How do we judge “the best” restaurants in Amsterdam? Is it the place with the most Michelin stars? The hottest chef? The chicest menu?
Our first measure is setting: after all, you’re in Amsterdam, so you want to feel like you’re in Amsterdam, and not in some anonymous metropolis.
Our measure is flavour: if the food is consistently fresh, fascinating, and complex, the restaurant makes it to our list.
Then there’s our special test, circa 2018: the yuzu test. If we want to know if a restaurant is trendy, we look for yuzu. Because yuzu is “it” right now. (Don’t panic if you’ve never heard of
it: yuzu is a Japanese lemon valued for its property of staying lemony-tasting—i.e., sour—at high cooking temperatures.)
So, let’s put a sampling of Amsterdam’s finest restaurants to the yuzu test:
If you’re looking for the “fancy” dinner at the hotel De L’Europe Amsterdam, it’s the Michelin-starred restaurant Bord’Eau you want (and not the Brasserie). The atmosphere will either thrill or bore you: Bord’Eau fronts a canal, and it’s more or less on street level. We think it’s fun and vibrant, but it ain’t traditionally super-glamorous: the fanciness is arguably where it should be—lavished on the food.
Does Bord’Eau pass the yuzu test? Absolutely: how does Thai shrimp consommé with yuzu sound? We think it represents the essence of Bord’Eau: modern, interesting, and focused on the food.
(2) The White Room
You’ll find more fancy dining at the Krasnapolsky Hotel’s top-drawer eatery, the White Room. While the name suggests the restaurant could be as spare as an Agnes Martin painting, the White Room isn’t: it’s more like Versailles—white and gold, with an emphasis on high ceilings.
So, how does the White Room fare on the yuzu test? You’d be hard-pressed to find out, because their website is bereft of menus (you’ll find only the prices). When we hot-footed it over there, the concierge kindly answered the question “What’s for dinner?” by handing over the goods—the menu, that is, not the food. We saw duck breast, langoustine, oysters, and—you guessed it—the tart flavor of yuzu.
(3) Ciel Bleu
Lo and behold, it’s another hotel restaurant, this one the twin-starred Ciel Bleu on the 23rd floor of the Okura Hotel, Amsterdam. Now, the question of the view can be as controversial as Brexit: some say the panorama is fantastic, some call it “meh.” We say Ciel Bleu’s views are subjective, a referendum on whether or not you like the look of Amsterdam.
What about the yuzu test? Yuzu isn’t on the menu, but it’s nothing to cry about: Ciel Bleu has its sites set on something fancier: caviar. Yes, they have Beluga, yes, the have the nutty-flavored Osserta, and if you resent caviar or couldn’t care less, they have a caviar-free menu called Guestronomy. Indeed, the food is fabulous—and so is the staff at Ciel Bleu’s sense of humor…