You’d think that after walking so much for four days straight in Amsterdam that I would have lost a few pounds. The truth is – I didn’t. I weighed pretty much the same and the reason was the delicious food!
While the city may be best known for its smoky cannabis “Coffee Shops” and the Brown Cafes – bruine kroegjes – where you can enjoy enjoy a glass of Genever and locally-made beer, the dining in Amsterdam is also noteworthy.
Best of all, you don’t always have to break the bank to get a good taste (pun intended) of what the Amsterdam cuisine scene has to offer.
Many different cultures are represented in the dining options in Amsterdam with Italian, French, Indonesian and other Asian to name a few. Of course, trying local Dutch cuisine is a must…
You can spend a few euro or you can splurge, and I recommend doing just that. Here’s a bit of what I experienced during my trip in late November:
Traditional Dutch Cuisine: Lunch at the Luxembourg Café
Dubbed as “One of the world’s greatest cafe’s” by the New York Times, for a single traveller, sitting at the glass-covered patio or just outside of Luxembourg Cafe, is a great way to people-watch and have a bite to eat. The view is the busy Spui Square, where cyclists buzz past as fast as the cars and people stop to sit on the many benches located in the cobblestone square.
The menu at Luxembourg is a selection of sandwiches, soups, salads, entrees (burger, pasta, meat dishes) and traditional Dutch croquettes in a number of different formats. There’s a nice selection of snacks – from cheeses, croquettes and mixed platters. Overall there’s nothing that completely wows, but the food is hearty and filling.
I chose two veal croquettes with zesty mustard, served with fresh brown bread and butter, followed by Appleschnitt (apple pie). This was my first taste of croquettes Dutch-style and they reminded me of the Polish paszteciki or nalesniki that are used to pair with barszcz. My brother’s godmother makes a similar dish with ground chicken inside a roll of ground rice mixed with mashed potatoes and then deep-fried. Luxembourg’s version is crisp on the outside and piping hot cheesey ground veal on the inside.
Deep-fried goodness – that’s what croquettes are all about. Two pieces with the bread are enough to satisfy for lunch. I paired the heavy Appleschnitt, which is less pie and more like cake, with a cappuccino.
Wait-staff is courteous and attentive without being overly intrusive.
Cost: approximately € 16.60 – about CAD $21 (taxes included).
Mid-Afternoon: Snack French Fries & Mayo at Chipsy King
I was told by my friend Jay that I had to go to Chipsy King to enjoy the best French Fries in Amsterdam – with the obligatory mayo for dipping instead of ketchup. His recommendation proved to be accurate.
While in Amsterdam I snacked on Chipsy King French Fries not only once, but twice. Called frieten in Dutch, French Fries or frites, can be found in many small shops and stands around the city.
What I like about Chipsy King is that is reminds me of fast food spots like Wendy’s or like MacDonald’s before the recent facelift to their interior decor. What makes it different is the smaller size of it’s locations (very Amsterdam-like) and the overwhelming focus on the fries themselves.
You can order the frieten to go either plain or with mayonnaise. Flavoured mayonnaise is also doable. For the adventurous I recommend the Samurai mayo with wasabi and chilli paste. It’s mouth-burning spicy and sinus-clearing at the same time.
Cost: only a few euros – approximately € 2 – 3.
Rating: 3.5/5 – because the fries are so darn good and fresh!
Locations: Chipsy King at Damstraat 8 – just east of Dam Square (Centrum). Also found in the Red Light District, and Leidesplein (for the late night, post club/lounge snacking).
Italian Dining at Bussia
I make a habit of splurging on at least one meal in any foreign city/country I’m in. In Amsterdam, my big spend was at Bussia, located in the western canals area, not far from the Jordaan.
This is a busy location, with many customers being local residents. The staff is very friendly and attentive – something that I found a bit unusual during my visit. Perhaps it was because I was dining alone. If this was the case, bonus points to the staff! They made me feel welcome.
The only area for improvement for this restaurant is the noise level – a lack of carpeting and almost bare walls increases the sounds of conversation and cutlery on plates quite easily. When you enter the main floor of the restaurant you need to watch your head as the gorgeous staircase leading up to the second level is low. You can easily bump your head if you don’t listen to the advice from the staff.
The selection of wines is dominated by Italian selections. I chose a Sauvignon Blanc – Girolamo Dorigo 2010, with floral scent and fresh fruity taste.
For dinner, I decided on a bit of adventure, letting the chef surprise me with my four-course option of antipasto, risotto, meat entree and dessert.
The amuse bouche was lentil soup with a touch of sweet fontina cheese and fried, lacy sweet potato for a balance texture. The antipasto dish was a work of colourful art, laid out on a long rectangular plate and a blend of sweet, creamy, zesty and earthy flavours. It included pear jelly, Parma ham, zested beet root, basil purée, fig and minced oxtail on a sliver of veal carpaccio.
In between courses, the waitstaff asked me if I wanted to wait for the next course or if I preferred it sooner than normal. Dining alone means you don’t want to sit and wait for an extended period of time. This small gesture was much appreciated. Once I gave the go ahead to speed up the process the kitchen worked fast in preparing the next course – a creamy risotto with smoky buffalo mozzarella blended into the perfectly cooked rice, and topped with two tart blackberries. Who knew that these flavours could pair so well? The creamy, slightly smoky taste of the cheese didn’t overpower the dish. The risotto’s slight saltiness was dead on, not overpowering and giving it just enough flavour to balance out the sweet taste of the berries.
The main entrée was a tender piece of hearty veal presented in a with cheese croquettes, quinoa, crunchy, fried wheat berry and vegetables, including courgettes – or as we North Americans like to call zucchini. While it doesn’t look like you have much on your plate, by this point you begin to feel full.
Dessert was even more filling with iced wine jelly, sweet bread, pear mince, and quince ice cream on a bed of crumbly ginger cookie.
Overall, I loved the experience at Bussia. It could only have been better if Frank was there to enjoy it with me.
Note: This is a very busy restaurant in the evenings that gets booked up quickly. It’s recommended you make a reservation a couple days in advance if you are planning on visiting Amsterdam. Ask your hotel if they can make the reservation for you to ensure there are no mistakes based on language barriers – even though staff at Bussia all speak English very well.
Cost: Approximately € 50
My iPhone capture of the slightly dimly lit Bussia doesn’t do it justice, but you can see the lovely curving staircase and it’s deadly position for guests.
I’ll share more Amsterdam dining adventures in a future post as there are definitely more places to try during a visit to this colourful, exciting city.
* Please note, I did not bring my large DSLR camera in to dine at Bussia, and captured these photos using my iPhone camera. There are some photographers who pooh-pooh the use of iPhones for food photography. However, as you can see, with a bit of post-processing, a decent photo can be taken even with a iPhone 4G.