Restaurant De Witte Uyl has just announced the menu of this year’s Christmas dinner. Too bad I cannot make it. The 6 course menu with dishes like grilled scallops with forest mushrooms and yuzo or fillet of wild rabbit with raw cabbage sounds excellent. Traditional Christmas with a twist. I chance to try the fifth course would have been worth the trip: Organic Munster flambéed with cumin liqueur and sake, served with a pear stewed with Asian herbs. Wow!
Note: Vak Zuid was taken over by new management in 2013, closed down, and re-opened as stylish restaurant and cocktail bar “The Oyster Club”.
Yesterday I was treated to a real delight – a personal 7 course chef’s menu at Vak Zuid. I know Ard, one of the two chefs of Vak Zuid. And when we arrived for dinner on a relatively quiet Monday night he pulled out all the stops and prepared an unforgettable, personal 7 course menu that took us through all the great food on the menu of Vak Zuid.
Vak Zuid is somewhat hidden inside the Amsterdam Olympic stadium, in the former south spectator section (hence the name Vak Zuid, or section south). While not easy to find, Vak Zuid’s location is spectacular, embedded in the vast core of the 1920s built brick stadium. The restaurant is pleasantly large with a main dining room for 150 people, a lounge as well as private rooms upstairs. The interior is spacious and decorated in a modern design dominated by red, black and brown. The large windows towards the inside of the stadium where we could see the athletic track and the soccer pitch in the floodlights are a great feature.
The food at Vak Zuid is an interesting well balanced combination of French and Asian, mostly Thai and Vietnamese. Vak Zuid opened its doors in the late 90s at the height of the fusion hype. While many other fusion cooking restaurants have closed, Vak Zuid has thrived by continuously perfecting the blending of French ingredients and flavors with unusual southeastern Asian companions.
But back to the wonderful 7 course dinner!
We began dinner with Shrimps Emping – a starter that I would not usually order myself and that positively surprised me in many ways. Emping is the Indonesian name for bitter nut crackers that at Vak Zuid are lightly sweetened and spiced up with a slight chili kick. Formed into a waffle shape, they were filled with a combination of Dutch shrimps and crayfish in crab mayonnaise. The fresh and chewy crayfish worked really well with the soft and tasty Dutch shrimps.
The Shrimps Emping were followed by a Thai Beef Salad. The beef was thinly sliced and prepared in a super hot wok. The beef was served on a mixed salad with cashew nuts, avocado, and coriander. The dressing – a soy based chili dressing – was flavorful and present without tarnishing the other ingredients. The salad was a great continuation of the shrimp starter – building on its freshness and adding spice and substance. The Thai beef salad has been a long time crowd favorite. Staff told us that attempts to take it off the menu practically led to riots from the regular clientèle.
The 3rd course was equally great but completely different. It was a thick bisque, softened and at the same time thickened with coconut milk and garnished with scallions and corn. Like the first two courses, it’s a great example of west meets east – a very traditional French bisque transformed into a much more exotic dish by the coconut milk that is the basis of many southeast Asian dishes.
The next course was a real treat and the presentation and description caused enough excitement to forget about taking a picture as for all other courses. It was a combination of roasted guinea fowl with Peking duck stuffing, served with udon noodles and hoisin sauce. The guinea fowl was very tender and juicy and worked really well with the spicy minced Peking duck meat stuffing.
By now we were feeling quite full. So what could be better than being surprised with a lemon sorbet with vodka and champagne? The sorbet was very refreshing and fun to drink with all its champagne induced ice cream bubbles. And it worked as expected, giving our stomach a chance to digest and our taste buds an opportunity to prepare for the next unexpected combination of flavors.
Then the highlight of the evening arrived – Tempura Vak Zuid, half salmon and half tuna, rolled raw in seaweed, covered in tempura batter on the outside and deep fried briefly, just enough to fry the batter and sear the tuna and salmon lightly on the outside leaving it raw but warm on the inside. The tempura was served on perfectly cooked green asparagus – tender but with a bite – and sticky rice.
The 7th and last course was dessert. Finishing in fusion style, we enjoyed a lemongrass flavored creme brulée with fried banana that happily shared a plate with a rich and slightly moist baked chocolate cheesecake.
All food was wonderful and perfectly executed. It was both traditional and innovative, like comfort food of the 21st century. And even though you might not be treated to a personal 7 course chef’s tasting, I highly recommend a trip to Vak Zuid. The interior is stylish but also comfortable. The food is interesting and well executed. And the service is attentive and knowledgeable.
The kitchen at Vak Zuid is open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner. It is closed on the weekend when Vak Zuid opens as a club until the early morning hours. You can find Vak Zuid at Olympic Stadium 35
or online at www.vakzuid.nl.
Every city needs its own fervent debate about who serves the best pizza. Amsterdam is no exception with Renato’s on Karel du Jardinstraat and more recently opened Forno Communale on Rhijnvis Feithstraat mentioned frequently.
I love truffles and generally prefer restaurants that focus on the food rather than the interior design. So my vote goes to Yam Yam Trattoria and Pizzeria on Frederik Hendrikstraat, just west of the Jordaan, close enough to walk, far enough to be off the beaten path.
Yam Yam is both trattoria and pizzeria. The trattoria menu offers typical dishes such as saltimbocca, branzino, or linguine with salsicce and porcini. The pizza, however, is so good that I rarely get around to trying them. Yam Yam’s pizza has a thin crust, is baked in a wood oven and generously garnished with fresh ingredients.
My absolute favorite is their pizza Yam Yam with truffle sauce, Parmesan, rucola and ham. You may also want to try the vegetarian version, which is the same but without the ham. Or indulge in one of the other pizza specialties such as the Tartufata (more truffles) or Contadina with mozzarella, Gorgonzola and pear.
The decor is simple with a hip but casual feel to it. The restaurant is split into two rooms with an open kitchen and the wood oven prominently featured behind the counter. It has a dense feel to it as both rooms are filled with lots of small tables. And Yam Yam is always packed with a mixed crowd of locals and alternative globetrotter types.
The wine list is short. It does not have any special wines on it but does amply provide you with a few decent red Italian wines. The coffee is good for Amsterdam standards where unfortunately good espressos are few and far between. A lot of guests end their dinner with the popular home made limoncello.
Yam Yam’s address is Frederik Hendrikstraat 90. Make sure you make a reservation and – if you liked the alternative international flair – consider heading on to De Nieuwe Anita, a squatter house turned club, for some bottles of beer and local DJs.
Burgermeester – the master of burgers or the mayor, depending on how you read it in Dutch – is a great place for satisfying that burger craving at lunch time!
There are two Burgermeester restaurants now, one in De Pijp and one in the Jordaan. Both provide an interesting variety of richly garnished burgers in a modern minimalist diner-like setting.
The set-up of Burgermeester is no frills. You sit in booths around plastic tables that seat four to eight. The walls are painted white and bright red. And there is no further decoration except for a band of pictures of cows that goes around the entire room. You order your burgers directly at the counter and pay up front. The kitchen is open and you can watch your burgers being made. Service is friendly and kept to a minimum.
Burgermeester is all about great burgers. There is an extensive menu with a great variety beef, lamb, turkey but also lentil, goat cheese and salmon burgers. There are a few extras such as corn on the cob and baked potato, but otherwise it’s all burgers. The burgers are served either in regular size or as a popular “mini”, of which you can then also order a trio to sample three of the ingenious burger compositions.
The burgers are prepared masterfully – the meat is top quality and plenty, ingredients are fresh and all burgers have very distinct and flavorful spices and sauces. Last week I tried the burger of the month, which was a “Tokyo burger”, a Japanese beefburger with bok choy, wasabi mayonnaise and a surprising and super yummy ginger flavor! Too bad I only found out on the 30th of the month… The current burger of the month is cod and olive.
I think the fresh and quickly served burgers as well as the friendly no frills setting make Burgermeester an ideal lunch venue! You can find Burgermeester de Pijp on Albert Cuypstraat 48 and Burgermeester Jordaan on Elandsgracht 130.
On 12 October 2008 the Weihenstephan brewery was proud sponsor of the Munich marathon.
The Amsterdam marathon, taking place one week later on 19 October, was sponsored by AA sport drinks.
Sometimes behaving responsibly is rough…
Access to a wireless network has become essential, but still is much harder to find than it should. Especially when traveling, considering how spotty wireless coverage still is in airports and hotels. And also when on the road and you want to get some work done on your way to the next appointment without having to return to the office.
So here are three great suggestions for free wireless access in Amsterdam. And with free I mean free of charge and also hassle free, i.e. no having to ask a waitress for a cryptic access code that you have to type and that expires after 60 minutes…
The first is Felix Meritis, a center for arts, culture and science that is frequently used for conferences and has a nice, public cafe with free wireless access in the front. Felix Meritis is housed in a beautiful old building and very centrally located on Keizersgracht half way between the Westerkerk and Leidsestraat. The cafe has a small lunch menu and good espressos and cappuccinos. It’s usually very quiet and ideal for working and even small meetings. It can sometimes get busy when there is a conference and people flood the cafe for drinks.
The address of Felix Meritis is Keizersgracht 324 and the English web site is at www.felix.meritis.nl/en/
My second recommendation is Casa e Cucina, a cafe cum shop (the shop is called Casa e Luce) down Koninginneweg by Amstelveenseweg. Casa e Cucina is a very friendly and spacious cafe with a decent menu serving breakfast in the morning and sandwiches and small dishes at lunch time. The design and large selection of juices give it an ‘organic’ feel. Tables are large and there is an upstairs and a downstairs area. Service is friendly and the atmosphere is relaxed.
Casa e Cucina is located at Koninginneweg 218 and their web site is www.casaecucina.nl/ (sorry, no English info).
My final discovery of the elusive free wireless access is Dicky’s Grand Cafe by the Amsterdam Zuid WTC station. It’s not as nice as the other two, but very convenient. Dicky’s is a typical ‘borrel’ cafe, frequented by the bankers, lawyers and other WTC employees for after-work drinking and socializing. Dicky’s is convenient for its location right by the train, metro and tram station Zuid / WTC and with ample parking in the parking garages of the new Zuidas.
You can find Dicky’s at Gustavmahlerplein 110 or check it out at www.dickys-grandcafe.nl/
Felix Meritis, Casa e Cucina and Dicky’s Grand Cafe all provide free wireless access. Just walk in, open your laptop and you are good to go! Then order some food and drinks and make sure you tell them how much you appreciate this great service!