On our way to Amsterdam we stop quickly at my mothers place to gave a sandwich and show our nose. Of course she was happy to see us, but as time is ticking and we wanted to get to Amsterdam to catch a bit of the world famous Gay Parade we had to keep the visit short.
We dropped the car of at the rental place at the airport where we also locked our big suitcase downstairs at the lockers, and we where on our way to gay Amsterdam
. It is only a few minutes by train so in no time we where exiting the central station on our way to our hotel, the Swissotel on the Damrak. It was very very busy on the streets with hordes of people heading into the canal areas and towards the squares. We quickly check in to the hotel, and get a nice upgrade to a suite because of my wifes birthday. The hotel looks a bit rundown on the outside. The elevators, the hallways and even the reception need a bit of work. So I was a bit worried about the room. I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the door. A staircase brought us down to our suite, with nice big living room and a wonderful bedroom with en suite bathroom separated by glass doors.
We freshen up a bit as outside it started to drizzle. Of course, just our luck, this is the second time I bring my wife to Amsterdam, and the second time she is treated to original Dutch summer weather. But luckily the rain dies down and the can head out to see the madness. The make our way through the red light district to the Zeedijk. Amsterdam China Town. The masses of people are all either drunk, stoned or both. Random people address us asking silly questions. All good fun. We find a small fusion food store on the Zeedijk where we have a little snack. It is now around four and we were getting hungry, dinner is not till eight o clock. After some food we head in to the party zone. It's a madhouse of dancing people on the streets. We find our way to the Amstel corner where we see the boats on the canal. There were still a few parade boats out there filled with pride gay men and woman acting like complete maniacs. We snap a few photos and decide to make our way back to the Hotel to freshen up for dinner later that evening.
Many years ago, when Holland was my home country, there was this television chef who was quite popular for his simple and authentic cooking
. His style was a mix of Ramsey and Oliver with a healthy appetite for alcohol. What I remember most is him gulping down a glass of white wine whilst cooking up some fish dish, jolly and happy, telling the audience fish has to swim. The man opened up his restaurant, le Garage, in the pretentious 'oud zuid' neighborhood of Amsterdam. Of course he is not cooking there anymore himself. Now a group of young chefs took over the kitchen cooking up the food according to the master's rule. Or isn't it?
We arrived hitching a ride on tram 24 from our hotel at the Dam. As we forgot to push the button, the tram soared past the Ruysdaalstraat, where the restaurant is located. We stopped at the next stop and hitched a ride back from line 24 in opposite direction. Of course it was raining again, as it always seems to do when we visit. But still we were having a lot of fun in the crazy party city. Today was the Gay Parade so this afternoon we watched some boats full of dancing half naked men. My wife being from Hong Kong has never experienced this atmosphere of anything goes. The canals filled with gay people, the shore side filled with drunk and stoned crowd of party people. Everywhere there is laughter and jolly screaming people, fantastic.
But back to the Garage, we rushed through the rain past the famous cafe 'Loetje' and were just in time for our reservation
. We were seated by a populistic Amsterdam host, addressing us like juveniles. Not really my kind of people but I can see the crowd loves him. The crowd is the dressed up jet set and wannabe of Amsterdam. I vaguely remember some faces, but I bet if my sister in law sat here, she would recognize eighty percent of the restaurant from the Dutch gossip magazines and television shows. We got a table in the back of the restaurant, and the tables on both sides of us were still empty. Luckily as the distance between the tables is just about 20 centimeters, and they have to pull a table out to let people get in to sit on the bench backing the wall. Really the restaurant could do with three or four tables less, giving the diners a bit more privacy. But the place is clearly a venue to see and be seen. I face the wall which is conveniently covered with a big mirror strip. So from here you can also see everyone and be seen. We are presented with a menu and a wine list, and the waitress explains the daily special. Although I keep addressing her in English, so that my wife also understands what was being said, she keeps falling back in Dutch to reply. Luckily they did have an English menu for her so we tried to compose a meal out of the confusing selection. The menu is interesting so to say, it boldly mentions that the young chefs in the kitchen copy great recipes from masters like Blanc. Where is their own identity I ask myself? The house specialties are a tuna pizza and some steak tartar, which is actually prepared by the waiters, so where is the signature from the old chef, where is the inspiration of the new chefs?
We decide to go for a steak tartar and a Caesar salad (which was not on the menu)
. For mains my wife chose a miso cod fish as the menu mentioned it was a copy from Nobu in New York, and we love the miso cod there, so we give it a try. I decide to go for the catch of the day, white tuna. We paired the fish with some Pouille Fuse which was reasonably priced. We told the waitress that we were sharing the appetizers, but sharing food is not something that is in the Dutch culinary vocabulary. When the appetizers were served we each got our own dish and we had to divide between the two of us ourselves. The steak tartare was served without the toast, and we had to ask the waiter for it as it was forgotten. The salad was nice and after a while we could start with the steak tartar witch was indeed very good.
The restaurant filled up and the tables next to us were now also filled with dressed up locals. You could not help but overhearing every word that was said on either side of you. And I wish I did not understand Dutch, that would make the neighbors more bearable as there were some unimaginably pretentious people in the room.
After a long wait the main arrived. From the mirrors I could see that the kitchen was chaotic and unorganized, which explains the long waiting for the food. Our bottle of wine was empty by the time the mains reached the table
. No one asked us if we wanted another bottle or some other drink as the four waiters were scattered around trying to serve the full house, of course giving their locals rich and famous undivided attention. The mains were slightly disappointing, the cod was not even close to the piece of heaven that is served at Nobu. The mild miso seemed to be replaced with bean paste and the sauce was just too salty. The tuna was well cooked and nicely presented, but nothing that stood out as really special. The waiter bringing the food extensively apologized for not bringing the toast with the starters, it was almost embarrassing, he must have gotten a hard time from his superior.
After our mains we decided to continue our evening in our very comfortable hotel. The staff was surprised we left without desserts or coffee, but we both felt staying longer would not improve the evening. It was an interesting experience of a restaurant that probably once was a 'go to' place for good food. But today it's a scene for people watching, where the food labeled with big names, but the quality is secondary. But i seriously doubt if the crowd is able to notice that.
Tomorrow we have to circumnavigate half the globe to reach Hong Kong via Jakarta. 18 hours of Executive class on Garuda, not really a punishment i would say.
The day started in Germany as we made our way down the last bit of autobahn to speed limited Holland. From the border it is only two and a half short hours back to my old home town. Quentin was happy to be back as the long drives are not really to his liking. Still he behaved marvelous and was a happy camper most of the way chit chatting about all kind of things. Back with his mother we said our goodbyes for now, but not for long. He was happy to be home, to see his animals and his mother again, this was for him the first time he was away from home for a longer time. He did very well, I'm proud of him.