Lulu Restaurant St. Julian’s – Best Restaurant on Malta

This post may sound slightly off topic. What does the best restaurant on Malta have to do with dutchgrub – restaurants, food and drinks in Amsterdam? Read on! There is a connection other than Malta being warm and sunny and only a direct, affordable Malta Air flight away from the cold and rainy dutchgrub center of the world.

Lulu Restaurant St. Julian’s - Best Restaurant on MaltaBut first things first. Lulu Restaurant is by far the best restaurant on Malta. Lulu stands out in a restaurant scene dominated by two types of restaurants: beautifully located Italian and seafood restaurants with standard menus and sub par food aimed at mass tourism; and expensive hotel restaurants with well executed but equally boring menus aimed at luxury tourists.

Lulu Restaurant is located in a quiet side street of the tourist area near Spinola Bay in St. Julian’s. Lulu’s interior is chic but also welcoming with a focus on food – think modern, wall-mounted bookshelves filled with cook books and a wine cellar separated from the main dining room by a large glass window.

What stands out most is the extremely friendly service by owner Nick and his staff. We were greeted with a big smile when entering and given the best table, in the far corner, with couch seats and overlooking the entire restaurant. Fun conversation, jokes and interesting tidbits followed immediately.

The menu is an interesting combination of Maltese and Mediterranean dishes with a modern, eastern twist. It was hard to choose and after quite some deliberation and expert advice by Nick we decided on a Parma ham with figs and goat cheese and seared tuna with snow peas and a chili dressing as starters. For main courses we went with a pumpkin risotto with coconut and monk fish and pancetta spaghetti.

Nick’s impeccable and very helpful service stood out when choosing the wine. We had pretty much decided on going with a Gavi di Gavi and were looking for advice on which of the three on the menu was best. Nick returned with a different bottle – also Italian, a mix of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. We liked it but as soon as Nick saw that we were not convinced he disappeared and came back with the perfect Gavi di Gavi.

The food was excellent – well prepared and full of surprises. The risotto was very smooth and made with coconut milk. The Parma ham went really well with the warm figs and had a brown sugar and cinnamon dressing that worked really well. The tuna was seared just right and you could taste the monk fish and the pancetta very well in the spaghetti.

After great starters and mains, a perfect bottle of wine, very rich profiteroles and a strong Irish coffee to finish, Nick finally revealed a little secret. Lulu restaurant is named after Amsterdam’s own Lulu restaurant in the Runstraat. A great excuse to write about a great restaurant on Malta!

Wild Menu at De Witte Uyl: Wild Red Bass, Wild Duck and Tofu

Haven’t been to De Witte Uyl to taste their most recent menu additions, but they sure sound good! As always. As hostess Annemieke reports, this time around there are some “wild dishes on the menu”. There is tasty duck, red bass and a tofu dish marinated with soy sauce, fresh ginger and spring onion that they borrowed (with permission) from Restaurant Zen (also in the Frans Halsstraat).

Hope I can go soon!

Restaurant Week Amsterdam 2008 – Tante Agaath and Heerlijk

Last week was the summer edition of Restaurant Week in Amsterdam. During restaurant week you can sample a three course dinner for EUR 25,= at any of the more than 500 participating restaurants. If you are quick enough, that is, as their server traditionally grinds to a halt due to the enormous traffic by people trying to reserve a table.

I subscribe to Dining City Amsterdam, which means an opportunity to reserve a table for restaurant week a few days in advance. The idea behind restaurant week is to try new restaurants and we managed to score tables at Tante Agaath and Heerlijk – both in the Jordaan and both new to us.

Both Tante Agaath and Heerlijk are examples of how restaurants should *not* do restaurant week. Menus were boring with a limited number of rather simple choices. I guess it’s partially understandable as restaurants need to deal with larger than usual number of guests and a limited budget. But to me the idea was to attract new guests in the future by luring them in for the first time during restaurant week. And then having them return because they liked it.

tante agaath outsideTante Agaath was clearly the better of the two. Service was prompt and friendly – much unlike what was said in some reviews that criticized the service of Agaath. The starters we ordered were a trio of fish with salmon, shrimp and scallops; and paté. The scallops were the best part. The paté was ok although unfortunately off-the-shelf stuff. My main course was an entrecôte that was significantly past the medium-rare I had ordered. It’s actually amazing how few restaurants get this right. The profiteroles for dessert were good.

The wine list at Tante Agaath was short but decent. We went with a fresh Viognier that was quickly finished. Tap water was served chilled and without having to ask for it.

restaurant heerlijk outsideHeerlijk was downright disappointing. We had made our reservation for 20:00, showed up on time, were seated promptly and still did not have starters before 21:30 – an hour and a half later. The menu was terribly boring – we settled for shrimp cocktail and salad with smoked duck for starters; dorado and lamb fillets – served with the same potatoes and veggies – where the third option was also rather standard lemon chicken; and cheesecake for dessert.

While scoring low on imagination, Heerlijk does get credit for execution. The duck cooked just right, still pink. The dorado was flavorful. And the lamb was tender. The wine list was so limited, I settled for the house wine, an OK Valpolicella. Expensive bottled water is served only – no tap. The espresso afterwards was not hot enough and tasted slightly stale – and to top it all I had to get sugar myself from a neighboring table.

We definitely won’t be back to Heerlijk. We might go back to Tante Agaath if we happen to be in the area. And while I had marked restaurant week in my agenda the last two times, I will probably skip the next one!

Mi Sueño – good, honest steak

Sometimes I feel like having a good steak. And with good steaks, the secret is in excellent quality meat, cooked exactly right and no frills.

There are few places in Amsterdam that fit the bill.  Mi Sueño is one of them.

I went for the rib-eye because I like a little fat around the meat for extra flavor and juiciness. Mi Sueno got that right! Where many restaurants in Amsterdam use rib-eye as a poor excuse for poor quality, fatty meat, Mi Sueno served a steak with the right amount of fat.

As usual, I ordered my meat medium rare. You wouldn’t believe how many restaurants get that wrong and most often I end up with meat that is solidly past medium and on its way to well done. Again Mi Sueno delivered and cooked it just right.

And side dishes are entirely up to you. If you want the steak and just the steak, that what you’ll get!

Next time you feel like having good honest steak, I recommend a trip to the Rivierenbuurt.

Google maps: Maaststraat 40, 1078 HK Amsterdam

Web site:

Het Stuivertje – will try again!

Went to Het Stuivertje last night, a traditional eetcafe in the Jordaan, with kip sate, tournedos and dorado on the menu, all dishes served with fries, and lots of old photographs and pictures on the wall.

Anyway, the dinner went wrong: It took forever to get the rather straightforward dishes; the mobile phones at the neighbouring table kept ringing; and the rib-eye I had ordered was hard and full of tendons.

So all I wanted to do was pay, get out of there and never come back. The waitress came, we asked for the check, she asked whether we liked our food.

Now it gets interesting. I always give detailed and specific feedback to restaurants, no matter whether I liked the food a lot or not. Amazingly, most of the time the personnel seems surprised and overwhelmed and quite simply unable to do anything with that feedback. It really seems like the question is only asked out of courtesy not to solicit an actual answer.

Not so tonight. Our waitress wanted to know what I didn’t like. So I explained and when she came back with the check, the rib eye had been taken off.

I must say that I was very surprised. This does not happen often.

And I must also say that it worked. Instead of going home with the intention to never come back, I will now try again and hope for a better experience next time around!

Update on Klein Jansen

At the end of August I reported about an unwelcoming visit to Klein Jansen during Restaurant Week.

I also posted a comment on, the organizer of Restaurant Week and also host of the web site of Klein Jansen. Even though the food was good (but not great), I rated the restaurant “slecht” (bad) because of the annoying formality and self-importance.

A few hours email I received an email from Hans Jansen, co-owner of Klein Jansen. I thought it was great to hear back from them, assuming that they cared about my feedback. Their message, however, did not express any interest in my feedback and only informed me that it was now too late for expressing dissatisfaction and that I should have done so that same evening I was there. Hm. By now I was really wondering if Klein Jansen was as non-pretentious as their web site states. Didn’t they care about my feedback? Didn’t they want to win back a customer?

I tried again, emailing back and asking about an explanation regarding my specific points of criticism. The response was a note that all other reviews were positive and that Klein Jansen was sure that I would be satisfied on my next visit.

Maybe it’s just me, but now I was feeling looked down upon even more. So I decided to have a closer look at reviews by others on diningcity and iens.

Granted, the ratings are solidly positive: There are many “good” and “very good” ratings and only few “average” and “bad”. I did note, however, some interesting things:

  1. Reviews of Klein Jansen on diningcity are not visible on the regular restaurant page.
      Klein Jansen regular on diningcity
     You can only see them when accessing
    Klein Jansen specific on diningcity
  2. There is a post by Hans Jansen and Yolanda Klein stating that all anonymous criticism will be removed from the diningcity review list.

And when reading the commentary and reviews more carefully, I also noticed many good reviews with a caveat, most of them in line with my earlier comments about inflexibility and a tendency of caring more about the restaurant itself than the customer.

In summary: Klein Jansen is good if you do not mind a somewhat formal setting and if you do like a set menu with pre-selected wines. I would not recommend it if you are looking for a restaurant with a personal touch that is passionate about its food and its customers.