6th Visit: Lunch Saturday 8th July 2017
(15.75 / 20) One of the better casual fine dining spots in Amsterdam serving uncontroversial fare with the odd moment of brilliance. Despite now having a star, if you come here expecting Michelin-style food you may well be disappointed. Irrespective, it stays high on my list of recommendations in town, especially for those looking for good price/quality, in a very central location, and where it’s usually possible to get a table.
(Click on the score to see the rating system and why I write these reviews!)
€€€€€ 3 course lunch €37 / 6 course dinner €67.5
1 Michelin star since 2017
Let me start by saying I like this restaurant. It has been one of our go-to casual fine dining spots for years, it’s very close to home (even closer now), and always serves decent food with consistently helpful and enthusiastic service. Now, in spite of being regular diners both at their guest chef events and otherwise being very fond of it, I must admit I was somewhat surprised this year that Michelin granted it a star. Rijks had after all been well-known (and awarded) for having an excellent price/quality point, and this was not only in keeping with the casual style of the restaurant but also with its prime location for picking up informal passing tourist trade.
Well thankfully by our second visit after the unexpected award nothing much has changed; It’s still very casual, the food simple and uncontroversial, and if prices have gone up it can’t have been by much. Quite what the restaurant has to do with Michelin is beyond me, but that’s not of any great relevance to this review – to me it’s still one of the better casual fine dining spots in town, star or no star.
The amuse came out. We had actually booked a restaurant in Rotterdam for lunch but as the morning unfolded we realised we just didn’t have time to get all the way there and back without being in a mad sweaty rush, so had cancelled and opted for a more local meal. Despite being very popular with tourists and locals alike, given Rijks has about 150 covers and on a sunny day opens up the terrace, it’s usually possible to get a table even when super last-minute. This time we broke even our early-bird record and were the first to arrive just as they were opening at 11:30. For those of you in still standing in Spain, yes you read that right… we were having lunch before midday. Sadly however it seemed the restaurant hadn’t quite got into the swing of things quite so early: The spherical pancake bites we were served felt like they had wanted to stay on the heat for a few more minutes to set properly, the sliced loaf plonked unceremoniously on the table tasted like it had pulled an all-nighter on a countertop, and we had to wait 10 mins between my glass of fizz turning up and Nadya’s mohito gracing us with its presence. Each time we were visited at the table is was by someone different.
Thankfully when we were finally allocated a single waiter things drastically improved and we settled down to see what was on the set lunch. Nadya started with a zingy Gazpacho of green tomato with melon, tomato and Dutch Blaarkop cheese. It was a pretty decent though also rather unremarkable bistro plate, served fresh and at a sensible temperature for a hot day.
To follow appeared a version of the now omnipresent vegetarian dish – the salt-crust-baked root vegetable (this time a swede). It was everything that this form of preparation should be; Juicy, intensely flavoured and still with a little bite. The addition of Texel cheese added a richness and roundness which was cleverly counterbalanced with the grassy notes of lovage and astringent currant on the front of the tongue. All in all an accomplished vegetarian dish.
Meanwhile I started my less veggie plates. First up a beautiful srping roll of scallop and lobster and enoki mushroom. It was light and delicately flavoured, with the clever spring roll wrapping having itself the texture of paper-thin squid. The sauce too was very moreish though the lobster itself was lost and overall the dish lacked some punch.
Getting meatier I moved on to a dish of slow braised beef cheeks with textures of onion. The beef was very well cooked – still holding together but eatable with a spoon, it was moist and well seasoned with none of that stringiness that can sometime appear in a long beef braise. The onion puffs were also delicious and gave interesting texture, though the multicoloured concoctions to garnish were indistinct. The orange version definitely had notes of pepper, but I was left wondering what the green was supposed to be and couldn’t at that precise moment find a waiter to ask. Over all another ok bistro dish.
My fourth course was one of these half-sweet half-savoury efforts that have been appearing on menus of late. A clever play on tzatziki, it had strained yogurt, a perfect sorbet of dill, marinated cucumber and a delicious meringue wafer. This was one of the better dishes I’ve eaten all year. Simple, delicious, very cleverly concieved and perfectly balanced for sweetness, acidity, texture and mouthfeel. It was at once the greek classic and yet also something very modern, very new and very exciting. You see what I mean about moments of brilliance?
To finish we shared a banquet-style desert of rice pudding in a tartlet base with some strawberry and pretty decent elderflower sorbet. Whilst again it was perfectly good to eat, something about the pastry case just screamed mass catering to me. And of course that is to some extent what is going on when you have 150 covers for lunch including hiuge tables of 20 tourists at once. Indeed if you look back at the dishes above, every single one of them wouldn’t seem out-of-place on an event menu; Easy to prepare in advance, simple garnish, nothing cooked to order. Sometimes simple, quick and uncontroversial is what fits the bill, and this was one of those times.
1071 XX Amsterdam
Tel: +31 (0)20 – 6747 555