Fine dining. High-end restaurants. Haute cuisine. Love it or hate it (and I sometimes do both in equal measure – especially when presented with the bill at the end), there are times when only the best will do.
With colleagues or friends: Kaagman & Kortekaas
While it may be down a typically Dutch alleyway with buildings leaning perilously inwards on either side, once inside Kaagman & Kortekaas it’s all clean, modern and minimal (in a Dutch way rather than a Scandinavian way). There’s a set menu of 3-6 courses, and an a la carte menu with a couple of choices per course. Either way, it’ll take you longer to figure out what some of the ingredients are than it will to make up your mind. I like to think my Dutch is pretty good, especially when it comes to food vocab, but some of the menu items had me completely floored.
In the end, I had a rich and creamy raw fish number (don’t ask me how raw fish can be rich and creamy – just trust me on this one) with crunchy black grains that kind of tasted like rice crispies… in a good way. My main was a selection of rabbit done different ways: a rolled loin that was sweet and succulent, richer brown meat served with a slice of barely seared foie gras, a fresh bunny sausage and a bone to nibble on the side. It was a veritable protein explosion, but I enjoyed every bite.
Dessert was a little sweeter than I’d have chosen had I not been already bought into the three-course set menu by this point, but I expect most people would’ve been happy with it. Think cannoli with a possibly excessive amount of peanuts and varying flavours of ice cream. That’s over-simplifying the dish, but it’s how I remember it.
Possibly more important than all of this, however, was the service. One of my friends was (and still is) pregnant, and needed quite a lot of menu adjustments to accommodate her. All of this was no problem, and neither was my mushroom hatred nor my other friend’s change of heart about her order. What’s more, they brought us a jug of tap water without trying to sell in expensive Spa Blauw as so often happens at high-end restaurants in Amsterdam. (Note to self: I need to write a post that names and shames the places that refuse to serve tap water.)
Kaagman & Kortekaas is somewhere I’d happily bring work colleagues for a leaving do, a group of friends for a dinner splurge, or really anyone I wanted to impress with food without the atmosphere being either pretentious or overly romantic. Full marks!
With your other half: La Cacerola
La Cacerola, on the other hand, is somewhere I accidentally took my (male) client… and then realised it was far too romantic for a work situation! Housed in an equally typical Amsterdam building, the restaurant uses the traditional brickwork to its candlelit advantage. It’s small, cosy and ideal for a table for two – provided that you know the second person fairly intimately.
It was a little unclear to me whether the menu items were supposed to be shared or not, but I could’ve easily eaten three by myself. They’re all smallish – somewhere between a starter and a main – and you can order as many or as few as you like. We got a selection, including these silky calamari (above) stuffed with arroz negro and served with a sweet red pepper sauce; a pumpkin “stack” gratinated with a rich, creamy cheese topping (below – possibly my favourite, though it doesn’t sound as exciting as it tasted); and duck breast served with a wintry celeriac mash and warm pears.
They specialise in churrasco de picanha – a Brazilian-style steak that cuts like butter and melts in your mouth in much the same way. I would’ve expected a little more of it for the price, but the flavour was superb. And perhaps smaller portions are better where romance is concerned anyway 😉