Parallel Bar / Restaurant – Amsterdam (September 2019)

After attending a blessed Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider tasting at J&B Craft Drinks a couple of weeks ago, dinner was not far away, as Albert and I had our eyes set on Parallel Bar / Restaurant. 

About the restaurant
Parallel Bar / Restaurant (Overtoom 495-497) opened in August 2017 and is owned by Roel de Haas and Imre Swaanswijk who know each other from the hospitality school in Leeuwarden. After their studies, Imre eventually spent 3 years in Spain running a restaurant and Roel operated a hotel. When back in the Netherlands, they decided to start their own restaurant with Spanish chef Alvaro Santiago.

Clearly, Spain is the cornerstone the menu, which changes every 3 months. However, don’t expect the regular tapas, as there are many regional Spanish dishes but international influences as well. Also, the execution and presentation border on fine dining. Consequently, Parallel received high marks in Het Parool earlier this year (8+ out of 10), especially commending its excellent value for money for the creative fare that was served. And I can only concur!

About the menu
The dinner menu consisted of 20 or so smaller shareable appetizers in various categories, with both vegetarian and vegan options available.

  • Platters: bread, charcuterie, cured meats, cheese or seafood (7 – 22)
  • Fresh & Raw: gazpachos, ceviches, and steak tartare (6 – 12,50)
  • Warm-Cold: mainly vegetable and seafood dishes (10 – 12)
  • Comfort: Croquettes, Gambas, Oxtail burger and Shrimp beignets (5,50 – 12,50)
  • Out of the box: fusion dishes and more experimental foods like potato tortilla prepared Japanese okonomiyaki-style and Watermelon carpaccio with Idiazabal (a Basque sheep’s milk cheese) and almonds. (9 – 12)

The 5 more substantial main dishes are placed in the “Tender & Soft” category (16-24) with for example Ibérico ribs, a meat special-of-the-day and well as Tuna with Pisto, Migas, and Sea Oak.  There was also a Catalan Coca (a sauce- and cheeseless flatbread) with Escalivada (a roasted pepper, eggplant, and onion stew), romesco and lemon foam.

A 4-course surprise menu and optional wine pairing are also available if ordered for the entire table (€41,50 + 24)

About the food
The suggestion from our amiable waiter – we assumed one of the owners – was to choose 1 or 2 starters and 1 main dish per person. We saw so many appealing dishes that we wanted to try but eventually were able to whittle it down to 4 starters that we’d share: The Codfish (10), the small Croquetas taster (€5,50), the XO Steak Tartare (€12), and the Oxtail burger (€10). For mains, we had chosen to share the Ibérico pork ribs (€21) and the Wagyu special of the day (24). We anticipated that we would be quite full, so we didn’t choose any side dishes (patatas bravas, allioli fries, Padron peppers, or mixed salad ranging between 4,50 and €6,50).

Struggling with the wine pairings due to the very diverse dishes and the 50+ bottles on their wine list, we thought that a bottle would not do justice to all. Therefore, we were glad that we got offered some tasters of two of their recommended wines available per glass and settled on the Esperão Monte Velho Tinto (€4,80) for the starters.

The starters were delicious. Excellent croquetas, although the cecina could have been more pronounced. An international influence caught us off-guard with the XO Iberico Steak Tartare dish. It was definitely a tasty dish, but we had expected the XO to refer to an XO brandy sauce/seasoning rather than the umami-rich Asian XO sauce (which both of us thought it more resembled a Thai tom Kha Kai soup flavor).

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1a. Codfish in sherry dressing with orange, crunchy corn, olive crumble and dried figs
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1b. Steak Tartare XO Ibérico
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1c. Oxtail burger with Onions and Foie Gras on Brioche
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1d. Croquette tasting (clockwise from top left): Langoustine, Mushroom and Sesame, Cecina (smoked and dried beef ham from Castilla y Leon), and Cabrales, Cheese and Nuts

The mains were shared as well and definitely did not disappoint; they were delicious! Concerning the wines, we got to sample their recommended ones for these dishes. We preferred the bottle of Bodegas Pinoso Monastrell which they had available per glass (6) for the Daily special with the Wagyu beef. It turned out to be a great accompaniment with the pork ribs as well.

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2a. Ibérico ribs with Rosemary, Fennel, Honey, and Smoked Potato
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2b. The Wagyu beef special of the day with fried herby Semolina Gnocchi and Avocado foam

We did manage to leave some room to share desserts, and from the 5 options, we chose the Crema Catalana (€7) paired with a floral and orangy MR Mountain Wine Moscatel (€6) by Telmo Rodriguez. We were quite surprised by the fact it wasn’t served in the regular form of a crème brûlée. Instead, it was a vanilla-infused custard mousse with a bitter and refreshing citrus confit underneath and topped with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. Very innovative and daring deconstruction of a classic dish, but it still tasted as it should.

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3a. Crema Catalana with Citrus confit and Cinnamon ice cream
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3b. Pumpkin goodies with Ginger, Chocolate, and Honey ice cream

The ginger-marinated pumpkin (€8) was nicely flavored and had gotten slightly chewy edges. The Pedro Ximenez (€6,50) by Bodega El Maestro Sierra, was an excellent pairing with the chocolate crème, and honey ice cream.

This is a kind of restaurant with so many menu options, excellent food, and drinks, friendly and casual service, that you can have several great nights out. Therefore, highly recommended!

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