The older I get, the faster the years seem to accelerate. At the end of last winter, I was on culinary press trips to Hamburg and Latvia (judging the Top 30 Restaurants in Latvia was a major highlight) and in spring I started work renovating my kitchen. Of course, that somehow took all summer, as every construction project does. And now here I find myself again looking out of my window at leaves on the ground, staring down the barrel of another four months of cold, damp, Amsterdam winter. I’m ready for some Christmas cheer and gluhwein, that’s for sure.
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1. Best international concept: Nomads
Every six months, the aptly named restaurant Nomads takes you on a culinary journey through a different country. The first time I visited, that journey was to Jordan, while the second time was to Portugal. There’s not much point in my detailing all the food on the menu, since by the time you go to Nomads it will likely have changed. But order the Chef’s Menu for €38.50 and thank me later – you’ll eat your way through four courses of globally inspired deliciousness (complete with wine pairings if you so choose) and leave feeling like you’ve been on a mini-holiday.
2. Best all-day concept: Little Collins West
Much like their first location in de Pijp, Little Collins West has an industrial vibe and an eclectically international menu. But it’s bigger so you should, in theory, have more chance of scoring a table. So far, I’ve popped in for both brunch and dinner: the former was as hectic as ever (Amsterdammers are still obsessed with brunch, it seems) but the latter was a more leisurely affair. Whatever time you choose to eat, cocktails, coffee and caboodles of flavour are the order of the day.
3. Best casual dining: Lion’s Head Brew Bar
Touting itself as a South African-German mashup, the Lion’s Head’s menu features Bavarian schweinshaxe (pork knuckle) and kölsch beer on the one hand, and pork belly with kimchi and fruity watermelon wheat beer on the other. Plus a smattering of American buffalo wings and Tex-Mex nachos thrown in for good measure. I’ve been to Lion’s Head several times since I discovered it, because it’s the kind of place that serves something for everyone (you could go on a date with a new squeeze or for a work do with colleagues) and its relaxed atmosphere and lovely service make it hard to resist.
4. Best fine dining: &moshik
At entirely the other end of the spectrum is two Michelin-starred &moshik, which I was lucky enough to dine at while interviewing Chef Moshik Roth for the Culture Trip. The “Inspiration Moshik” tasting menu will set you back €175 (plus a further €88 for the wine arrangement) but is well worth it for the experience if your pockets are deep enough. The chef’s signature dish – “the perfect egg” – is to die for, while other creations marry his Israeli roots with his global travels. The dish in the picture below was inspired by Damien Hirst, whose artwork adorns the walls. Need I say more?
5. Best shared dining: Yuan’s Hot Pot
In Amsterdam winter, there can be nothing more satisfying than dipping tasty morsels into a steaming pot of hot broth. And that’s the order of the day at Yuan’s Hot Pot, where you’re transported straight to Chengdu. The décor is simple to the point of utilitarian, ordering is done via iPad, there are random screens showing Chinese TV, and half the clientele look to be Asian in origin. Each table comes with a hollowed-out centre in which a pot of steaming broth appears. Most people opt to keep one half of the broth non-spicy, and to have the other half topped up with a nuclear-looking chilli paste. From there, you simply order a variety of meat, fish, veggies, noodles and all manner of other things to throw into the pot until they’re cooked and ready to eat. This is about as authentic as you’re going to get in Amsterdam.
Bonus tip: Those who love hotpots of any origin should also check out PakuPaku – a new Japanese shabu-shabu restaurant on the Beukenplein. Great for shared dining, the location features a colourful street-art theme.
6. Best brunch: Box Sociaal
Run by Antipodeans, Box Sociaal is (perhaps unsurprisingly) known for its brunch, but they serve a delicious dinner menu as well. In the daytime, they do an egg-cellent line in the usual suspects from eggs Benedict to breakfast sandwiches, but they also have some more creative-looking menu items like the yum cha waffle or what looks like a pimped-up PBJ sandwich. Pictured here is the Eggs Benny & the Jets with added ham, which was generally pretty good. One of these days someone is going to make a killing baking English muffins and selling them to every brunch joint in town, but until that happens I guess the best we can hope for is toasted sourdough. Muffin gripes aside, Box Sociaal in the underserved Plantage neighbourhood is a great way to start your weekend!
7. Best ramen in Amsterdam: Ramen Kingdom
I think I’ve had a different ramen joint on my Best Restaurants in Amsterdam lists for the last three years – but that’s because there’s now so many to choose from. Ramen Kingdom opened in early 2019 close to Centraal Station, which means you have to fight your way through the tourist crowds to reach it. But once inside, it feels like you’re 9,000 kilometres east. The restaurant – which can’t hold more than about a dozen customers seated along the kitchen counter – is adorned with artwork from Japanese manga and anime series Dragon Ball. Food-wise, I can’t recommend the spicy pork ramen enough: thin noodles with the perfect bite, caramelised char siu, oozing eggs and all the other toppings. This, foodies, this is Ramen Nirvana.
8. Best Peruvian food in Amsterdam: NAZKA
Granted I’ve never been to Peru, but I was properly, mouth-tinglingly, giddily excited about what I ate at Peruvian restaurant NAZKA in de Pijp last summer. I could’ve probably just ordered every variety of ceviche and been happy. But instead, I was glad that I branched out and tried the chef’s menu (from four courses for €51 up to six courses for €67). Iberico pork “fingers” were little chunks of porky goodness with zingy jalapeno puree and a sort of sweet-sour jelly. A smoky aubergine dish combined international flavours like American BBQ, Spanish padron peppers and Turkish yoghurt. While the chicken thigh was a veritable flavour bomb: marinated for 24 hours in rocoto peppers and served with a cooling yoghurt sauce and a shard of something crispy that tasted like cocoa. If the outstanding food isn’t enough to convince you, the authentic pisco sours and excellent wine pairings should be.
9. Best Georgian food in Amsterdam: Batoni Khinkali
I went to Batoni Khinkali as part of research I was doing for a budget restaurants article for DutchNews. And indeed, the menu is very wallet-friendly: a shareable selection of three veggie starters comes in at €6 and is probably enough for two people. So far so good, but you’re really here for the eponymous khinkali and the photogenic khachapuri. The former are the restaurant’s signature dumplings – steamed savoury dough stuffed with cheese, meat or mushrooms. The latter is calorie-tastic dish of bread, cheese, egg yolk and butter. While it sounds like a heart attack waiting to happen, it’s extremely tasty and good value, too – you can split one khachapuri for €13.50 easily between two people. Plus, Batoni Khinkali is Amsterdam’s only Georgian restaurant – so you’re likely trying something you’ve never eaten before. It’s a win-win!
10. Best Mexican food in Amsterdam: Flora
I’ve been on the hunt for the best tacos in Amsterdam for many years and I think I’ve finally found them. The people behind Best Coast Taqueria pop-ups opened a permanent location in the Bilderdijkpark in 2018, and it’s already a firm favourite. When we first visited, we naturally ordered every variety of taco on the menu. While there were two meaty ones – spicy carnitas (pulled pork) and achiote chicken – my favourite had to be the elote tacos: filled with roasted corn and refried black beans, and topped with the most incredible macha sauce. Flora also serves a couple of different quesadillas, so we tried them too. I liked the version that was stuffed with pickled cactus and topped with cheesy, creamy goodness. All the dishes came with three salsas of varying heat and intensity (I am a huge fan of the smoky pineapple) but honestly with this much flavour going on you really don’t need to add anything extra to the dishes.
Bonus tip: If you love Tex-Mex, don’t miss the loaded nachos and spicy margaritas at Parakeet in Amsterdam West. With good music, good food and good cocktails, it’s a party in your mouth!