We kicked our culinary 2019 off with a visit to Peter Gast’s new restaurant in Amsterdam, Graphite.
About the restaurant
Peter Gast and his wife Jacqueline van Liere ran ‘t Schulten Hues in Zutphen for 16 years with 14 of them with one Michelin-star. The last couple of years the restaurant got a 17/20 score from Gault Millau, receiving praise for its regional cooking with light and acidic dishes with loads of fresh – often homegrown – vegetables, herbs and flowers.
They announced to close down ‘t Schulten Hues per July 1, 2018, and in September Graphite in Amsterdam opened.
Below you will find the Peter Gast/Graphite episode of the recommended Dutch web series “Meet the Chef” featuring Dutch chefs of which most of them started new restaurants in 2018. Other chefs that are featured are Menno Post (ex-De Bokkendoorns**, now Olivijn*), Luc Kusters (Bolenius* and Persijn), Richard van Oostbrugge (ex-Bord’eau**, now 212*), Thijs Meliefste from Restaurant Meliefste and Lars Scherp (ex-Aan de Poel**, now Lars Amsterdam)
When visiting Graphite, you are in for an evening of surprises. Located in a former diamond polish company, the concept of the restaurant is based on a US prohibition time speakeasy. With a black facade in the Paardenstraat, a small alley just off Rembrandtplein, only the red glow of a scanner for the QR code you get when making your reservation, gives a clue that there is actually something going on there.
About the menu:
That sense of mystery is also translated to the menu for which no details are provided online. There are 3 set menus: Graphite (small, €75), Diamond menu (medium, €112,50) and Graphite (large, €150) which translates to 10 to 20 “preparations”. No specific amuse, starters or mains sizes and what you’ll get is a complete surprise (dietary requirements respected of course). Alternatively, à la carte starters (€25-35), mains €35-45) and desserts (€15-21) are available.
Due to the number of dishes they serve, Graphite doesn’t do full wine arrangements, but they mention on the website that they have quite a few wines per glass too. It turned out that Graphite has a very nice selection of wines from South Africa (among others wines from Avondale, Bellingham, Creation and Chris & Susaan Alheit).
About our dinner:
Due to a small oversight by Chantal on a mailing list offer, she booked the first opportunity available, 6 pm on a Tuesday just after their Christmas break. This HNY offer was an all-inclusive small Graphite Menu (i.e. aperitif, 10 preparations, 4 glasses of wine and coffee/tea) with 15% discount, for €127.50 per person. The 4 glasses of wine included in our menu were a kind of wine pairing, but then spread out over 2-3 courses. We started with a very nice and crisp German Riesling from Von Bühl, followed by and pleasant unoaked chardonnay and a surprising South African Bordeaux Blend (more on that one below). As we chose an additional cheese course – consisting of 5 small, but delicious pieces of Dutch cheeses (€17,50 per person) – the Niepoort 2013 LBV port that was going to be served with dessert was brought out early.
I won’t divulge too much about its highly stylized interior, but once in, you are welcomed in a bar area/wine cellar for our aperitif (Jacquesson Cuvée 741 champagne for Chantal and a Palermo Mule – a vodka, Sicilian lemon and ginger based cocktail – for me).
When we finished our drinks, we were ushered into the beautiful dining room that accommodates about 20 to 25 persons, mainly in – very comfortable – cosy 2 seater booths. Besides the main kitchen in the back, there are separate cooking stations where chefs prepare the various courses. Therefore, wherever you are seated, you always have a “kitchen view”. After getting to pick your cutlery for each course from a drawer in the counter at 212, Graphite just puts an array of small and large forks, spoons, chopsticks and a very sharp knife on the table and those should see you through the entire dinner. Overall service was very good; informal, yet attentive and knowledgable.
And then our 3-hour dinner started with at first quickly paced succession of dishes.
As expected, impeccable preparations of ingredients, loads of vegetables, herbs, flowers, fresh flavours and nice acidity. Overall my dishes had great depth and surprising combinations of flavours. Personally, the oyster was the least distinguished dish, the desserts could have benefitted from slightly more contrasting and fresher flavours, but were lovely nonetheless. The beef tartare rolls, crab dishes and the flattened langoustine were my favourites of the evening.
As you will see below, many of the vegetarian dishes focussed on a primary type of vegetable or were “more of the garnishes of the regular dishes” and consequently came across as less inventive as my dishes. Furthermore, as the bulk was served cold/lukewarm, they had great textures and a spring/summer feeling and left Chantal yearning for somewhat more creaminess and warm, wintery preparations. That being said, all dishes were solid, harmonious and tasted great, so Graphite is definitely a culinary experience we’d recommend.