Thursday, January 20, 2011

Eight great things to eat in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is amazing when it comes to food because it's a big, walkable, cosmopolitan city with a multitude of choices from around the world. Of course, one could play it safe and restrict oneself to the many familiar chain restaurants like McDonald's, Subway, and Burger King, but then why leave home in the first place?

1. Moeders
If you can only get to one nice, sit-down restaurant while in Amsterdam, make it Moeders. The name means "mothers," and that's exactly what you get: Dutch home cooking, just like mom made. It's warm, hearty, comforting, delicious, and precisely what will fortify you on a cold night. I had the stampot, which is sort of like ordering sausages with bubble and squeak. You get a meatball, a bit of ham, and a sausage on top of potatoes mashed with either sauerkraut or cooked carrots. Pickled cabbage in your taters might sound odd, but it works perfectly.


Speaking of large chain restaurants, FEBO is Dutch fast food, and we should all be grateful that we don't have FEBO in the U.S. FEBO's motto is "De Lekkerste," which oddly enough means "the tastiest." It is kind of interesting at first because it's an automat-style eatery where you pay a machine and get your food from behind little windows, but the food is disappointing, bordering on icky. Their quintessential menu item is the kroket, which looks great because it's got a nice deep-fried crust, but once you break it open the disappointment sets in. Inside, as best I can tell, is a grayish, pasty mush of potatoes (?) with tiny little scraps of some sort of meat-like product. It would probably taste great if one were raging drunk in the middle of the night, but then you would just puke it into a canal and be done with it. Go to FEBO just so you know not to go there again.

3. Van Dobben

If Moeders is my favorite, Van Dobben is a close second. It's like a beloved neighborhood deli that's been there for as long as you can remember, the place that mom always takes you to after shopping on Sunday afternoon. They serve kroket, which is usually pretty disappointing (i.e., FEBO), because in most places, the kroket goes from the freezer to the fryer to your face. But here, the kroket are freshly made, deep fried, and crispy as hell. With the spicy mustard, they're pretty good. Better is the raw ground beef sandwich with egg and onion. It's cool, clean, fresh, and fantastic when you hit it with a little bit of the mustard you find on the tables.

4. Turkish pizza
Like many cities, Amsterdam has a lot of immigrants from all over, and in just about any corner of the city, you can find expatriates selling lahmacun. Essentially, it's a crisp flatbread dressed with a tomato sauce or a meat and tomato sauce, filled with shredded veggies, topped with either a yogurt or spicy sauce, rolled up in foil and shoved into your waiting hands. Crunchy, savory, and light, they're perfect for a lunch on the go. Some places will ask if you want the piquant sauce, which of course is the spicy sauce.

5. Indonesian food

Because of the Netherlands' long history of colonization and trade, the Dutch have absorbed aspects of Indonesian cuisine and there are Indonesian restaurants all over Amsterdam. Sweet soy sauce and coconut play a large part in the cuisine, and so it leans more heavily toward sweet than it does toward spicy. A common menu item is the rijsttafel, or rice table. Basically, when you order a rijsttafel, you get a set menu of many small dishes. When I ate at Djanoko, which was practically around the corner from my hotel, I got fourteen small dishes, though it's not unheard of to find restaurants that serve as many as 40.

6. Appeltaart
I read about appeltaart before I left on my trip, and it was top of the list for things to try. It's a Dutch apple pie and it did not disappoint. I got mine at Patisserie Holtkamp, not too far out of the city center. The little ones they sell are perfect for snacking on with a cup of coffee.

7. Frites
Yes, they do put mayonnaise on fries in Amsterdam, and it's pretty damn good. I got mine topped with mayo and raw onion at Vleminckx Sausmeesters (open since 1957) in the Old Center. Hot and crispy. These frites alone are worth a trip into the heart of Tourist Trapland.

8. Cafe Lusthof
When I was feeling homesick and hungry, I would grab a book and retire to this neighborhood bar and restaurant. It's quiet, friendly, and comfortable. The walls are covered with vintage soccer posters and newspaper clippings, and as a bonus, there are two or three cats living inside. The menu is small and little bit all over the map (spaghetti bolognese on one side, steaks and satay on the other), but everything is reasonably priced and really tasty. The best dish I had there was the mosterdsoep. It's a simple vegetable soup flavored with a little bit of mustard. It was just what I needed to help me feel a little less homesick.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the list. Just one correction, the restaurant called Mothers is "Moeders" in Dutch. The correct address is :

(it's missing an "e" in your post).

yen bee yee said...

thanks for the informative post. i'm planning to visit amsterdam. btw, i heard there're chinese cusines too which is always good.