This week is restaurant week in the Netherlands. This twice yearly event is a great opportunity to find and try out new restaurants, as well as revisit some classics, without denting your wallet too much.
On Tuesday, I ventured south for some new discoveries. Firstly, I happened across this huge golden turtle being ridden by a man in an Elvis suit (the Vegas years). I only discovered it because I’ve managed to wrench my arm, and I was on the tram. Had I been using my usual form of transport (bike) I would actually have come a different way. A bit of a google later, and I have discovered that this is “Searching for Utopia”, by Jan Fabre, and apparently the man in the Elvis suit is the artist himself. It was a part of the last biennial artzuid sculpture trail. Apparently, the locals love it so much, that they are having a bit of a whip round so that the can purchase it. I really quite like this idea, and I hope they get to keep the sculpture. Sadly, this is quite far off the beaten track for many tourists, but the locals clearly enjoy it.
The second discovery was As, on the border of the Beatrix Park. Set in a circular room, and set up like a wheel, this is a restaurant that trades on its sustainable principles. I went along with a group of friends to take advantage of the restaurant week deal. It also meant that I could eat meat in this restaurant.
I may have mentioned before that I am not a vegetarian, but I do not really eat a lot of meat. There are many reasons for this, which include climate change, waste and welfare concerns, not to mention cost. When I do eat meat (in which I include fish – nothing irritates me more than asking for a veggie option and being offered a tuna sandwich, it brings out the worst in me, and I become really scathing) it has to be sustainable. I often describe myself as a fussitarian, because I hold the principles of local, seasonal, and sustainable food dear. This is not to say that I am difficult to feed, far from it. If I am a guest, I will eat whatever is put in front of me, but when I have a choice, I like to choose wild game, freshwater fish (not farmed), or organic meat. This is because welfare and environmental concerns are important to me. If I can not get this, I will simply eat vegetarian. I mostly eat veggie food at home too.
The set menu at As had a meat or a veggie option, and they were very happy to accommodate one of us who couldn’t eat cheese. There were four courses to choose from, or you could have all four.The waiting staff were also very friendly and patient. I arrived late due to a snarl up with the trams, but this did not really phase the waiter, neither did the fact that we stayed chatting and left long after the other lunch time patrons. Service in Holland can often be abrupt, and pretty blunt, so it was a really pleasant change to be helped through our choices, and not to be snapped at.
We chose to have three courses, and forewent the starter of a red cabbage, beet and red onion salad. Instead we had the fish course, main and dessert. I think this was a great choice, since I am not at all keen on beetroot, and I object to the habit of putting raw onion into lunch time meals. Who wants to go breathing onion fumes on friends and colleagues for the rest of the day?
(c) A. Dawe 2012
Of course, I managed to forget my camera, but luckily there were no shortage of smart phones, so my friends were happy to help out with shots.
We started with ravioli of crab. This was a good dish, they used the white meat only, and made a stuffing with this and some very finely chopped carrots and fennel. The pasta was thin, and the sliced raw fennel on the top was a great accompaniment. It sat in a very well done bisque, that was not too overpowering and oily, as some of them can be. It was very well-balanced, the only thing that I could not detect was the lemon oil, but it didn’t matter.
(c) A. Dawe 2012
The main course was just beautiful. It was an excellently braised organic duck leg, which was neither too dry or too fatty. The braise was Chimay beer and mustard, which was subtle, and really brought out an almost smoky quality in the duck. Served on white beans, leeks and delicately cooked cabbage, I could have eaten two of these. A truly excellent dish. And my friend took a great photo of it too, which is no easy task for brown food!
We were talking and enjoying the food so much that we didn’t get a photo of the dessert. Most of us had an Eccles cake served with a wedge of Lancashire cheese. It sounded odd, but actually worked well. The cheese was a very good Lancashire, which was sourced from the UK. A little surprising, considering the Dutch love of their own cheese, but actually the crumbly texture and the sourness was a good foil for the Eccles cake. I have not yet come across a similar Dutch cheese, so this was a good choice.
One friend had a slice of pecan pie, which looked a lot more like a treacle tart to me, as there were more rich, treacley breadcrumbs than pecan nuts. However, I am not American, and not all that familiar with this dessert, so it could be that this is a more normal incarnation of the dish than the one that I tried. In any case, she enjoyed it, and it was good that they were accommodating for her.
With a good atmosphere, even for a lunch time, and lovely waiting staff, we really enjoyed our meal at As, and the food sang for itself. I like the restaurant a lot, and will definitely be back.
As with all restaurants participating in restaurant week, the lunch was €22.50 for three courses, but I will be interested to see what sort of prices they have for à la carte.
At first, I thought s was an odd name for a restaurant, but it turns out that unlike most places you are not left thinking “as if” about any part of the experience!
Prinses Irenestraat 19
1077 WT Amsterdam
T: 020 6440100