I’ve written essays about meat restaurants… volumes about fish restaurants… lengthy tomes about vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Amsterdam… But of course every week, every day – every meal, in fact – is a new eating opportunity. And as an omnivore, I simply can’t keep up. Recently, I’ve discovered a great new BBQ restaurant, a casual neighbourhood seafood bar, and a cosy romantic spot that would be perfect for vegetarians with omnivorous partners. Unable to choose which angle to focus on, I bring you all three: Amsterdam restaurants for every taste and occasion!
Meat restaurant: Carnivore Smoke BBQ
A few months ago, I said that if you’re looking for good BBQ in Amsterdam you should stop wasting your time and head straight to Pendergast (or pop over to my roof terrace on any given sunny weekend). While there are places aplenty selling good meat, there are very few serving real low ‘n slow BBQ… so I was thrilled for my Amsterdam Zuid counterparts when I discovered Carnivore Smoke BBQ. Their pork ribs were top notch, their pulled pork a little heavy on BBQ sauce but good in texture, their beef ribs not quite as good as the flat ribs we smoked a few weeks ago but tasty nonetheless, and their brisket a close second to Pendergast’s.
I liked Carnivore’s sides too: coleslaw was traditional and well made; cornbread was moist and sweet; mac ‘n cheese was good and cheesy (although the cheese on the top would’ve benefited from being browned up in the oven); and the porky beans were excellent in flavour, albeit the sauce could’ve been thicker. The bill came to €43 each, including plenty of full-bodied, muscular Malbec. In short, Pendergast finally has some competition in the south: Carnivore isn’t quite up there yet, but it’s definitely on its way…
Fish restaurant: The Walrus & the Carpenter
Meanwhile, the pescatarians among you will appreciate The Walrus & the Carpenter in the up-and-coming Indischebuurt. After kicking off with a generous G&T, we cracked on with half a dozen oysters (fresh and zingy on the half shell, as they should be) followed by a two-tiered platter of fruits de mer.
The latter was unusual in that it featured both the usual cold seafood (on ice on the bottom tier) as well as hot mussels, clams and razor clams on the top tier. The cold section included more oysters, a fresh and spicy octopus salad, meaty crab claws, sesame-marinated just-seared tuna with seaweed salad, and shell-on king prawns. The whole lot came with a not overly sweet thousand island dipping sauce and crusty bread. Our bill came to €50 each, but bear in mind we had both G&Ts as aperitif and plenty of wine, so the drinks made up a significant chunk of the price. Top tip: every weekend, the Walrus puts on Happy Oyster Hour during which oysters are just €1 each!
Don’t leave the Walrus without checking out the loos: in the ladies, you’ll find photos of hot guys in fishing gear (think Brad Pitt and his fishing rod about 20 years ago); I have no idea what you’ll find in the gents – possibly mermaids!
Omnivorous/vegetarian restaurant: Meneer de Wit Heeft Honger
In the meat department, lamb sweetbreads came with caramelised baby onions and a delicate jus (excellent, although we mistook lamsballen on the menu for lamb meatballs and not literally testicles! Still, no harm done…). Coquelet (much like a poussin) was marinated in lemon and herbs and served with soaked raisins. Also very good, except for I somehow confused it with rabbit on the menu – strike two against me on our anniversary dinner!
For dessert, we shared a cherry clafoutis, which was the only disappointment of the evening. I’ve made dozens of clafoutis in my life (mostly because they’re extremely easy) and this one was far heavier and more floury than it should’ve been. Dinner came to €55 each, including a bottle of very drinkable Sangiovese.
While I have absolutely no idea who Meneer de Wit is (the chef is called Simo Bouabgha, so it can’t be him), I do believe that places like Meneer de Wit Heeft Honger are the future of Amsterdam restaurants. Not only is it an excellent choice of venue to take small groups of friends who may be a mixture of vegetarians and omnivores – it also encourages those of us who want to eat less meat to order a more sustainable alternative from the menu.