After ‘t Amsterdammertje*, the second installment of my Christmas present was at Restaurant 212 in Amsterdam.
Just after the summer of 2017, Richard van Oostenbrugge and Thomas Groot, the executive chef and head chef of Amsterdam’s Bord’eau**, announced that they would leave the restaurant to start one of their own. That became Restaurant 212 (named after the address Amstel 212), which opened in January 2018. I did see a few familiar faces in the staff and understood that, in fact, the majority of the current 212 staff had elected to join from Bord’eau.
It is Amsterdam’s first no-table restaurant. The completely open kitchen is surrounded by a wooden U-shaped counter – with cleverly concealed drawers with cutlery – which accommodates about 25 guests with very comfortable high chairs. This concept is a pretty bold move as every move in the kitchen is scrutinized. On the other hand, there is far more interaction, and it was a delight to see the 212 teamwork throughout the lunch. Especially the egg yolks that were being filled with bisque and the sugar domes being blown for the dessert were fascinating to watch. However, while focusing on the antics in the kitchen, the waiting staff did manage to inadvertently sneak up on us from behind. That being said, the service itself was casual but very attentive and friendly.
Their new venture does attract the attention of other chefs as we spotted Alain Caron as well as Stefan van Sprang (co-incidentally a former and current jury member of the Dutch version of the MasterChef TV-show) and his chefs from Aan de Poel**. Consequently, the number of chefs equaled the number of regular guests and matched the number of chefs in the 212 kitchen…
The menu is the same for lunch and dinner, and consists of either 5 or 8 courses (€108/138) and à la carte, 2 dishes are not already included in the set menu. We chose the 5-course menu. Although there are no vegetarian dishes mentioned, we had indicated our dietary preferences upon booking, so it was not a problem.
Besides the extensive wine list, wine pairings are available. Not fixed pairings for the entire menu, but rather a choice for each course between the “regular” (€10-15 a glass) or “special” wines (€21-36 a glass, mostly via Coravin).
Chantal and I pondered these possibilities over a glass of their brut and rosé champagnes by Paul Louis Martin (€18). We decided to go for both wine pairings and swapped halfway and see which one was a better accompaniment with both our dishes. It did make the bill quite spectacular, but the glasses were filled generously. Even though the regular wines were already delicious (also pairing well with the entirely different vegetarian dishes!), we thought that it was mostly worth shelling out for the more expensive ones as their complexity did complement the dishes better.
In the meantime, we were served with the following amuses:
- Dutch Shrimps | XO | Celeriac / Liquid shiso and chicken pie (with obviously vegetarian amuses for Chantal).
- “Bonemarrow” Potato | Veal tartare | Marrow | Cream | Caviar.
- Potato Ice Cream served with cream and “caviar” made from a Japanese amaranth type of grain.
- Great bread (finished on their wood fire grill for a great smoky flavor) and butter.
From a culinary perspective, Richard and Thomas have expanded on what they were already doing over Bord’eau, so technically outstanding dishes with a lot of Japanese influences and great sauces. Needless to say, it was top-notch, and compliments are due for the innovative vegetarian dishes that were served as they were not just a “meat-free” version of the regular dishes. Highly recommended, and I am sure that Restaurant 212 will get rewarded when the Michelin Stars are awarded later this year!
Update: 212 was indeed awarded their well deserved first Michelin star in December 2018!
Below you will find an impression of the various courses of our lunch menu.
1b. Gelled Honey Tomato broth with Buratta
Blanched Honey Tomatoes | Tomato and Strawberry broth
Paired with the 2016 Keller Riesling Trocken (€10)
The cheese board was assembled in front of our eyes, so it was hard to decline a selection of 5 beautiful kinds of cheese. I had a 2016 Savage Wines Syrah-Grenache (€15) as wine pairing and Chantal had a glass of Tawny Port from Van Zeller (€7.50)
5. The “Cherries” dessert
Left: Cherry-umeboshi foam | Black olive | Crispy walnut
Right: Liquid Amarena | Smokey Bourbon | Citrus
Paired with the 2016 Kracher Beerenauslese Zweigelt (€12)
Unfortunately, we were in a time squeeze (although we were 3 hours into our lunch), so we skipped coffee/tea and therefore did not have the accompanying friandises. The explanation on the bonbons given to our neighbors left us with a sense of regret as they turned out to be made by a former patissier of De Librije***.
Oh well, next time…