05 Aug De Kas, Amsterdam
Whether you work in an artistic industry or not, we’ve all experienced that awe and inspiration when surprised by creative talent and hard work. For me it’s a ‘Eureka’ moment when my mind’s view expands, when new possibilities and ideas come into focus. The beauty of it is that you never know when it’s going to happen.
I have to give Mr Munch the credit for our Amsterdam dinner trip. He was spurred into action after reading Time Out’s article on top restaurants in Amsterdam and given the ease of flying there, we booked straight away. We flew from Luton and, on a quick side note, should you be in Luton there is an excellent jamón shop (Enrique Tomás) as well as the sole UK branch of Fattorie Garofalo. This well stocked Italian deli had us drooling at buffalo burrata, mozzarella, ricotta, butter and all the freshly made sandwiches, salads etc. Next time we definitely won’t bring our own sandwiches 😀
The main focus of our trip was Restaurant De Kas. Originally Amsterdam’s Municipal Greenhouse set in the lush Frankendael Park, it was saved from demolition in 2001 and given new life as one of the first farm to table restaurants in the world. Chefs Wim de Beer and Jos Timmer took over in 2018. Their cooking is centred around sustainability and seasonality. Very good I hear you say, but aren’t lots of people doing that these days? Yes, but De Kas takes it to another level.
Once a greenhouse, still a greenhouse. Twenty percent of the produce used is from the greenhouse and garden itself. Making use of the generous vertical space, marrows, courgettes, figs and all sorts spiral up as if Jack got more than just bean seeds. Pink UV lights line the beams replicating daylight during all hours. As a first time veg grower I had a proper nosey around, heaven! The rest comes from farmers in and around Amsterdam and their land in Beemster, only half an hour’s drive North of De Kas. Here they grow over a hundred different types of herbs, fruit and vegetables. Now you can see we’re onto something a bit special.
The dining room is beautiful. Floating from the eight metre high roof are three giant glass flowers. These chandeliers subtly change colour, playing against the constantly shifting sky. We were lucky enough to have a glimpse of the kitchen from our table and to the left we could people watch as park life drifted by, more often than not on two wheels. Taking centre stage is a magnificent olive tree which has some fantastically dramatic up-lighting as night takes over.
The menu is decided on the day depending on what’s ready for eating from the gardens. It’s pleasingly simple, for dinner you choose between 5 or 6 courses (€57 and €65) and that’s it. There is no in depth course list as such, only a jumble of ingredients such as courgette, basil, cherry which can be in any dish in any order. They like to keep it a surprise, though you can hazard a guess at a few of them. I imagine this allows the chefs more flexibility and pushes them creatively.
First to arrive was a tapioca quinoa crisp with wild garlic dip, bread and delicious butter. I enjoyed the crisp’s unashamed saltiness, just enough to get your mouth watering! Our lovely waiter Danny said his girlfriend often asks him to bring the leftover tapioca crisps home. Girl I don’t blame you! I’d be asking for leftovers of everything 😀 Three appetisers followed as an extra treat to the 6 dishes. Starting with the warm one, potato cubes were set on a curried cream sauce with herbs and salad leaves. Quite frankly this was unlike any potato I’ve ever eaten. It had the flavour more of a turnip and a clean texture, not a floury potato variety. The sauce reminded me of coronation chicken. Who knew a potato could taste like this? Already intrigued, we turned excitedly to the next plate. What looks like pak choi apparently isn’t pak choi in this case and is a radish! It definitely looked like pak choi to me but perhaps it was a mis-translation. Either way, it was served raw to show off its crispness and delicate green taste, fresh beyond belief. This was eaten crudité style with your fingers, dipped into piccallili and a crumb which we think was cassava. On to the third in the triumvirate – spring rolls filled with pickled ginger, coriander, lettuce alongside horseradish cream adorned with toasted sesame seeds. You might start to yawn but it was vibrant in its simplicity and (again) freshness. The subtly handled hits of what can be often overpowering ginger, horseradish, sesame and herbs make this much more than meets the eye.
At this point I was starting to get a feel for the chefs’ way of thinking and couldn’t wait to see what was going to come next. Mackerel was the answer – but without any actual mackerel on the plate. A congregation of samphire, oyster leaf, courgette and a courgette flower was relaxing in a beautifully clear mackerel ‘essence’. This consommé was so clean on the palette, a pure mackerel tone (as if you had a tuning fork set to mackerel 😀 ). Combined with the slightly salty herbs this truly was a dish from the sea. Mr Munch had a different dish due to seafood allergies – his was a brightly colourful beetroot soup with tomatoes, nasturtiums and a baby courgette flower. Along the lines of a gazpacho, this was refreshing and a fun play between sweet beets and almost medicinal leaves.
Gently cooked butterbeans followed with round slivers of apple, mangetout and basil which we saw growing under the UV lights. Two types of basil were used, the verdant variety we’re all familiar with and a purple basil which is more savoury. Wonderful crunch came from fresh almonds which were also in the unifying cream. I’ve not had fresh almonds before and these were sensational. The texture is like a nuttier version of a water chestnut and the flavour is more nuanced than your standard nut. Once more there was great balance between the lively basil, juicy beans, sweet fruit and soothing almonds. Continuing with the bean theme were broad beans and peas. A golden egg yolk took pride of place in the centre of the dish with even more luxury coming from the green beurre blanc (I guess a beurre vert??). I’m not sure what petals were scattered on top but their striking tangerine hue gave the dish life against all the dark greens. This was the richest of the dishes and segues nicely to the meat course.
I love a good sauce. The sauce for this perfectly cooked duck breast had me thinking there was cocoa in it, not uncommon with game. However I think it was their use of duck liver which gave it that earthiness. Paired with pickled umeboshi (Japanese plums) it was a take on the old duck and cherries combination. Wafer thin crispy duck skin and rocket leaves finished the dish off – seemingly simple but not simple at all. Astounding ?
4 courses in and Danny came to check whether we were having the extra course to make it a 6 course meal. Obviously we said yes and I’m so glad we did because this was turned out to be my stand out dish of the night. Goats cheese mousse topped with thinly sliced pear, sourdough crisp, rocket leaves with lemon zest and a thin citrus sauce. My gluten free version swapped the toast for meringue. The key to this is that it wasn’t too sweet – such a delicate balance between savoury and dessert. I absolutely love this dish. I can admire so many clever aspects about the balance, the mousse, the sauce but at the end of the day it simply tastes stunning. Perfection!
Finally the dessert – a summer celebration of cherries and lemon verbena. I’ve always loved the perfume of lemon verbena and that really comes through in the sorbet and foam. Wonderfully plump cherries provide the main body of the dish and who doesn’t love some pretty edible flowers (plus how perfect, violas for Mr Munch!). What a treat and what exciting food.
Food’s not the end of it though. We had some great Dutch wine from apparently the only hill in the Netherlands able to grow grapes. This is in the Limburg region nestled right in the south-eastern corner of the country. To start we had a Riesling from Hoeve Nekum 2015 – on the sweet side and goes down very easily. It worked really nicely alongside the vegetable dishes. Our red was a 2018 Dornfelder from Wijngoed Thorn, a more floral red than I’ve experienced before. Both wines were a pleasant eye opener to Dutch vineyards.
The whole evening was a complete delight with no small thanks to the waiting staff. Our main waiter was so friendly, good humoured and put up with our nerdy enthusiasm. It seems like a wonderful place to work not only in location but also with their relaxed yet professional, charismatic attitude. You might wonder how vegetables can taste so good but trust me, this will broaden your horizons and you will be amazed! There is an inspiration here and attention to detail which I find quite moving. As soon as we finished we were plotting our next visit with immediacy. That tells you all you need to know ?
Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did writing it! (And eating for it 😀 ) Please give it a thumbs up and check out my instagram for more food adventures. Lots of exciting new places coming up!
Total receipt (2 people): €158.20 + service
2x 6 course menu €65
2x glass Riesling, Hoeve Nekum 2015, Limburg NL €6.5
2x glass Dornfelder, Wijngoed Thorn 2018, Limburg NL €7.6
Rating: ?10/10?Life changing meal. ?