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Chef’s Podium: 3 ingredients; 3 courses; 1 chef

Please note that since writing this blog post, Chef's Podium has closed down

One of my (admittedly numerous) pet peeves in restaurants is unnecessarily long menus. The kind that, were you to in fact study all gazillion dishes on them, would mean losing 45 minutes of your life – not to mention valuable friend-catch-up time. If there’s going to be choice, I want it to be a choice of three dishes, not 300. And to be honest, no choice is absolutely fine too.

Naturally then, I loved the concept at Chef’s Podium. Three ingredients; three courses; one chef.* No decision-making. No breaking off your conversation after the second time the waiter comes over, with “Ok, let’s just look at the menu and order, then we can chat.” No menu at all, in fact. Just the chef, Mehdi, popping over to your table to explain the concept.
*Fussy eaters need not apply.

Chefs podium Taleggio
Filo rolls stuffed with Taleggio – the first course at Chef’s Podium

So here it is: each week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, Chef’s Podium gets in three key ingredients.* A different chef on each night of the week is tasked with turning those ingredients into dinner. And because there’s no choice, there’s very little wastage either – which means that three courses will only set you back €20. There’s a recommended red and white wine to go with the chef’s creation for only €15 a bottle (or €2.50 a glass), or you can choose from a wine list if you prefer something higher priced. It’s so simple, it’s a wonder no one thought of it before. The Friday night we were there, Mehdi was in a kitchen stocked with delightfully stinky Taleggio cheese, haddock and wakame. It felt slightly like the goodie bag on Ready Steady Cook (Italian cheese with Japanese seaweed? Hmmm) but any doubts I had were quickly allayed.

 

Chefs podium haddock and wakame
Haddock with wakame stamppot and salsa verde

First up was something that looked like a giant spring roll, or those Turkish sigara böreği. It was essentially filo pastry stuffed with the Taleggio cheese, served with a salad involving finely sliced apple and beetroot. At first, I found the texture of the filo a little soft and underdone in the middle, but by the end it seemed to ooze naturally into the Taleggio – a comforting blanket of dough and cheese. It tasted like the start of autumn, which is exactly what it was.

The fish was up for the main dish, with a sort of chunky salsa verde and a stamppot made with the wakame. It had a few other Asian-fusion style ingredients thrown in too (sesame seeds, soy sauce) and, again, I was unconvinced at the start but won over by the end. The portion size was just right too: satisfying, but not over-filling.

Chefs podium dessert
A simple parfait for dessert

Dessert was a simple vanilla parfait with chocolate shavings and a fruit coulis – perfectly pleasant but nothing inspired. Perhaps Chef’s Podium could add a fourth, dessert-oriented ingredient to their weekly grocery list and continue the chef’s challenge into the third course?

While it wasn’t the best meal I’ve ever had in Amsterdam, for €30 each it was amazingly good value. The service is pleasant, the water freely refilled, and the staff seem genuinely to believe in the concept. I was sold on the lack of menu from the start – but now I’m sold on the three-ingredients-lucky-dip thing too. Good job, Chef’s Podium – you’ve won yourselves a fan.

PS. Want to get a better idea of the Chef’s Podium experience? Watch Dutchified’s video!

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Chef's Podium (International)
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