When I moved to the east side of Amsterdam, I figured it was high time I updated the location categories on my restaurant finder so that Oost was no longer one, big, all-inclusive mass. I separated Watergraafsmeer into its own neighbourhood, and also split off the Plantage since it’s not technically in Oost anyway. But having done so, I realised something very strange: I hardly had any – any – restaurants in the Plantage area of my map. Why hadn’t I gone out to eat more in the Plantagebuurt? Was it because there weren’t many restaurants there? Or because I didn’t know anyone who lived in that area? I started doing some research about where to eat in the Plantage and, while the coverage of good restaurants seemed to be less than elsewhere in Amsterdam, one name kept popping up again and again. Box Sociaal. I set out to investigate…
But the first time I went to Box Sociaal was in fact for dinner, and I’m pleased to report their evening menu is just as tasty. We split a plate of halloumi fries to start, which were hot and crispy (and slightly sweet from honey and thyme), with a cooling mint-yoghurt dressing. As mains, we tried the cassoulet – which was pleasantly experimental but still close enough to its bean-based roots. It was topped with a slice of pork belly with crispy skin (you can’t go wrong there) and the beans were creamy and perfectly cooked. I didn’t get much of the Toulouse sausage coming through though, which was a shame. Meanwhile, the beef cheek was fantastic – melt-in-the-mouth and umami rich from a thick Asian-infused stock. While the rice and cucumber/daikon salad it came with were pretty plain, it didn’t matter – the beef cheek was centre stage.
Drinks-wise, Box Sociaal’s coffee and juices are excellent, and they have a decent selection of wines by the glass. They had a kimchi theme going on the evening I was there, so I also tried a kimchi cocktail. The citrus and spice was nice, although I couldn’t taste much alcohol, but I got definite garlicky notes from the kimchi. I like that they dared to be different, but unfortunately it didn’t quite work. My brunch came to €20, while dinner came to €46 – so about mid-range for Amsterdam these days. And the service was impeccable, which meant I had no problem leaving a tip either.
I’ll return to the Plantage for Box Sociaal alone. But the question still remains: where else should I eat in the Plantagebuurt? Let me know in the comments below!