For the first time last year, I posted an (entirely subjective) round-up of the best Amsterdam restaurants of 2014. The reaction was so immense that it – umm – broke my website :-/ This year, with the redesigned website being (hopefully) rather more stable, it’s time once again to look back at a memorable year in Amsterdam’s cuisine scene. The food festivals were bigger and better than ever, and hundreds of new restaurants sprang up so quickly that I doubt I was the only one who couldn’t keep up. Oh, and I ate a bug. On camera.
So, in no particular order, here are my picks for the best restaurants of 2015. Some of them opened during the year; others have been around for longer. This is simply my own personal opinion about the restaurants I’ve eaten in that have impressed me the most over this past year. Agree or disagree? Leave a comment!
Amsterdam’s Best Restaurants – The 2015 Guide
1. Best newcomer: Choux
Choux’s former incarnations included temporary restaurants Repéré and Foyer, both of which I had glowing things to say about. So I was especially pleased that the same team have now found a permanent home from which to serve up their own brand of hyper-organic-but-still-sexy food. Every dish looks like an oil painting, and the wines are totally different from the average, too. A great addition to Amsterdam’s restaurant scene.
I first visited Marius in 2009, so this is by far the oldest restaurant on this list. But that’s exactly why it’s an old favourite: it has staying power; you want to take your parents there for dinner (and get them to pay); and then you want to go back to celebrate that promotion you got a year later (and this time you can afford to pay for it yourself). Chef Kees hand-picks his produce for the so-called “Market Menu” every day, which costs €47.50 for four courses. It’s not cheap, but it’s some of the best food (with the friendliest service – also important) that you’ll encounter in Amsterdam.
Three ingredients; three courses; one daily changing chef – that’s the concept behind Chef’s Podium, and I think it’s a thing of simple beauty. The restaurant is literally a “podium” to showcase the talents of a different chef each evening (Thursday – Saturday). The Ready, Steady, Cook-style bag of ingredients means they’re always preparing what’s in season, and the lack of choice means they can serve up three courses for just €20. Not ideal for fussy eaters, but perfect if you hate wasting valuable chatting time looking at menus.
Eetbar Wilde Zwijnen is the very epitome of the new Dutch cuisine: local, seasonal, unpretentious and very, very good. Unlike the restaurant of the same name next door, the eetbar serves smaller sharing plates – taking the casualness notch up another level. Go with a group of friends and try everything on a menu.
To use the term “street food” may be a bit misleading here. De Japanner is not, in fact, a food truck or a market stall out on the street. Although it does occupy a venue along the Albert Cuypmarkt, so perhaps that kind of counts? The style of food, however, is definitely small bites that you can eat with your hands (or perhaps a pair of chopsticks). Think sushi, gyoza, tempura and katsu. It’s not the best Japanese food you’ll ever taste – but for the price and the atmosphere, it’s pretty damn good. Plus, it’s open till late: 1 am on week nights and 3 am on weekends.
I’m a huge noodle soup fan – whether it’s pho, ramen or any other variety. Le Fou Fow’s ramen stands out for me because of the broth (the pork stock is strongly scented in an animalistic way that compels me) and because of the boiled egg that floats on the top. I assume it’s been slow-cooked at a low temperature for a long time, and it comes out rich and yellow and oozes into your steaming-hot soup… Perfect for a cold day.
Ideal at 11 pm on a Friday night out on Rembrandtplein when you’re clearly sloshed but don’t want to slum it at the FEBO, Van Rijn is essentially posh nosh for drunk people. You pay a premium for the location and the opening hours, but the kitchen doesn’t compromise on quality: you can expect top-notch ingredients, beautifully presented. And it’s so big you might even get away without making a reservation.
8. Best in my neighbourhood (the Spaarndammerbuurt!): Bistro Zuidlande
Regular readers will know that I’m a lazy-arse food writer who likes nothing better than to stay in the Westerpark area, eating my way around it like they never invented bikes. Lazier still, I often eat on my own street – and why not when I’m lucky enough to have Bar Mick, Trela Plein and Yummie Sushi on my doorstep? But in 2015, another new spot opened up: French restaurant Bistro Zuidlande, with all the over-use of butter and cream that you’d expect. Perfect for a special occasion – the wines are good too.
Picture the scene: salty pastrami, tangy sauerkraut, creamy-yet-sharp mature cheese… all wrapped up in two chunky slices of white bread with lettuce and pickles. Some may call it a Reuben. I call it the best sandwich in Amsterdam.
Chris and his Best Coast team have been popping up with their fabulous tacos for a while now, but 2015 was the first year that I made it to their longstanding gig at BarBra. While I went on a Friday night, I believe they’ve now added Tuesdays to their schedule (which frankly works much better with the hashtag #TacoTuesdays!) – though do keep an eye on their Facebook page for other dates and locations. Best Coasts’ salsas are revelatory – the smoky pineapple salsa combines chilli-heat, woody smoke and fruity sweetness to absolute taco perfection. Try it with the carnitas and let me know what you think.