Before visiting The Netherlands, I wasn’t sure what type of food the Dutch eat. I had a vague idea or two, but both ideas were pickled. Could one subsist on pickled foods alone? I truly hoped not.
For a fine-dining meal with some of the freshest ingredients available in all of Europe, check out Restaurant De Kas on your next trip to Amsterdam. Located inside of a beautiful greenhouse in Klein Dantzig Park, the restaurant grows many of its own vegetables onsite. Heading the kitchen is Michelin-star Chef Gert Jan Hageman, and, on my most recent trip to Amsterdam, he prepared an amazing feast that demonstrated what the cutting-edge culinary scene in The Netherlands is all about.
When I arrived, I discovered that many of the most traditional foods in The Netherlands are still popular today. Believe me, pickled herring is everywhere. But don’t believe the Dutch when they say that pickled herring cures hangovers (but to make sure, try it along with a snifter of aquavit, a caraway-flavored liquor typical of Scandinavia). This combination is sure to put you into a local frame of mind—one of vikings and Danish folklore.
As Restaurant De Kas soon proved, the culinary scene in The Netherlands is vying for the top seat in Europe. I can think of many restaurants in Europe that have onsite vegetable gardens but very few that are located in major cities. De Kas’s dining room is located inside of a greenhouse once used by Amsterdam’s Municipal Nursery, and you get to dine under an all-glass ceiling. Upon entering, the restaurant’s gigantic vegetable garden is just off to the left, and I found kitchen staff in crisp white uniforms collecting ingredients for the day’s menu. Each day, the menu is reinvented based on what’s available in the garden.
If you haven’t experienced it, it’s difficult to fathom the flavors that come from eating produce grown just thirty feet away. It’s vibrant and alive; almost as though you can taste the very marrow of the region you’re visiting. This was definitely the case with the first course: Rocket Soup. With unbelievably rich green color, the soup came with a hand-dived scallop on top, and hidden beneath was a delicate amount of potato salad with citrus yoghurt.
The other appetizers included Oudendijks Onion Confit on Toast with a poached egg and Parmesan cheese fondue and a Salad of Smoked Salsify and Lamb’s Lettuce with piccalilli and Iberico ham. Salsify is a root vegetable in the dandelion family, and it is known for having an oystery taste when cooked. I didn’t pick up on this at the time, but it certainly makes me want to try it again.
For the main course, Chef Hageman served Roast Guinea Fowl with baked polenta, spinach, and hazelnut sauce. The one ingredient this description leaves off is the one that absolutely blew my mind: chervil. A relative of parsley and sage, the chervil had a slight anise flavor that made everything else in the dish pop, and, thanks to De Kas, chervil will definitely become a staple in my home herb garden from now on.
Chef Hageman finished the meal with a flowery dessert of Short-Crust Pastry Tartlet with Rhubarb and White Chocolate Parfait, and it was served with pistachio mousse, yummy sugared violets, and garnished with strands of rhubarb. After an espresso, I left the restaurant and strolled along the paths in Klein Dantzig Park. Ducks and other waterfowl swam in a canal, and the sounds of Amsterdam’s busy streets reminded me that I was only a short drive from the Van Gogh Museum and The Portuguese Synagogue, one of the most beautiful synagogues in the world.
Going to Amsterdam? Here are our Editor’s picks for where to stay in Amsterdam
Written by Mattie Bamman, The Ravenous Traveler, for EuropeUpClose.com