I have complained about restaurant week Amsterdam several times already, so dutchgrub readers will not be surprised to hear that the spring 2010 edition is again essentially closed to the public.
The problem is that very few top notch restaurants participate. And for the vast majority of restaurants that do offer a restaurant week menu for € 25,=, it’s just not such a great deal. Furthermore, the few available tables of interest seem to be booked long before the public has access to the booking site.
Initially I thought that the solution was to join DiningCity, the organizer of restaurant week. Members get access to the booking site two days in advance. I tried but only found out that all good tables were already taken. Some dutchgrub readers commented about the possibility to have even earlier access through one of the sponsors. And indeed there are special booking page for American Express and also Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. Booking through sponsors is possible a week in advance.
Two weeks ago I wrote about “Dining With the Stars”, a restaurant week special for Michelin star restaurants only. As I suspected, getting a reservation is next to impossible. On 3 November, 1 day before the opening of reservations for the general public, all Amsterdam Michelin stars and all three star restaurants are fully booked.
This foodie did manage to get a table for lunch at La Rive and is super excited about it! How did I manage to get a reservation? Don’t ask…
I have written several times about restaurant week Amsterdam. I like the idea but struggle with two major flaws. Firstly an abundance of low quality restaurants that make the fixed price deal seem rather expensive in terms of value for money. And secondly the reservation procedure that makes it impossible to get a table at one of the higher end places.
DiningCity, the organizer of restaurant week, is now launching a new initiative that definitely addresses the first flaw: Dining With the Stars is a restaurant week for Michelin star restaurants only!
For € 50 you get a set five course menu, although the two and three star restaurants might charge € 15 extra. You will need to book through the Dining With the Stars web site, so I am skeptical about being able to get a reservation. Reservations open on 4 November 2009 at 10am. DiningCity subscribers can make reservations starting 2 November 2009 at 2pm, so I assume it’ll be hard to get a good reservation on the 4th. And if Dining With the Stars is like restaurant week, there will be pre-reservations before the 2nd available to sponsors like American Express.
There are some interesting restaurants on the list from the Amsterdam area:
Dinner was great and we found Oriental 128 one of few places that execute restaurant week well. They served a standard menu at reduced price and put a lot of effort into winning new customers.
The decor is upscale and a pleasant blend of modern western and harmonious Asian. You immediately notice that Oriental is ambitious when it comes to appearance and service. The dining room is meticulously clean and organized and the staff is dressed in formal suits and dresses.
We were quite impressed by the service, which was attentive in a subtle way and very friendly with a welcome dose of personality. For example, the waiter noticed that the bottle of white wine was not cold enough and exchanged it for a nicely chilled one with a friendly smile.
Oriental 128 call its menu Chinese, although I would probably give it more of Pan-Asian or even slightly fusion. There is a lot of fish, including lobster and seafood platters as well as duck specialties such as Peking duck. Then there are several variations of standard sweet and sour or five-spice meat and rice dishes, but also a more western roast chicken, spring rolls and several vegetarian tofu dishes.
They highly advertise their menus – a simpler 3 course sample menu as well as a more ambitious 4 course menu with Alaska king crab and peking duck. For restaurant week, Oriental 128 served the sample menu at a reduced rate. We thought that this worked very well as we got to know the restaurant by sampling smaller portions of three main dishes rather than the usual starter, main and dessert.
All dishes were excellent! We started with battered shrimps with bell peppers and onions. The shrimps had good flavor and everything was cooked just right. We then had perch grilled on its skin and also nicely prepared. The final dish was a combination of beef and Peking duck with rice and mie.
All in all it was a great dinner. The dishes were standard but well executed and the service friendly and attentive. We will definitely be back outside of restaurant week.
Apparently I am not the only one who thinks the restaurant week formula in Amsterdam is flawed. While there is undoubtedly a huge buzz around restaurant week, the actual experience of trying to make a reservation and the poor value for money at many restaurants that participate is less than desirable.
Not surprisingly, I see more and more restaurants that invent their own formula, trying to benefit from the buzz while offering a much better experience and value. Restaurant de Odessa is offering a special price menu all summer long. And De Witte Uyl, one of dutchgrub’s top Amsterdam restaurants, is offering a free Kir made from crème de fruits the owners brought back from a recent vacation in Bourgogne. I hope it will lure some of the few Amsterdammers not participating in restaurant week to enjoy the excellent menu at De Witte Uyl.
The Odessa is participating in restaurant week again in 2009. But even better, they are offering a prix fixe summer menu throughout the months of July and August at the same the restaurant week price of € 25,=.
De Odessa is an old Russian merchant ship anchored on the waters east of central station. The interior has a 60s disco look and the staff is helpful and laid back. The menu is French international.
The summer prix fixe menu starts off with a mixed platter of scallops, cod terrine and quail. For main course you have a choice of salmon with beurre blanc, entrecôte with green asparagus and haricot cannelloni. With a white chocolate brownie for dessert, this sounds like a simple but delicious summer menu in a beautiful setting on the water!