I took a fairly momentous decision recently. I’d technically been freelancing for three years, but in practice I spent 75% of my time working for one food tours company for whom I was on a monthly retainer. And then I decided to quit. It might sound odd for an avid foodie to throw in the towel on what sounded kinda like the dream job… But after three years, several management changes and a few creative differences, it was time to move on while we were all still friends. And so, as of the beginning of March, I officially had no idea where my next pay cheque was coming from. I decided this newfound uncertainty was better celebrated than feared, and so I did what I always do: drank bubbles and went out for dinner.
Amsterdam restaurant Jacobsz
Better still, for the purposes of a newly unemployed freelancer, one of my dinners was free! I’d heard about restaurant Jacobsz from some other foodies, and it had been open for around six months (long enough to iron out any kinks), so I was quite happy when they invited me over to Amsterdam Oost/Watergraafsmeer to review the food. I was even happier when I met our waitress: she smiled more than the very cheeriest of Cheshire cats. Had I been in a bad mood (which I wasn’t), it couldn’t have lasted – my mouth was compelled to smile right back. And this from the girl whose father used to tell her she’d never get a boyfriend if she kept frowning so much (thanks Dad).
We kicked off with Jacobsz’s signature cocktail: a martini glass full of lemon curd and egg white. In a good way – that’s what I tasted but I assume there was some booze in there as well. Munching on a fancy radish-miso-esque amuse, we perused the menu. I plumped for the pork belly with kale, onion jelly and potato mousse. The flavours were perfectly balanced, and the pork belly divine. My only criticism would be that the rest of the ingredients were as cold as the plate, and I think the dish would’ve worked better if all its constituent parts had been as warm as the pork belly.
My main was skrei, termed as “winter cod” and (Google tells me) Norwegian in origin. It was served with what can only be described as mini Thai fishcakes (tasting of shrimp, lemongrass and kaffir lime), a wafer-thin prawn cracker, and a sauce made of similarly Southeast Asian-fusion ingredients. Oh, and shiitake mushrooms, which I tried and failed to get along with once again – not Jacobsz’s fault, I just can’t be eating the dreaded paddestoelen.
Dessert was particularly interesting (and not in the British sense of the word). A creative take on a red velvet cake came with carrot ice cream and a slick anemone of rose and hibiscus. Meanwhile, a rhubarb tart was encased in black cardamom pastry and served with black liquorice ice cream. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but heaven if you’re a fan of Dutch drop! After dinner, we took a tour of the rest of the building (they have a huge upstairs dining area for large groups) and contemplated getting a hotel in Watergraafsmeer when we looked at the pouring rain outside and considered our 8 km journey home. Then we remembered I don’t have a job…
Amsterdam restaurant Apostrof
Meanwhile, closer to home, I went to check out Apostrof – another relative newcomer in the spot that restaurant PS used to occupy. Side note: PS used to have very cool signs for male and female on the doors of their restaurant toilets. Curiously, Apostrof has painted over them and there are now no signs at all! Cue confused-looking diners wondering which bathroom to enter and getting slightly scared to see a member of the opposite sex on their way out…
Bathroom confusion aside, the food and wine are good – every bit as good as Jacobsz and with comparable prices: three courses at Apostrof cost €35; at Jacobsz €32. They both offer up to five or six courses, but having eaten at both I’m not sure how I’d fit all that in (and I have a pretty big appetite). Apostrof’s salt cod with kale, aioli and a salt cod brandade (think bitterbal filled with pulled white fish) was excellent, and managed to just about stay on the side of not-too-salty.
Fillet steak was juicy; beef short rib a little dry. They came with fondant potatoes, carrots, celery and a slightly mushroomy jus (again, not Apostrof’s fault that I’m a mushroom hater). Cheese instead of dessert was included within the three-course menu (which I was happy about – it always annoys me having to pay extra for cheese) and was a decent spread of a few different varieties that went well with our bottle of Ribera del Duero.
This time, I was paying and dinner came to around €60 each including tip (we ordered a lot of wine); I imagine the bill at Jacobsz would’ve been very similar.