Bistrot Neuf – New Hot Spot with Classic French Menu

Right upon entering, bistrot neuf grabs you with a charming mix of buzz and bottles. There is a very present energy as you enter from busy Haarlemmerstraat, passing by the open kitchen located by the entrance, squeezing past other guests and personnel in the densely furnished dining room. At the same time, there’s a great sense of old fashioned love for food and wine as you find yourself surrounded by endless racks of wine bottles, bare brick walls in earthy colors and the specials of the day written on the blackboard.

bistrot neuf amsterdam - inside

bistrot neuf is all about wine: the restaurant works together closely with wine store Chabrol next door, has a substantial list of close to 100 different wines, of which more than 80 are available by the glass, and makes a specific wine suggestion for each dish on the menu. We decided on sharing a bottle and found the waiter very knowledgeable about all wines and comfortable at making non-standard suggestions. We ended up with a surprisingly multi-faceted Côtes du Rhône that required frequent refills.

In true French brasserie spirit, bistrot neuf works with a fixed price choice menu, which is a great deal at € 29,- for a starter, main and dessert. And the menu is classic French too with starters like onion soup and snails Bourgogne style, mains like Boeuf Bourguignon and Cassoulet, and all time favorites Crème brûlée and Mousse au chocolat for dessert. We loved the homemade pâté with cornichons, which was coarse and fresh. The mussels for main were also great, making us slurp up every last bit. The duck was cooked just right but lacking flavor.

bistrot neuf amsterdam - patebistrot neuf amsterdam - musselsbistrot neuf amsterdam - duck

Service was a little on and off. Our table wasn’t ready when we got there, but it was quickly arranged. We got great advice for the wine, but had to wait quite a while to get menus. Overall staff seemed competent and friendly but also somewhat hurried and at their limit to keep everything running smoothly.

bistrot neuf has quickly become one of the places to be. It has established itself as one of Amsterdam’s hot spots in less than half a year and getting a reservation has already gotten harder. So go there soon and enjoy the wine and liveliness.
Haarlemmerstraat 9
1013 EH Amsterdam
Tel.: +31 (0)20 400 32 10
Open every day 12pm to 11pm
Public Transport: Tram 1, 2, 5, 13, or 17 to Martelaarsgracht
Cuisine: French
Neighbourhood: Jordaan
Vibe: Busy
Price: €35 to €55 per person

A slightly modified version of this article also appeared in the November edition of Amsterdam Magazine – Beyond Windmills, Wooden Shoes and Weed.

Altmann Restaurant and Bar – Trendy Fusion

Update: Restaurant Altmann closed doors at the end of November 2010.

Altmann Restaurant and Bar is old school, classy service in cool, dark leathery decor. The 19th century building, accentuated by a round tower overlooking the Amstel river, is representative. And so is the service, welcoming you outside the door, taking your coat and offering you a cocktail at the bar by the entrance.

dutchgrub altmann - outsidedutchgrub altmann - inside

The inside at Altmann is split into several areas, a bar and lounge by the entrance, the main dining room by the windows towards the Amstel and a slightly elevated area towards the back. The color scheme is stylish black and white illuminated by a very warm, indirect light from many small lamps and candles. Altmann is one of the few places in Amsterdam where you won’t be overdressed. The decor, waiters clad in perfect black and elegant guests make for the perfect surroundings to go out in style.

Like the decor, the menu is trendy, luring fancy diners with a mix of French and Asian cuisine with the occasional Dutch treat. Sashimi with hangop, a traditional Dutch clotted yogurt with lime, giant prawn risotto with Thai tom yam sauce, or beef tenderloin with kimchi and bitterballen, Dutch meat croquettes, oriental style, caught our eyes. We liked  the inventive menu and fresh ingredients, but could have done with more flavor. Several dishes were on the bland side and especially lacking spiciness. You can dine à la carte, opt for the set four course chef’s menu, or go all out with a seven course tasting menu.

dutchgrub altmann - softshell crabdutchgrub altmann - tenderloin with bitterballendutchgrub altmann - tomato bavarois

The service was immaculate. Well dressed, present and with attention to detail. We usually prefer more character and humor but could appreciate the precision and orderliness. Staff is clearly well trained and was happy to inquire with the chef or owner to satisfy these foodies’ inquisitive nature. Credit card payments, online reservation and all other amenities required for a successful formal dinner are available.

Altmann Restaurant and Bar won’t disappoint those looking for quiet, stylish dinner put together with care from select ingredients.
Amsteldijk 25
1074 HS Amsterdam
Tel.: +31 (0)20 6627777
Open: Restaurant closed since late November 2010.
Public Transport: Tram 3, 4, or 25 to Ceintuurbaan / van Woustraat
Cuisine: Fusion
Neighbourhood: De Pijp
Vibe: Trendy
Price: €60 to €100 per person

A slightly modified version of this article also appeared in the October edition of Amsterdam Magazine – Beyond Windmills, Wooden Shoes and Weed.

Blue Pepper – Sophisticated Indonesian

Blue Pepper is a contemporary Indonesian restaurant that really stands out from the crowd. Its decor is stylish and yet it attracts an older more settled crowd. It serves rijsttafels (or rice tables), the most popular authentic Dutch/Indonesian dish, but served more elegantly as individual dishes rather than the usual family style. And it’s located near the center but distinctly removed from the tourist crowds.

Blue Pepper opened to much critical acclaim almost 10 years ago. A Michelin star past at restaurant Spandershoeve in the 90s, an Indonesian fusion menu and an über-cool blue decor have earned executive chef Sonja Pereira rave reviews from local critics such as Johannes van Dam and foreign food experts, including Mark Brittman of the New York Times. It’s lost some of its edge over the years but still serves great innovative food.

And indeed it’s blue! Inside, the walls and the ceiling are painted solid marine blue. There’s a blue awning above the window, blue decorations, blue business cards, and a blue website. The blue decor is further highlighted by the cold light from dozens of small halogen lamps and the small, tunnel-like space. We quite liked the cool vibe but can imagine that others may find it oppressive.

blue pepper amsterdam - blue inside

The food was great. Blue Pepper works with prix fixe menus ranging from The Sultan and I, which offers 20 individual dishes at €70, to a lighter and cheaper Summer Special at €44. The dishes are Indonesian with a modern twist as well as some unexpected Western ingredients. We loved the amuse-bouche of chicken won tons, with just the right crunchiness in the crust and lots of different flavors. Monkfish with lemon grass, shrimp with jackfruit and a spicy glass-noodle soup with a quail’s egg were other highlights. Blue Pepper is happy to substitute some red meat dishes and also offers a vegetarian menu upon request. The wine list is short but broad, including several New World options that go well with spicy food as well as expensive Bordeaux wines.

blue pepper amsterdam - chicken won tonblue pepper amsterdam - spicy soup with quail eggblue pepper amsterdam - main course

The service was somewhat sluggish as there was only one waitress serving all guests. But overall we enjoyed the slow pace as the individually served dishes of the menu kept us entertained. The option to pay by credit card, free tap water and air conditioning are other plusses that unfortunately are still not standard everywhere in Amsterdam.

In short, Blue Pepper is right for those looking for a sophisticated high-end dinner that stimulates the eye and excites the taste buds.
Nassaukade 366
1054 AB Amsterdam
Tel.: +31 (0)20 4897039
Open 6pm-10pm, closed on Tuesdays
Public Transport: Tram 7 or 10 to Raamplein, or 5 minute walk from Leidesplein
Cuisine: Indonesian
Neighborhood: West
Vibe: Sophisticated modern
Price: €60 to €100 per person

A slightly modified version of this article also appeared in the September edition of Amsterdam Magazine – Beyond Windmills, Wooden Shoes and Weed.