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.
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!
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.