This website is long overdue a post about where to eat vegetarian food in Amsterdam. But, well – you know – I just like meat… And while I know it’s not sustainable and is contributing to climate change and I’m trying to cut down, it just tastes so good. So yes, when I go out to eat in Amsterdam, I rarely make it to a specifically vegetarian restaurant. A few weeks ago, however, I was meeting up with a friend for a combination of congratulating her on her new house and breaking the news about my impending nuptials – and that friend is a vegetarian. (I know – who’d have guessed I have vegetarian friends, eh?!)
I’d been meaning to check out vegetarian restaurant Golden Temple forever, so this seemed like the perfect excuse to try it. When Golden Temple had made its way onto my “to-eat list” at least five years ago, it had acquired an ominous note next to it: *no alcohol. (Double the reason not to go.) So I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived to discover that they’d got an alcohol license in the intervening years. Phew – this might not be that bad after all.
The menu is what I’d call “international fusion”. Well, vegetarian first, of course, but then international fusion; it covers everything from tacos to curries to risotto. That would usually be a warning bell to me – what chef can cook that many cuisines well? But we ordered the Japanese tempura, Mexican tacos and Indian thali and crashed on.
The tempura itself was fine: avocado and nori (seaweed) covered in a crispy batter – what’s not to like? But an oily fruit like avocado, covered in a deep-fried batter, needs something to cut through that grease. And the strips of raw vegetable and sesame paste weren’t up to the job. In lieu of any kind of dipping sauce, I asked for some soy sauce, which the waiter was very obliging to provide. But, to my mind, some kind of a lime-based dipping sauce would be more than appreciated.
Things got better when it came to the mains. The so-called “Traditional Mexican” comprised two soft corn tacos with sweet potato purée, beans, salsa and guacamole – plus they were served with a tasty green salad. The tacos were brimming with flavour – sweetness from the potatoes, sourness from the lime. They might not win any prizes in the most authentic taco in Amsterdam contest, but they certainly tasted good.
We also shared the “Flavours of India”: an Indian thali made up of traditional lentil daal, sag paneer (spinach curry with a halloumi-like cheese), aloo ghobi (cauliflower and potato curry), coconut curry and raita, all served with rice and chapatti. On the spiciness scale, all were pretty mild – but that in no way detracted from their flavour. And while I’m no expert on truly (regional) Indian curries, I’m British so I have some idea. And given that the curries in many regions of India are largely vegetarian by definition, this may well have been a closer approximation than the meaty tikka masalas of which we’re so fond in the West.
Dinner came to €75 for two, including a bottle of wine, which certainly doesn’t make it into the budget category. But we probably need to get away from the assumption that no meat = cheaper. While the ingredients themselves may cost slightly less, the work that goes into creating interesting, flavoursome vegetarian dishes is (in my experience) far greater than cooking a piece of meat or fish. Plus, the service was extremely friendly – so I was happy to leave a tip on top.
Whether I go back remains to be seen.