The Dutch horeca industry has suffered from so many lockdowns and partial lockdowns over the past two years that trying to write my annual “Best of…” or “Top 10” roundup has been something of a challenge. Last year, I ended up skipping it completely because it just didn’t feel right. This year, therefore, I’m publishing a bumper edition of my 15 favourite restaurants in Amsterdam during 2020 and 2021. As usual, this list is simply one person’s opinion. These restaurants aren’t necessarily new – they’re just places that I discovered or particularly valued during the past two years. This blog is unsponsored and independent, so you can trust that these opinions are my own.
With that being said, if you’d like to support objective food writing, consider downloading my Amsterdam restaurant guide. Updated annually, it costs about the same as a flat white in Amsterdam these days, and helps keep this website online. Thanks for reading!
Top 15 Amsterdam Restaurants 2020 and 2021
1. Wils: wood-fired fine dining
Wils was the last restaurant I visited before second lockdown (in October 2020) and the first I visited once indoor dining was allowed again (in June 2021). The restaurant offers a fixed menu of six courses plus a wine arrangement, which means you’re probably going to sink about €300 on dinner for two, but it’s well worth it – not least because the style of cooking is something I’d never come across in Amsterdam before. The chefs cook over wood fire, but also over smoking hay, burning embers and whatever else they can set alight. Be sure to book a “kitchen table” (rather than a “classic table”) for the best views of the chefs at work. Perhaps my favourite dish from the first time I visited involved langoustines that were seared for mere seconds in burning beef tallow – heated in conical metal contraptions in the very pit of the fire. The flavour was epic, especially when paired with smoked cabbage, finely diced apple and orange blossom-infused brioche buns. From that dish alone, I knew we were in for a treat. Wils has got special occasion written all over it.
2. Box Sociaal: Aussie brunch and international dining
Run by Antipodeans, Box Sociaal is known for its brunch, but during the pandemic their Box on Tour takeaway packages kept me sane. And they kept the world-tour tradition alive since then with some creative pop-up events during the summer. But back to brunch: Box Sociaal does an egg-cellent line in the usual suspects from eggs Benedict to breakfast sandwiches, but they also have some more creative menu items like the Belshazar’s Feast and the Dutch Rarebit. Pictured here is the Eggs Benny & the Jets with added ham, in which all elements were well executed. Located in the underserved Plantage neighbourhood, Box Sociaal is a great way to start your weekend.
3. Kop van Oost: neighbourhood gem
A lockdown favourite of two good friends of mine (they highly rated their takeaway meals), Kop van Oost in the flesh is just as good if not better. Perched on the water overlooking the Brouwerij ‘t IJ windmill, the terrace offers fantastic waterfront views and is a great spot to take visitors. As for the food, it’s above average for its price point: mackerel ceviche was firm and fleshy, with tart citrus balanced by sweet potato and crunchy quinoa. The burrata was an interesting take on a caprese salad, with a mild tomato and pepper salsa topped with a crispy tostada. And the dorade came with pleasantly smoky eel sauce, seaside-tasting marsh samphire and a toasty crunch of hazelnuts. A local gem in the heart of Oost.
4. Bam Boa: pan-Pacific fusion food
My first experience with Bam Boa was in summer 2019, when I walked in with a friend, sat down at a table, and was ignored for 20 minutes. We left. I didn’t plan to repeat that mistake, until a friend told me he’d picked up the sharing menu from Bam Boa during first lockdown and loved it. Knowing that I wasn’t going to have to deal with any shoddy service this time, I gamely ordered the same thing online and picked it up half an hour later. And I’m extremely glad I gave Bam Boa that second chance. For under €60 for two people, you’ll get a reusable bag stuffed with half a dozen savoury pan-Pacific dishes – both cold and warm – plus bread, cassava chips & dips, dessert, a candle and even a QR code for a playlist. I particularly liked the piquancy of the ceviche, the moreish dressing on the spinach salad, and the melt-in-your-mouth succulence of the Korean BBQ beef. We were so full by the end of rounds one and two that we kept our desserts for the next day. Excellent value for money and delicious to boot.
5. Alba: natural wines and bites
With the unfortunate timing of opening right before first lockdown, Alba on the Wibautstraat has been making up for lost time ever since. The restaurant’s extensive, leafy terrace is perfect for corona-savvy outdoor dining, with umbrellas, heaters and blankets to make it as cosy as possible. There’s a varied menu of natural, organic wines by the glass, which the servers will let you taste before you decide if you ask nicely. But for those who fancy themselves as sommeliers, there’s an expansive list of wines by the bottle to select from. On the food front, Alba is hard to categorise. We tried a perfectly devilled egg, which felt classically French, but later had a Japanese-style slow-cooked egg with a sort of curried mousse. Continuing the fusion theme, we ate ultra-fresh peas with tofu and crispy chilli oil, side by side with ricotta gnocchi and courgette. And finished up with hanger steak with spiced sweet potato puree and chipotle dressing. A perfect fusion of thoughtful dishes and natural wines.
For more wine recommendations, read my Best Amsterdam Restaurants for Wine AND Food article or download my Amsterdam restaurant guide.
6. Momenti: Italian fine dining
Combining tradition with creativity on the Herenstraat, Momenti is not your average Amsterdam Italian restaurant. The evening I visited (in early 2020) Momenti was offering four fixed menus, each with a different theme – traditional, creative, vegetarian and truffle – and seasonally changing dishes. We kicked off with a board laden with regional charcuterie “Cinta Senese” and cheeses, all of which were excellent but I especially enjoyed the truffle-laced pecorino. The trompe l’oeil “Tonno Tonnato” was a take on the traditional vitello tonnato: in this case, pork that resembled tuna, with a sauce of mayonnaise, capers and anchovies. Ravioli with truffle was rich and decadent, while another version of ravioli stuffed with wild boar and topped with chocolate sauce and candied orange peel was not one for the purists but certainly worth tasting. The tricks of the eye continued at dessert, with tiramisu-inspired flavours that had been fashioned to look like a mushroom. Momenti’s service was warm and professional, and the atmosphere felt special without being stuffy.
7. PizzaLab: modern Neapolitan pizza
Opening in May 2021 in the Zuidas, PizzaLab is on a mission to take an incredibly accessible product and do it well, but leave room for experimentation (hence the “lab” in the name). The menu is therefore split between classics with a twist and more daring seasonal creations. High on the innovation scale is PizzaLab’s “Adventure of a Cetara Anchovy” pizza, which has neither a white nor a red sauce base but a green one: made with friarielli (sometimes known as Neapolitan broccoli) to create an entirely new visual and flavour experience. Equally popular (and delicious) is the XXXNduja, made with spicy ‘nduja from Spilinga, salami from Ventricina, burrata from an award-winning cheesemaker in Putignano, organic San Marzano tomatoes, and sweeter yellow tomatoes from Piennolo – taking hyper-local Italian ingredients but using them to create something a little leftfield. Not one for the purists, but definitely worth a visit for the rest of us!
8. Night Kitchen: Tel Aviv restaurant and bar
It’s hard to categorise Night Kitchen, as they dabble in the general Mediterranean area as well as the Middle East. Yes, you’ll find plenty of za’atar, labneh and sumac, but you’ll also find Italian-style gnudi, French-style mussels and Portuguese-style octopus. Luckily for us, they do all these things (and more) extremely well. On an autumnal evening, Night Kitchen is a cosy spot to prop up the bar with a perfectly mixed cocktail, and then wander through to the restaurant with its dark split-tone walls, copper pots and hanging plants. Your best bet is to order the shareable “dinner with friends” and relax while dish after dish appears on your table. My favourites were possibly the celeriac with feta, za’atar and pistachio, as well as the octopus with spinach, potatoes, smoked paprika and yoghurt. But fish lovers will also highly rate the grilled sardines and the seabass sashimi. The excellent natural wines are easy to pair with the dishes, too.
9. D&A Hummus Bistro: Middle Eastern mezze
During lockdown, D&A Hummus Bistro was one of my go-to takeaways, and it was a winner every time. When I’m craving comfort food, there’s nothing better than a pile of warm pitas and assorted yumminess to dip them in. We’ve tried the hummus with chicken (a surprising combination that oddly worked), the siniya (a minced lamb and tahini dish), the roasted aubergine, crispy falafel balls and more that I can’t remember. When not in lockdown, D&A Hummus Bistro has three locations that you can visit to satiate your hunger for hummus.
10. BARDAK: Israeli street food and cocktails
Staying on the Middle Eastern theme, BARDAK is a fantastic little bar/restaurant in de Pijp for cocktails and Israeli street food (if it’s possible to eat street food while seated in a restaurant). As well as the tasty yet unpronounceable Oaxaca Delight (a tequila, lime and pineapple concoction that was, indeed, delightful), we tried several dishes: Aubergine was pleasantly smoky, with crunchy nuts and seeds, creamy yoghurt and fragrant dill – a good combination of tastes and textures. The arais were flavour pockets of minced-beef pita, served with three contrasting dipping sauces – tahini, green chilli and herb sauce, and amba (a sort of pickled mango condiment). Fried cauliflower with lemon and tahini was about as moreish as it sounds (definitely one for the Ottolenghi generation), while chicken thighs with freekeh came with more tahini and had a similarly lemony flavour profile. A cracking night out for when nights out are allowed again.
11. Oleg Pelmeni Bar: from Russia with love
Oleg Pelmeni Bar is Amsterdam’s only Russian restaurant (I think), and as such I was curious to try it. The menu features cold shareable things, other cold dishes, warm dishes, and of course pelmeni – Russia’s answer to the global dumpling phenomenon. I’d suggest you try at least one dish from each of the four parts of the menu. My favourites included pea tempura with horseradish cream – which was like a restaurant version of wasabi peas – and mackerel tacos, whose shell was made from fermented celery root and which came with a spicy, creamy sauce that had a proper kick to it. As for the pelmeni themselves, we tried two versions: the first came stuffed with beef and a creamy, nutty, mustardy sauce; the second was stuffed with fermented aubergine and came with a tinglingly tart sauce of berries and cream, drizzled with a herb oil. The wine list is all about natural wines and if you’re a newbie (as we were), I suggest you start on the “Evolution” side of the menu, as opposed to the “Revolution” side. We loved the Italian red that we picked – majestically named “Nero Capitano” – with its satisfying balance of fruity vs. farmyard-y. The food is reasonably priced for the quality, and the service is helpful and accommodating.
12. Biscuit Baby: southern fried chicken
Moving west now to the Americas… Biscuit Baby’s fried chicken is hands-down the best I’ve ever tasted in Amsterdam. The chicken itself is moist and succulent, with a lightly fried coating and an optional but fabulous hot spice mix applied to it. Plus, it comes with hot honey, which is the bomb. Because Biscuit Baby is in the business of southern fried chicken, most menu items come with biscuits – which are self-explanatory if you’re American and are like savoury scones if you’re everyone else. Impressively, the biscuits are pillowy soft but don’t fall apart the minute you bite into them. The only downside is that Biscuit Baby is currently a pop-up on Saturday and Sunday lunchtimes – and that’s it. At the time of writing, they’re at Café Scrapyard and are only offering takeaway. The lack of eat-in tables makes this a challenge if you don’t live in West, as it was tricky to eat all that food on a bench by the canal. Keep an eye on Biscuit Baby’s social media, however, as locations can change quickly.
13. Coba: Mexican tacos and more
Hipster, industrial Amsterdam Noord has become the unofficial capital of Mexican food in the city. At Coba, you’ll find a fiercely strong margarita as well as a range of off-the-beaten-path tacos, tostadas and more. The veal tongue tacos were my favourite, while Mr Foodie’s favourites were the black pudding on blue corn tortillas. But the carnitas tacos were fantastic too, with melt-in-the-mouth tender pork belly. While all the dishes were perfectly seasoned and sauced, we also received three salsas in little jars on the table, all of which were excellent and deliciously different – plus, Coba’s chefs were blissfully unafraid of chilli heat! For some reason, no one would bring us any cutlery, which made it rather difficult to eat the tostadas and tetelas (corn masa stuffed pockets), both of which fell apart almost as soon as I touched them. But messy hands were a small price to pay for what was undoubtedly some of the city’s best Mexican food.
14. The Indian Kitchen: creative curries
In February 2020, about a month before first lockdown, The Indian Kitchen served me by far the best Indian food I’d experienced in the Netherlands – and I’ve been desperate to go back to their restaurant in Amstelveen ever since. To start, we tried the Hara Bhara Paneer Tikka: a skewer of paneer cheese and vegetables, grilled in the tandoori oven and served with a mint and coriander dipping sauce. It sounds simple, but you could taste the tandoori grill in the cheese, while the sauce tasted every bit as fresh and green as it looks. For main courses, we chose the Murgh Makhni, which described itself as “proudly known as butter chicken worldwide”, and the Pindi Channa – a type of chickpea curry. But neither of those descriptions do the dishes justice at all. We’d been asked if we wanted the curries spicy, so naturally we said yes, and for once these genuinely were. Laced with small but potent green chillies, they blew our heads off but never to the detriment of the flavour. We cooled our mouths down with perfectly cooked rice and the lightest, crispiest garlic naan I’ve eaten this side of the channel. A veritable Indian feast.
15. Dutch DabbaWala: tasty takeaway
I’m not saying that the chefs at Dutch DabbaWala only serve takeaway – I’m sure they’ve got a perfectly nice restaurant. It’s just that I’ve only (so far) ordered delivery from them. And it’s been fabulous every time. Possibly my favourite, their Chicken Charminar is brilliantly spiced, creamy with cashew and studded with nigella seeds. DabbaWala’s Lamb Madras, on the other hand, is somehow fruity and freshly fragrant with mint, while their Bangain Bharta is smooth and smoky, and their Kashmiri Lal Paneer features fried paneer with a rich, tomato-based sauce. Everything can be ordered spicy, medium or mild (well, possibly not everything, but most things). I have an extremely high tolerance for chilli, and can attest that the hottest version is nuclear – you have been warned!