Pretentiousness at Klein Jansen

Klein Janssen was the second stop of restaurant week. And quite frankly, I did not enjoy the evening because we felt unwelcome! I find it quite ironic that their web site states “ambitious without being pretentious” as their philosophy. While we constantly felt that restaurant week participants were considered trouble rather than guests.

Reservations were only possible at 18:00 – too early – and 20:30 – too late. The reason being that all menus to all guests were served at the same time. We even had to wait for our food until some late guests had arrived. The wine list – normally very extensive and exquisite, I heard – was reduced to an uninteresting selection of some six or seven wines. And the waiter was pushing us to go for set wines – a glass of wine, specifically chosen by the restaurant to accompany each course. I usually dislike these because it’s quite overwhelming and often the wines included are average at best.

Beer as aperetif was frowned upon and from the bottle. The waiter was an intern. And people arriving later than us were served food first.

I have read good things about Klein Jansen and the food was good, albeit rather standard – fish trio and poularde. But overall the disappointment was too much and we are definitely not coming back.

It’s ok if you do not participate in restaurant week. But if you do, do it wholeheartedly and use the opportunity to introduce your restaurant to a wider audience. Be at your best. You might lose some money that night, but it’s a good investment.

Cucumber-Melon-Eel-Soup at de Odessa

I had been wanting to go to Odessa for quite a while because I had heard good things from several people and was intrigued by the location up by the Oostelijke Handelskade.

Restaurantweek 2007 finally was the right opportunity to go and it was well worth it! Highlighted by a surprising and delicious Cucumber-Melon-Eel-Soup we thoroughly enjoyed the food, the ambiance and the surroundings.

De Odessa is an old Russian merchant ship floating peacefully on the waters of the IJhaven near the second bridge to Java IJland. It’s fun to cycle up there on the wide pavement of the dock, behind the redecorated storage houses turned luxury offices and apartments. After having boarded the old ship we had the option to dine on the upper deck – a sort of winter-garden with a modern interior – and the lower deck. We opted for the less formal lower deck that also serves as a disco location and is decorated in 60’s decor, with a lot of brown, beige and orange, round lamps and leather benches. Being in the body of the ship we were actually below sea level and had some fun watching from way below as other boats passed by.

Staff was very friendly and helpful, letting us choose the deck and table, allowing for time to look at the menu and wine list and taking the time to give us a little background on the ship and the restaurant.

This being restaurant, the Odessa served a set-menu with a choice of two for each the starter, main and desert. So between the two of us we got to try it all! The starters were a marinated pulpo with gambas and tomato and almond sauce and a cold cucumber soup with water melon and smoked eel. Both were great! The pulpo was tender and still had enough texture and consistency. The gambas were flavorful and the sauce was very supportive, adding a nice sweetness.

The cold cucumber soup was the highlight of the dinner. I was intrigued by the combination, thinking that it might be anywhere from bland to savory and from well composed to rather disparate. And for a cold soup to be enjoyable, it needs to be well balanced. And well balanced it was! The combination worked out perfectly: The cucumber provides a solid foundation, is pungent and was very present when first tasting the soup. The watermelon provides a perfect, smooth and slightly sweet counterpart that dominated the end of each spoonful. And the smoked eel came through nicely in between with its harder texture and salty and fishy taste!

The main courses were less intriguing but well executed. The fish choice was fried bass with asparagus, cantharells and risso rosso – a red risotto. The meat was grilled entrecote from Ireland. Both were done just right, tender but with consistency and allowing for the natural flavor of the fresh ingredients to come through.

The Odessa also provided for a wine option – different glasses that have been selected to accompany each course well. We chose a Gavi di Gavi from the extensive wine list and were very pleased with the choice. It might be a stretch with an entrecote, but worked well being both refreshing and aromatic.

For desert we had sticky toffee cake and rhubarb crumble. Check out the desert list on their web site; it’s great too find a restaurant that goes beyond ice cream and creme brulee and puts real effort into deserts.

Overall a great night! It’s fun to be on a boat. The interior is well designed and the location is inspiring. The staff is friendly and laid-back. The food both interesting and well executed. We are certainly coming back.

Google maps: Veemkade 259, 1019 CZ Amsterdam

Web site:

business card odessa

Entrecôte, Dorado and Goat Cheese

Conspiracy or trend?

Ever more often, when trying out a new resaturant, I find that the menu is boring and predictable.

The restaurants that I am talking about invariably are small (10 to 20 tables), focused on concept and design, and cater to the hip and trendy urban community. They are what I call a “Jamie Oliver Joint”. That’s cool. Dishes with few but carefully selected, flavorful and fresh ingredients can be good. But all too often the dishes end up being nothing but simple and lack any sort of characteristic taste. They look great – and blend well with the conceptual interior design of the restaurant – but they are boring and bland.

All these “Jamie Oliver Joints” seem to have the same menu:

  • they always have between 4 and 6 starters including some sort of carpaccio, a variety of shrimp, the ever-present liver paté and – always, always! – a goat cheese salad
  • main course equalling – exactly – the number of starters and including a biological chicken variety, an entrecôte of south american origin and white fish – most often dorado or cod
  • desert including cheese, ice cream – come on, at least try to be creative – and “hang-op” – nice, but how can everyone gets hung up on “hang-op” in the same year?!?
  • finally a wine list restricted to pinot grigio, an australian shiraz, a chilean merlot and something from south africa

Let’s start a brief investigation: Please leave a comment if you have recently been to a restaurant that matches my profile.

Pizza at Renato’s

Went to have pizza at Renato’s and liked it a lot.

There are few good pizzerias in Amsterdam. Many joints are fast food and combine pizza with other Mediterranean dishes. Renato’s is different: He focuses on pizza and prepares his with care.

The mixed antipasti was a pleasant surprise! I often find these little-starters-for-the-entire-table platters disappointing: it often ends up being thrown together from things that can be preserved easily. Renato’s was different: fresh and soggy mozzarella; crispy bread with cream-cheese and celery; and different sorts of ham, coppa and bresaola.

The beer choice was less inspired. Sure, you should go with wine at an Italian restaurant. But it was hot and I was thirsty, and craving for a “witbier”. Unfortunately Renato does not have any and we had to settle for Moretti from the bottle. Not great, but at least we stuck to the Italian theme of the night.

The pizze were great! Thin crust, cooked just right, crispy but not black on the sides. Fresh buffalo mozzarella. Generous, but not overpowering toppings. And all with a great consistency, nice salty and not soggy oily.

Mine was parma ham with rucola, grana and truffle oil. That great smell of truffle oil alone is worth a visit! Everybody tried a different pizza and they were all good: Cooked ham, bresaola, pine nuts. In each case with buffalo mozzarella, flavorful tomatoes and the right amount of oregano.

Google maps: Karel du Jardinstraat 32, Amsterdam

Web site: Couldn’t find one…