Graphite by Peter Gast – Amsterdam (January 2019)

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. In 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 polishing 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 make 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 lovely selection of wines from South Africa (among other wines from Avondale, Bellingham, Creation, and Chris & Suzaan 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 a 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 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 – cozy 2 seater booths. Besides the central 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. The overall service was very good, informal, yet attentive, and knowledgable.

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The assortment of cutlery for the evening… Bread, Butter, regular and seaweed salts

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 flavors, and nice acidity. Overall my dishes had great depth and surprising combinations of flavors. Personally, the oyster was the least distinguished dish, the desserts could have benefitted from slightly more contrasting and fresher flavors, but were lovely nonetheless. The beef tartare rolls, crab dishes, and the flattened langoustine were my favorites 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.

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1. Herb Garden: Assorted vegetables, herbs, and flowers with a pumpkin ravioli
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2a. Different preparations of Tomatoes with Rosehip gel
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2b. Oyster with Champagne cream and Anna Caviar
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3a. Asparagus salad
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3b. Beef Tartare in pickled Daikon rolls, Mushrooms and Beef/Seaweed jus
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4a.  Pearl Couscous with Cucumber
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4b1. Softshell crab tempura with tandoori sauce
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4b2. Marinated king crab with cucumber
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5a. Different preparations of Carrots
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5b. Flattened Langoustine, Milk skin, Leek, Bacon and a Vanilla and Orange sauce
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6a. Different preparations of Onions
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6b. Different preparations of Onions with pan-fried Cod and Bonito flakes
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A refreshing, light, and fruity organic 2016 South African Bordeaux-style blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Shiraz, Merlot) from Lowerland as assembled by JD Pretorius (Warwick), Johnnie Calitz (Anura) and Lukas van Loggerenberg, ‘the rising star’ of the South African winemaking. I had to look up the Wine of Origin designation, and Prieska is a high altitude (1,000m above sea level) region located in the Northern Karoo region, bordering the Kalahari desert. A very nice surprise!
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7a. Different preparations of Mushrooms and Kohlrabi
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7b. Different preparations of Mushrooms and Kohlrabi with Braised Pork Cheek
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8a. Different preparations of Beetroot and spicy Bean sauce
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8b. Different preparations of Beetroot and spicy Bean sauce and Venison in its jus
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9. Star-shaped fritter (almost a “krakeling” crispiness), Cardamom cream and Aniseed ice cream
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10. White Chocolate “Mispelblom” flower-filled with yuzu cream, frozen Yellow Bell Pepper pearls and a sauce of Apple and a liqueur from the Mispelblom distillery (historically located in Zutphen)
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The friandises paired with the Frères Damman tea we chose: Chocolate “dates” filled with date mousse and hollowed out tangerines filled with spiced mascarpone and topped up with shaved tangerine sorbet.

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