other suggestions, but seated in the body of the ship, just above the water, you will enjoy a nice view of the IJ and the boats passing behind central station.

Since February 14th happens to be a Sunday, Lovefood Amsterdam must be on my list. Lovefood is a weekly brunch that serves the ultimate comfort food on Sunday from 11am until 3pm in Cafe Bax, Ten Katestraat. There are plenty of varieties of eggs on the menu, culminating in THE BEAST, the “ultimate breakfast taking inspiration from the Irish Ulster Fry and the English Full Monty”.

Finally, head over to Puccini Bomboni on Singel and get your sweetheart a large bag of Amsterdam’s loveliest chocolates!

Valentine's Day in Amsterdam

valentine's day cookiesI think Amsterdam is a great destination for Valentine’s Day with its pretty canals, little bridges and picturesque old houses. Not surprisingly, the tourist industry is doing its best to promote the event pitching visits to the flower market, horse carriage rides, dinner cruises on the canals and diamond factory visits. And also not surprisingly, these are rather fake than romantic.

Since I got several questions and also a comment about my Valentine’s day recommendations for Amsterdam, I decided to post a few more genuine and naturally food oriented suggestions for some romance in the Dam.

As always, my list of best Amsterdam restaurants is a great starting point. While De Kas is big and classy and Balthazar’s Keuken buzzing and packed, both De Witte Uyl and Marius are small, personal and intimate and hence good options for a great and romantic Valentine’s day dinner. Marius has a cute enclosed patio in the back. You might want to get a table there. And De Witte Uyl might be able to put together a special menu with inspiring champagne and wine suggestions.

A classier but nonetheless heavenly option would be restaurant Ciel Bleu, decorated with two Michelin stars and located on the 23rd floor of the Okura hotel. The vibe is a typically French and formal Michelin star experience, but the evening view of the city’s lights from high above is amazing. If you want the altitude but not the restaurant bill, you may want to consider a glass of champagne in the adjacent Twenty Third Bar.

Another possibility that meets all the criteria for Valentine’s is Koevoet. It’s located in a typical old Dutch house and very cozy. It’s small and intimate. And it’s Italian. What more can you ask for? Well, most importantly the food is very good! And since I wanted to include at least one restaurant located on a boat, I will suggest De Odessa. De Odessa is docked east of central station opposite of Java island. It’s slightly bigger than the other suggestions, but seated in the body of the ship, just above the water, you will enjoy a nice view of the IJ and the boats passing behind central station.

Since February 14th happens to be a Sunday, Lovefood Amsterdam must be on my list. Lovefood is a weekly brunch that serves the ultimate comfort food on Sunday from 11am until 3pm in Cafe Bax, Ten Katestraat. There are plenty of varieties of eggs on the menu, culminating in THE BEAST, the “ultimate breakfast taking inspiration from the Irish Ulster Fry and the English Full Monty”.

Finally, head over to Puccini Bomboni on Singel and get your sweetheart a large bag of Amsterdam’s loveliest chocolates!

Lunch at La Rive Amsterdam

La Rive is one of seven restaurants with a Michelin star in Amsterdam. It’s located in the classy Amstel hotel and was rumored to but didn’t receive its second star in November 2009.

I had lunch at La Rive as part of Dining with the Stars, the Michelin star only edition of the Amsterdam restaurant week. The deal was a prix fixe lunch for € 40,=.

The overall experience at La Rive is impressive. The Amstel hotel is very classy with its marble entrance hall and doormen in tuxedos. The restaurant is just as exclusive with old school wooden furniture with golden rims, paintings of the Dutch masters of the golden ages on the walls and table cloths starched to the max. I often find that Michelin star dining experiences are overly formal and spoil much of the fun and this kind of expensive but middle of the road decor is part of the reason.

restaurant la rive amsterdam - decor

I was positively surprised by the service. First of all it was as professional and present as you would expect from a Michelin star restaurant. There are more people looking after your well being than you can imagine – receptionist, host, floor manager, waiter, bus boy, sommelier and probably a few others I forgot about. And everything is taken care of constantly – your glass topped off as soon as you take a sip, your napkin replaced as soon as you leave the table and your satisfaction with the food checked and double checked. While this is to be expected, I also found the service very friendly and with a good sense of humor, which nicely loosed up the formal atmosphere!

The food was absolutely amazing. I was most impressed by the consistency of the elaborate dishes. It’s really unbelievable how each and every of these complex compositions looks and tastes exactly the same!

restaurant la rive amsterdam - amuses

As is often the case, the amuses were the highlight! So unexpected and just a little crazy. And so fun to try and experience the daring flavors and textures.

The menu was set although La Rive was happy to serve a vegetarian version or accommodate any other dietary requirements. For the carnivorous foodie there was an excellent Wagyu tartar for starters, garnished with mushrooms and paté. Next was cod with ox tail and red cabbage. I thought this worked really well as the ox tail and cabbage supported the cod really well and subtly contrasted its flavors rather than being overpowering. The main was roasted duck with Jabugo ham.

We were a little underwhelmed by the dessert, a mixed platter with mille-feuille, praline, and anise sorbet. It seemed slightly ordinary and was missing something to tie it together.

Overall the lunch was incredibly well executed. The quality of the ingredients was superb, the consistency of the dishes amazing and the service and decor impeccable. As with other Michelin restaurants, we did feel like we were missing the fun. Maybe we need to grow up, but for now we would be happy with a more daring and innovative menu and a more personal and less formal ambiance.

Stars, Points, Thumbs and Toques for Amsterdam

Those are some of the ratings that critics award to restaurants and there recently has been a barrage of updates to the influential restaurant guides of Michelin, Gault Millaut, Lekker and SpecialBite.

There seems to be a lot of consistency and agreement when it comes to reviewing Amsterdam restaurants. Chic and formal French restaurants like La Rive, Ciel Bleu and Ron Blaauw top all lists.

specialbiteSpecialBite is the only publication that dares to be different. Their list of 11 ‘very special’ restaurants in Amsterdam (Dutch) includes a number of more innovative and cooler places. Marius, which is also one of dutchgrub’s Best Amsterdam Restaurants is on the list. As well as Le Restaurant, which stands out from the Michelin stars by being small and located in De Pijp, and Blauw aan de Wal, which serves a fusion menu right by the red light district.

Dine Around the Okura 2010

hotel okura amsterdamEarlier this year the Amsterdam Okura Hotel launched the idea of offering a combined dinner at their two Michelin star restaurants Ciel Bleu and Yamazato.

To celebrate the renewal of the two Michelin stars at Ciel Bleu and one star at Yamazato, Okura is again offering the Dine Around dinners in 2010. The menu starts with three traditional Japanese dishes at Yamazato, followed by three French courses at two star Ciel Bleu. It promises quite different taste sensations and combines sashimi with venison and crab soup with compté cheese!

Dine Around is offered each Sunday in January and February of 2010. The set menu is € 120,= per person or € 200,= including wine pairings.