De Japanner, and my first foray into Dutch radio

Last week, I got a call one lunchtime. It was from a presenter for NTV Noord Holland asking if they could interview me about Amsterdam’s food scene. “Sure, when?” I replied. “In about two hours. Do you speak Dutch?” Gulp.

It was probably good that I didn’t have much time to think about it. I like to believe I’m fairly eloquent on a microphone – but in Dutch, my lips turn to jelly and my Gs get stuck in my throat. Still, it’s taken me countless Dutch courses, an NT2 exam and several failed relationships with Dutch guys to get me to where my Nederlands is today – surely it was worth giving it a shot?

So I did. My friends were very sweet and encouraging about the interview, but I was fairly mortified. I’d planned to talk about the parallels between Indian food in England and Indonesian food in the Netherlands; about how AA Gill was my food writing hero; about how my Dad taught me to cook at home and to appreciate dining out in the hotels and restaurants he worked in. But somehow none of that came out – or it got lost in the final edit.

I listened to the interview once, and decided to stick to the day job (well, the night job): eating out and writing about it (in English) rather than talking about it in Dutch. With no time like the present, I made a plan to head out for some pre-Uitmarkt food and drinks. Nothing like a few glasses of wine to lessen those Dutch-language insecurities, eh?

De Japanner opened very recently in de Pijp as the first Japanese, late-night, street-food joint in Amsterdam. They serve food until 1 am on week nights and 3 am on weekends (although the kitchen closes at 2.30, I believe) which, as anyone who’s tried to eat anywhere in Amsterdam after 10 pm knows, is very late indeed around here.

De Japanner - salmon tataki
Salmon tataki with freshly grated daikon – delish!

The atmosphere is buzzing and gezellig, the menu inexpensive, and the range of choice refreshingly small for an Asian restaurant. As in, if you’re with a couple of friends, you can probably get through most of the menu in one evening – if you eat as much as I do, at least. So that’s pretty much what we did.

First up was the chicken katsu curry – recommended by our waiter “because he likes chicken”. Well, fair enough. It was good, though – reminded me of a Japanese hole-in-the-wall I used to go for lunchbreaks in London back in the day. We also tried the gyoza – two kinds: one with veal, the other with kimchi. As a huge kimchi fan, I adored the pickled spice of the latter, but I was pleasantly surprised by the former too.

De Japanner - gyoza
Two types of gyoza: veal and kimchi

We also tried tempura batter filled with sardines and umeboshi, served with a light dipping sauce. It was probably my least favourite dish, but not because there was anything wrong with it – I just found the sardines a little over-fishy in that context, and the umeboshi didn’t come through. Salmon tataki (just-seared and dressed slices of fresh salmon) were to-die-for, however, especially with the added tang of grated daikon.

De Japanner - tempura
Sardines in a tempura batter – fishy and crunchy!

On the sushi side of things, our king crab California rolls were a hit with everyone – including my LA friend who is a sushi afficionado. Just for good measure, I finished up with a skewer or two of chicken teriyaki – sweet and savoury with their umami glaze, they were just what I expected but nothing to write home about.

De Japanner - sushi
King crab California rolls were a hit with everyone

Dinner came to €25 each, which included three or so glasses of wine. And while the food may be “snacky”, we certainly felt like we’d had plenty of it by the time we left. If I lived in de Pijp, I’d probably be here every time I forget to eat dinner before 9.30 – which is quite often. As it is, do I think it’s worth the trek from the Spaarndammerbuurt? Very much so. Eet smakelijk, as they say in Dutch, or Oishi – which means something similar in Japanese!

all the info

De Japanner (Japanese)


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