Restaurant Zus en Zus Back in Business

In early September I happily reported that restaurant Zus en Zus on Overtoom was about to re-open. Last week I finally had a chance to go back and find out what has changed. The answer is not much and that’s a good thing!

Zus en Zus had to close because the owner of the building needed to do major rework of the building foundations. It was tough for Zus en Zus who had to close business for months and things got worse when the construction took longer than expected.

Now Zus en Zus is back with the same formula of good value for money and friendly service with a personal touch.

zus en zus card

The menu at Zus en Zus is small – three starters, three mains and three desserts. It changes monthly and they do a good job of providing options including fish and vegetarian. You can order dishes individually, but most people opt for the menu – a very good deal at € 25 for three courses. The same goes for the wine list. It’s short, but has variation and some great deals. We went for a € 16 bottle of South African pinotage. The wine was great and I really wonder why so few restaurants have pinotage. Give Zus en Zus credit for resisting the mainstream and selecting good food and wine!

The restaurant is quite small and the friendly and personal service will make you feel welcome and comfortable. We were served a large jar of ice cold tap water, which is a nice touch. At most other restaurants in Amsterdam you have to insist on being served tap water, with some even refusing trying to make extra money on overpriced Spa Blauw.

The food is good, while nothing special. We had steak and breaded risotto balls. The steak was cooked right and had a great creamy balsamico sauce. The risotto balls were slightly on the bland side, but well prepared with the rice al dente.

Overall, Zus en Zus reliably provides comfort food in a friendly setting on the far end of Overtoom, away from Leidseplein.

Zus en Zus
Overtoom 548
1054 LM Amsterdam
+31-(0)20-616 5825

Cost of Drinks on Amsterdam Terraces

Amsterdam came in at a quite affordable number 29 in the recent Mercer Worldwide Cost of Living survey 2009 – City ranking. The research investigates over 200 goods and services in 290 locations.

The ranking shows that overall Amsterdam is considerably cheaper than leader Tokyo or European capitals Milan, Paris and London. Food and drinks are another story, though. This is confirmed by the results of the yearly research on the average cost of drinks on popular terraces by Dutch gastronomy consultancy Van Spronsen & Partners.

Van Spronsen sampled the cost of two glasses of the legendary small Dutch beers, two glasses of regrettably trendy rosé wine and two soft drinks. Amsterdam is the most expensive city in the Netherlands with an average cost of € 16,= for the six drinks. Rotterdam and The Hague come next at € 15,20.

I ran a quick check of the prices against my list of best Amsterdam terraces. Not surprisingly, Cafe ‘t Sluisje in Amsterdam Noord is cheapest at € 12,60 – a significant saving. But even centrally located hot spots Cafe Walem and Cafe de Jaren charge less than the average – € 2,20 for a soft drink, € 2,30 for a small beer and € 3,00 for a glass of rosé. Even Gent aan de Schinkel, the most expensive on my list, is below average at € 15,80.

Pick your spot in the sun carefully as clearly some terraces in tourist locations are charging way too much for poor quality!

cafe de jaren amsterdam - terracegent aan de schinkel amsterdam - terrace

vindict.nl Delivery

In January I attended a wine tasting of Dutch wine e-tailer vindict.com. The wine tasting was fun and I also liked the web site of vindict, which presents color, intensity, nose, aroma, smell, flavors, taste, body, alcohol, sweetness, acidity and tannin of each wine.

Delivery is free for orders above € 70,=. You choose your wines from their site, indicate which evening you would like them delivered and then just wait for the bottles to arrive in vindict’s trademark purple piaggio ape pick-up.

vindict's purple delivery ape
vindict's purple piaggio ape pick-up

Best Amsterdam Terraces

Note: This is an old version of dutchgrub’s best Amsterdam terraces. For the up to date version with a map, please see http://s19.c69.myftpupload.com/best-amsterdam-terraces/

Amsterdam is a different city when the sun comes out. The locals know all too well that sunny days are precious and head for the parks, terraces and boats in masses. It’s quite amazing how everyday life just stops, everybody drops whatever they have been doing, and heads out for that perfect spot in the sun.

Not surprisingly, there are plenty of terraces and finding the right one is not easy. Having seen the standard recommendations in the recent TimeOut and the local NL20 magazine, I decided to publish my own list. Their recommendations seem to focus mostly on trendy places and ignore some of the intricacies of Amsterdam including weather, crowds and the ubiquitous lack of service.

So here are my picks for best terraces in Amsterdam where you can enjoy great drinks and a few snacks. All of them have great location, mostly off the beaten path and situated in such a way that you can actually sit in the sun if it decides to shine. Beware, many of the terraces around the canals will be in the shade from the late afternoon on. And all terraces provide a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, service with a personal touch rather than unpleasant crowds, plastic chairs and overwhelmed staff.

Brouwerij ‘t IJ

At micro brewery Brouwerij ‘t IJ you can sip a range of home brewed Belgian-style beers on a great terrace under an old Dutch windmill. What more can you ask for? Its simplicity and quirkiness has made the brewery very popular. On sunny weekend afternoons the terrace literally spills over as the thirsty crowd claims each and every inch of the brewery’s pub, the terrace and the pavement of the nearby streets. There is an interesting mix of regulars, locals, families, beer enthusiasts and tourists. You have to walk to the counter to pick up your own beer, choosing from a pilsner, three trappist, a wheat and two specialty beers.

www.brouwerijhetij.nl
Funenkade 7
1018 AL Amsterdam
Tel: +31 (0)20 622 83 25

Gent aan de Schinkel

Gent is a mix of restaurant, local bar around the corner and lovely outdoors cafe in the summer. It’s located in an old building next to a drawbridge over the Schinkel canal by the western exit of Vondelpark. The restaurant has a monthly changing organic menu. The regulars enjoy sitting on the high bar stools and drinking Affligem, Chouffe, Palm or one of the other Belgian beers on tap. And on a sunny day it seems as if anybody who lives west or south of Vondelpark gathers around one of the outside tables on the sidewalk or in the small beer garden right by the Schinkel. In case you are looking for a place to stay, there is a great bed and breakfast in one of the small houses next to Gent with an equally great view of the canal.

www.gentaandeschinkel.nl
Theophile de Bockstraat 1
1058 TV Amsterdam
Tel: +31 (0)20 388 28 51

Cafe Hesp

Cafe Hesp is a typical Amsterdam-style brown cafe with a large terrace directly by the Amstel, down near Amstel Station. Most people head to the Amstelhaven or De IJsbreker to enjoy a few drinks and snacks next to the Amstel. I prefer to head further upstream to Hesp, which has two large terraces with sunlight until late in the evening and a great selection of 20 types of beer on tap. Hesp serves decent bitterballen and sate with fries and draws a large after-work crowd, especially on Friday. It’s fun to watch the mostly business crowd gather around the beer garden style tables and get rowdier and rowdier as another large round of Weihenstephan or Palm arrives and is downed to much cheers and merriment.

www.cafehesp.nl
Weesperzijde 130-131
1091 ER Amsterdam
Tel: +31 (0)20 665 12 02

Cafe de Jaren

Cafe de Jaren, like Cafe Walem, is an Amsterdam institution. De Jaren has been around for years and every Amsterdammer has been there at least a few times. It’s almost as chic as its neighbor, classy Hotel de l’Europe. It’s spacious, with high ceilings, and boasts a classic chic that makes it a great destination for either fun or business. De Jaren actually has two terraces, both hidden in the back of the building, overlooking the water across from the Stopera. One terrace is on the first floor, the other downstairs, tucked away in a corner, with a dock that some guests use to arrive at De Jaren by boat. There is somewhat of an intellectual feel because of newspapers available on large tables. It’s a terrace where you would have a trendy caffe latte or a good glass of white wine or champagne.

www.cafedejaren.nl
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 20
1012 CP Amsterdam
Tel: +31 (0)20 6255771

Cafe ‘t Sluisje

‘t Sluisje is like a village tavern, far off the beaten path on the other side of het IJ behind Central Station. You get there by ferry and will feel great about leaving the hectic city behind. The Nieuwendammerdijk is a former dyke, lined by century old small Dutch houses. ‘t Sluisje is located in one of them, built in 1565 next to the boat lock. The same family has been running the cafe for over 100 years with a few interruptions. Everything at the cafe is simple – there is a small menu of snacks and people come to enjoy a traditional beer or jenever and not fancy drinks. It’s a great destination for a bike tour beyond city limits. Alternatively you could opt for Klein Kalfje, another great terrace out in the countryside, a few miles up the Amstel, heading south of Amsterdam towards Ouderkerk.

www.hetsluisje.nl
Nieuwendammerdijk 297
1025 LM Amsterdam
Tel: +31 (0)20 636 17 12?

Cafe Walem

Cafe Walem, run by the same owners as Cafe de Jaren, is somewhat of an institution and has been in its Keizersgracht location for over 20 years. The food at Walem is not great and the service can be erratic. The chic terrace, however, is great. It’s one of the few sunny locations around the canals, by the Leidsestraat bridge over Keizersgracht. The crowd, like the retro-modern interior design, is very stylish and wants to be seen. You may spot a local celebrity and Cafe Walem is also very popular by the gay scene.

www.cafewalem.nl
Keizersgracht 449
1017 DK Amsterdam
Tel: +31 (0)20 6255771?

Impressions from the Rolling Kitchens Festival Amsterdam

June is food festival month in Amsterdam. So here are some impressions from the Rolling Kitchens Festival on 6 June at the Westergasfabriek.

rolling-kitchens-amsterdam-drive-and-shakerolling-kitchens-amsterdam-3-wilde-zwijnen

There was a good variety of food and the vehicles and stalls were put together creatively. There were juices and shakes, sausages and french fries, freshly made pizza and red wine, a few barbecues including a lobster one, cocktails and sangria, crêpes and galettes with cider, and even two bands playing!

We first had some pizza and then sat down for a while with a directly imported bottle of cider and two nutella crêpes. It was fun to watch the mixed crowd, young and old, local and tourists, stroll the festival and pick their favorite rolling kitchen.

The only issue was missing recycling containers – quite inexcusable for a food festival that is part of the sustainable Amsterdam event!

rolling-kitchens-amsterdam-segafredorolling-kitchens-amsterdam-mayo-met-frietrolling-kitchens-amsterdam-no-recycling

Restaurant l’Ozio Amsterdam – New Italian in De Pijp

I admit that I was sceptical on my first trip to recently opened restaurant l’Ozio in de Pijp. Amsterdam is full of restaurants with stylish interior designs and low quality food. Especially in hip neighborhoods like De Pijp. And in general, Italian food in Amsterdam is sub par with boring menus and cheap ingredients. So what to expect from l’Ozio, a stylish Italian restaurant in a prime location in de Pijp?

To make a long story short, I was pleasantly surprised!

Restaurant l'Ozio Amsterdam - Dining Room
Restaurant l'Ozio Amsterdam - Dining Room

The interior design is modern and simple, made of quality materials and utilizes the available space perfectly. The walls are white. And the back half of the long dining room is lit through a skylight that covers the entire ceiling. The restaurant also serves as exhibition space with new shows every few months. The current exhibition by Armida Gandini is interesting. Much better than the usual restaurant art. Probably worthy of an exhibition in a gallery.

Everything went smoothly with the reservation and we were welcomed in a very friendly way. So surely the food would have to be expensive and disappointing…

Far from it! The dinner menu is varied with a distinctly northern Italian character. Starters include a fried cheese with pancetta as well as mountain speck with ricotta and tartufo. We enjoyed the antipasti platter of parma ham, bresaola, pancetta and salume. And the mains were even better! We went with crespelle artisanal style with a sherry sauce and a mozzarella in carozza – mozzarella on bread, deep fried. The wine list was equally inspiring with a focus on the northern Italian Alto Adige and Piemont regions. We settled on a Lagrein, one of several unusual grape varieties on offer. The wine was good, dry with rich fruit flavors.

Service was friendly  and knowledgeable throughout the entire evening. And the bill at less than € 100,= for two including starters, mains, wine and coffee was quite tolerable. I’ll definitely be back!

Restaurant l'Ozio Amsterdam - Art Exhibition
Restaurant l'Ozio Amsterdam - Art Exhibition

Restaurant l’Ozio is located on Ferdinand Bolstraat, by Heinekenplein, next to where 18-Twintig used to be.

Restaurant l’Ozio Amsterdam
www.ozioamsterdam.com
Ferdinand Bolstraat 26
1072 LK Amsterdam
Tel: +31 (0)20 470 81 83