By Nick Nugent
David from Anglo Info had put me on to this one. I had also heard about it in the pub while watching the rugby. So with two recommendations I had to try it out. Sunday is the new Saturday for me as my girlfriend works on Saturday evenings, so the choice of restaurants is a bit more limited. Luckily Daalder is open.
The concept is simple. There is no menu. You just choose the number of courses you want and they will create a surprise menu for you. This for me requires a bit of negotiation at the start. In this sort of place, unless it is a special occasion, I would usually go for 3-4 courses. However, I always worry I might miss out on something, as I like to have meat and a fish dish as part of the meal. This involves asking what the fish is likely to be, how many courses I need to take to get it, and whether there are some major dislikes. I think in total it may have taken 10-15 to get the ordering done, which is not unusual for me. As my booking was last minute, they only had a place for us at the bar. It was beautifully set out with a proper place setting, so I did not care too much. The other benefit of the higher vantage point is you can see them delivering the food and preparing the drinks. The preparation of the coffee at the end was a sight. It involved five pieces of Tupperware, with little sweet things that were removed from their storage one at a time and replaced after each little sweet thing reached the platter to go with the coffee. Lots of effort, but I get too far ahead of myself.
On sitting, we took a Cava to start. Which was closely followed by an amuse of Kroepoek of pecorino with mustard that was delightfully melt-in-the-mouth tasty.
In the end, we ordered four courses and asked if they could pair with wines. I had been looking at the wine menu before the visit. It’s small but has some excellent choices. I had my eye on a Vouvray, which I was hoping would be paired with the fish course.
There was another amuse of tomato sorbet topped with pesto, parmesan foam and tomato powder. My notes say – boom, boom, boom. This was concerning the flavours they achieved with this dish, which were massive.
The starter was steak tartar Arabian style, which was very spicy. It was too big, but with exquisite flavour. Even though I’m a spice lover, my palette was almost destroyed by the chilli in this dish. Nevertheless, it’s great to get some flavour in Amsterdam! The steak tartar was paired with a Faubel Riesling. I think the sommelier, who was not there, was aiming for the classic slightly sweet Riesling to go with spicy foods. For me, this did not work with the dish, which needed more savoury notes to balance and this just was not present in the wine.
The fish course was sea bass fillet with raspberry coulis, radish, aioli and pomme purée. I was surprised with the great combination of raspberry with salty fish cooked to perfection. The mash was somewhat cold. I did not record the wine choice for this but again it did not have the acidity to match the raspberry and aioli.
The fish was followed by a gnocchi with reblochon cheese, onion compote and hazelnut. A sort of deconstructed tartiflette if you will. It was very flavoursome. The onion compote with a white Rioja unfortunately also did not work for me
At this point, I think I realised the sommelier seems to have a problem with more robust wine choices. Maybe their palette is too sensitive and they refuse to match the acid content with the dish preferring a smoother wine. Unfortunately, this white Rioja tasted like water with the last dish and the others missed the spot as well. So I am choosing to ignore the wine choices somewhat from this review. The staff were getting a little upset as well, with me criticising all the choices so far, so they decided to give me a couple of options with the main.
The main was a braised veal cheek with truffle risotto and shaved raw mushroom. It was a very rich dish. The veal could be eaten with a spoon and the risotto was classically prepared. We chose a Cote du Rhone, which was the best match of the night with this dish.
For dessert, we had cardamon mouse, goats cheese ice cream, citrus fruit pieces, coulis and nuts. It follows the fashion for slightly more savoury desserts, which I don’t mind at all. I rejected the Sauternes due to the potential flavour clash and ended up with a great Moscatel.
Whether you are seated at the bar or sat at a proper table, the restaurant is a beautiful place to be with its art deco styling and bird murals. There was a nice atmosphere in there, and for a proper Dutch restaurant the service was really good—even when they have a complete fusspot like yours truly. As I mentioned above, I’m going to let it go about the wine choices as that can be very personal. For me, this is the best meal that I’ve had in Amsterdam for a long time. Despite the issues, they deserve four stars. I think this is the first fours stars I have given in about six months.