Last week, I reviewed Amsterdam Oost’s East 57 in a bid to redress the horrible imbalance on my Amsterdam map between restaurants in the east and west of the city (and let’s not even get started on Amsterdam Noord!). This week, the theme continues with The Gastro.bar [sic] – a newcomer to the Java-eiland, whose shores I last graced three years ago when working on that side of town and training for the Dam tot Damloop by running around that very island.
Going back there a couple of years later, it seems a few restaurants and cafes are starting to pop up to accommodate the influx of young professional Amsterdammers who have moved over there to start families. In fact, The Gastro.bar is more or less nestled in beside a children’s playground – which might suggest that its target audience would be interested in the style of family-friendly dining offered by Flinders, for example.
But nope. They’ve opted for an altogether more formal affair, with achingly Instagrammable dishes that you need to order at least three of in order to feel anything remotely resembling full. Not that we did, in the end. We ordered two and then decided to cut our losses and buy a portion of chips and mayo on the way home.
The menu is distinctly fusion, with dishes purportedly ranging from Peruvian to Japanese to Jamaican to Indonesian. The “Tiradito Peru” (above) consisted of bonito “ceviche”, although no curing of the fish in either lemon or lime juice seemed to have occurred; with yellow chilli, which was hot without really tasting of much; chia seeds, which seemed to come in some sort of slime that reminded you of what a bird might vomit if it were to eat chia seeds; and crispy wafers of something that didn’t taste of very much either.
In fact, not tasting of very much seemed to be the running theme. The “Jerk Devil Jamaican” (above) said it was monkfish with jerk flavours, scotch bonnet, pineapple and rum. I got surprisingly little heat or spice from either the scotch bonnet peppers or the jerk flavourings. The pineapple/rum combo was one of those “pearls” (like an edible bath pearl filled with a flavoured liquid, if you’ve never eaten one) that are more style than substance. Plus, there was the ubiquitous foam to contend with.
As you can see from the photos, everything looked bleedin’ amazing. I mean, just take a look at my friend’s “Raw Vegan” (below) of baby root vegetables and lentil spread. Stunning, no? But raw root vegetables with nothing more than some lentil puree and a bit more foam don’t actually taste of very much.
And this was the fundamental problem: chef Oliver and his team are trying to create aesthetically fancy food that has very little flavour, in a classy-looking establishment that happens to be slap-bang in the middle of a residential neighbourhood full of families with kids. Passing tourist trade is something he’s not going to get. And that’s a shame, because it’s one less reason for me to get off my lazy backside and go east.
Help me out, Amsterdam Oost-ers: what are your favourite restaurants? I know I am missing something here – what is it?Leave a comment...