Regular readers will know I rarely leave #Amsterdam except to go to Schiphol Airport. But I’d heard on the tonkotsu-vine that some of the best Japanese restaurants are to be found in Amstelveen – not least because it has the highest Japanese population in the Netherlands. On my birthday, the sun was shining and ramen was calling – so I decided to make the bike trek out to Amstelveen and see what there was to eat.
Not having much else to go on, I turned to social media to advise me on my choice of restaurant and ended up at ISHII: a simple Japanese cafe that seemed to be popular with the nearby office crowd out on their lunchbreaks. ISHII’s ramen menu is particularly educational, as they provide you with a map that shows the different styles of ramen and where they all come from. Did you know, for example, that miso ramen comes from Hokkaido, while tantan men comes from Tokyo? Or that tonkotsu ramen is made differently in different cities? Seemed like a good excuse to order a beer and do some research…
Eventually, I settled on the tantan men for lunch, which had a creamy broth that was rich in sesame but not as spicy as other tantan men broths I’ve eaten elsewhere. The noodles were the thin style (which, from a previous ramen experience at Hakata Senpachi in Amsterdam, I remember are favoured by most Japanese diners, while the Europeans tend to prefer the thicker ramen noodles). At the time I agreed with the Europeans – and my noodles at ISHII didn’t change my mind. The toppings were a little scant: minced pork, which had a good meaty flavour, and a small strip of pak choi. That was it: no marinated egg, no seaweed, nothing else. Of course, I could’ve ordered those things separately, but they would’ve added a lot to the price – and for €13 I felt there should’ve been more to the dish to begin with.
With a small beer, I got out of ISHII for €16.50. But while my belly was full and my ramen craving sated, I couldn’t escape the feeling that it was a bit of a waste of a bike ride when you can eat more interesting ramen in Amsterdam. Still, at least I could justify the calories after all that pedalling…
There’s been a lot of talk about pizza in #Amsterdam lately. With the arrival of nNea and Beppe – both sporting Neapolitan credentials – it seems the city is taking its pizza more seriously than most outside of Italy. And yet there are a lot of pizzerias that have been around for years that I’ve still not tried. So in the past week, I set about changing that.
Wednesday: La Zoccola del Pacioccone
Before the fateful Ajax vs. Tottenham football match, I carb-and-wine-loaded at La Zoccola del Pacioccone. This is a pizzeria I’ve had recommended to me on a few occasions, but it’s sat on my To-Eat List, ignored, for months if not years. I’m not sure why, because the toppings were a delight to eat: the burrata was pleasantly buffalo-tasting, and the prosciutto was rich and generously sliced. Meanwhile, the ‘nduja on our second pizza was properly spicy, and the mozzarella was smoked – adding an excellent depth of flavour.
My only criticism (and I guess this is kind of crucial) was the crust: while there was nothing wrong with the dough itself, I suspect that the oven was not hot enough, or that there were too many pizzas cooking in there at once. Our pizzas lacked a firm, crispy base, and instead were slightly flabby and rubbery in texture. With that being said, I’d still go back to La Zoccola for the toppings alone…
Mr Foodie had been angling to go to Porchetteria in de Pijp for some weeks, so on Friday we popped in straight from after-work drinks in search of… porchetta. Naturally. But we were soon to discover that while Porchetteria does serve a couple of porchetta dishes, it is essentially a pizza parlour. And while this was clear when we later looked at the website, the name felt misleading.
False advertising aside, we enjoyed the food we ate there a lot. When we arrived, we were the only customers so the man serving us (who I assume was the owner) took the time for a friendly chat and offered us an off-menu starting point for our meal: a tagliere (the Italian word for chopping board) of salami, prosciutto, a spicy sausage from Bologna and some mouth-watering burrata – all served with crispy slices of focaccia drizzled with olive oil.
The tagliere being no small portion to start with, we decided to share a porchetta dish next. Described as a Roman-style pizza bianca ripiena (filled white pizza), the porchetta came in a sort of focaccia sandwich stuffed with burrata and lettuce as well as the pork itself. While it tasted delicious, it was hard to discern the porchetta through the creaminess of the cheese. This was perhaps also down to the fact that there were no noticeable fennel seeds or herbs running through the meat as you’d expect from porchetta – it tasted essentially like simple roast pork. Perfectly pleasant but not what we were expecting.
The pizzas at both restaurants were comparable in price: €15 at Porchetteria and about €17 at La Zoccola, while a glass of simple house red wine was around the €5 mark. I enjoyed them both in different ways, but I also felt that both could’ve been improved upon with fairly obvious tweaks. More pizza research needed? It’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it…
Tottenham Hotspur warned the football club’s supporters to steer clear of a number of bars in #Amsterdam, in general advise to fans travelling to Amsterdam for Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final match against Ajax. The match is scheduled for 9 p.m. at the Johan Cruijff ArenA in Amsterdam Zuidoost.
I seem to have been on a bit of a Chinese food kick lately… So after sampling the dim sum at newly opened Full Moon Garden and the Peking duck at confusingly named Sichuan Food, I was ready to dip my toe (or rather, my bamboo skewer) into the hotpot at Yuan’s.
I’d been tipped off about Yuan’s Hot Pot by a foodie friend, who knew from experience that a hotpot is better shared with a group of buddies who aren’t squeamish about double-dipping. So eight of us headed to the Rijnstraat last Friday on what must’ve been one of the coldest days in May for a while – in other words, perfect hotpot weather. It was lucky we’d made a reservation, because the restaurant was packed and there was queue out the door for the next available table (it soon became apparent why). The décor is simple to the point of utilitarian, ordering is done via iPad, there are random screens showing Chinese TV, and half the clientele look to be Asian in origin. It couldn’t have got any more authentic without being literally in Chengdu. Things were off to an excellent start…
Each table comes with a hollowed-out centre in which a pot of steaming broth appears. Most people opt to keep one half of the broth non-spicy, and to have the other half topped up with a nuclear-looking chilli paste. If you’re a chilli addict like me, you’re in spice heaven. From there, you simply order a variety of meat (generally on bamboo skewers), fish, veggies, noodles and all manner of other things to throw into the pot until they’re cooked and ready to eat. It helps to have a modicum of common sense about cooking times in this situation: a thin slice of beef needs to be dipped for literally a few seconds before gobbling it straight down, whereas a skewer of chicken may take a few minutes. For adventurous eaters, there are also plenty of options to challenge your palate: think frog’s legs, chicken feet, tripe, and various organ meat. Like I said, this is about as authentic as you’re going to get in Amsterdam.
I enjoyed pretty much everything – which is hardly surprising since if you serve me anything dipped in chilli broth, I’m sold. The vegetables were a particular highlight – somehow the leaves really trapped the flavour of the broth more than the meat and fish did, which I wouldn’t necessarily have expected. The only thing I wasn’t a fan of were the noodles: made from sweet potato starch, they were glutinous to the point of being impossible to eat, and so slimy that it took several attempts just to pick them up. But that’s a small negative in an otherwise fabulous experience.
The prices at Yuan’s are insanely reasonable too: we spent €35 per person, but a) we are all big eaters; b) we kept ordering and ordering and ordering; and c) we drank boat loads of beer and white wine as well. I think the average diner could easily come away having spent €25 or less. For an experience that transports you straight to Chengdu, that’s money well spent.
I was recently asked to write an article for a food industry magazine about food courts in the Netherlands, so inevitably that necessitated a couple of “research trips” here in #Amsterdam. As far as I know, there are four indoor food courts in the Dutch capital, the most famous of which being of course the Foodhallen. But the other three – all very different, but all filling a niche – are equally worth a visit. So whether you’ve lived here your whole life or are just visiting for a weekend, here’s where to fulfill your food court fantasies in Amsterdam.
Foodhallen: most likely to spot tourists
I’ve written about Amsterdam’s Foodhallen in the past, so I won’t go into great detail here except to say that this iconic food court is housed in a disused, converted tram depot – which certainly lends it a very Amsterdam ambience. It’s packed in the evening and on weekends, so I’d advise stopping by for lunch if you’re not keen on crowds. Some of my favourite food stands include Fento for fantastically healthy Mexican-inspired street food (and amazing cornbread!), Taqueria Lima West for (no prizes for guessing) tacos, and Renato’s for excellent Italian antipasti and pizza.
Visit the Foodhallen at Bellamyplein 51 (Oud-West), or see foodhallen.nl for more information.
The Food Department: most likely to spot shoppers
Newly opened in the Magna Plaza – Amsterdam’s answer to a shopping mall – The Food Department takes up the entire top floor of this iconic building in the centre of town. If shopping and sightseeing make you hungry, this is the place to pop in for a pit stop. Undoubtedly The Food Department’s resident bars and food stands will change over time, especially as any initial teething problems get resolved, but when it opened in spring 2019 there were 17 spots to choose from, serving everything from dim sum and sushi bowls to gourmet hotdogs and tacos. You’ll notice a few familiar names – The Butcher has a stand selling its famous burgers, as does Petit Gateau (for the prettiest cakes and pastries) as well as seafood seller Brut de Mer. But when I went, I checked out the sabich pita at Bepita: a fluffy dough pocket filled with aubergine, hard-boiled egg, hummus, tahini and more. For €6.50, it wasn’t half bad.
Visit The Food Department on the top floor of Magna Plaza at Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 182 (Centrum), or see thefooddepartment.nl for more information.
Market 33: most likely to spot city slickers
Right in the heart of Amsterdam’s business district, the Zuidas, you’ll find split-level food court Market 33 – replete with lots of men in suits and banking types. (As well as the rest of us.) When I visited, I was interested to see a familiar face from Pho & Yummie – the sushi and Vietnamese restaurant that used to be in the Spaarndammerbuurt until recently. It seems the owners have instead started two new ventures at Market 33: Oishii Sushi, serving sushi, salads and more; and Hello Vietnam, serving pho, summer rolls and various noodle and rice dishes. I tried the gyoza, which were as crispy and tasty as I remember them from their previous location. Market 33 also has a well-stocked bar, so it’s a good spot for a drink and a snack after work. (Note that the food court is not open on weekends.)
Visit Market 33 at Claude Debussylaan 33 (Zuidas), or see market33.nl for more information.
World of Food: most likely to spot people from the world over
A little further out of town, in Amsterdam Zuidoost, you’ll reach the aptly named World of Food. Featuring stands selling street food from all over the globe, this is the place to come if you want to try a range of different cuisines – or if you’re with a group who can’t decide what they want to eat. Plus, most of the food on offer is extremely reasonable: you can easily score a satisfying meal for around the €5 mark. When I visited, I tried a dish of spicy chicken, yams and veggies from African food stand Monrovia, as well as a “Johnnycake” stuffed with salt cod from Yvette’s Kitchen. Both delicious – and deliciously good value!
Last year, Restaurant Nomads opened its doors in #Amsterdam. A one of a kind restaurant with a direct link to travel. Every couple of months they travel across the globe to be inspired by a different cuisine which then results in a brand new menu. After Peru and Jordan it was time for a new influence. Are you curious where Nomads will take you for the next coming months?
The Peruvian Menu at restaurant Nomads a year back
A TRIP TO PORTUGAL
Why is Nomads unique? The restaurant offers a new menu every few months where a different country is highlighted. This way, foodies can enjoy a trip around the world and taste different cultures. For the next few months ahead you will be able to enjoy the Portuguese kitchen! Nomads Owners joined headchef on a 2 week trip in and around Lisbon where they discovered the best Portuguese flavours. This resulted in a wonderful menu with fish, squid croquettes, vegetables
Nomads will take you to Portugal for the next 6 months
Portuguese Mackerel Escabeche
GOOD TO KNOW
Eating at Nomads is not very expensive! For just €25,- per person you can enjoy a Chef Experience lunch which includes different dishes so you can taste all the flavours of Portugal. For dinner the Chef Experience will cost €37,-. There are always vegetarian options available. Also worth mentioning; they have a large outside terrace next to the water. Winning!
In short, no need to book your ticket to Portugal if you feel like traditional Pastel de Nata.