Restaurant Olivijn* – Haarlem (October 2019)

3rd Friday fancy lunch in a row was at Restaurant Olivijn* in Haarlem.

And it was one that has been on our to-do list since July 2018, when Menno Post (after a 6-year stint at Ron Blaauw** and then 5 years as Executive Chef of De Bokkedoorns** in Overveen) and Milton Verseput (previously sommelier at Vrienden van Jacob* in Santpoort) opened this restaurant the monumental building on Kleine Houtstraat 70 in Haarlem), the 2019 culinary capital of The Netherlands.

We were already impressed with his cooking at De Bokkedoorns a couple of years ago, and Post – SVH Masterchef and member of Les Patrons Cuisiniers – evidently is maintaining that level at Olivijn. And it shows: only 3 months after opening, Olivijn debuted at #93 in the 2019 Lekker Top-500 list. Another 3 months later, their first Michelin star was awarded, and Gault Millau rated them 16/20. Recently, Menno Post was one of the 5 finalists for the Dutch 2020 Bocuse d’Or teams. He was very close to being chosen as the overall winner by the jury but did snap up the award for Best Fish Dish.

About the menu
We had booked a 4-course surprise menu as part of Dining with the Stars, but when visiting at their website to look what to expect, I did notice some inconsistencies.
Some translations of ingredients on the English menus were missing or looked as if they were just got put through Google Translate. Hilarious literal translations ensue, but no, “eekhoortjesbrood” does not translate to “squirrel bread” (it should be either cep or porcini mushroom).
Also, I couldn’t make sense of their menu options, which were explained as follows on the welcome page:

For lunch, we offer a three, four or five course lunch menu. For dinner we allow you to enjoy four, five or six courses. There’s also a vegetarian menu.

However, the regular menu shows the possibility for 7 courses (€70 for 4 up to €100 for the full 7), which apparently can be selected at random from the 9 items mentioned on the menu, which also includes a cheeseboard. The vegetarian menu is more strict as it has only 6 options, already with a cheeseboard, and from which 4 to 6 items can be selected for dinner (€60 up to €80). Neither of these menus mentions something about the lunch menu, which apparently has the option for 3 courses. Given the steady €10 staggering for extra dishes, I presume it to be €60 and €50 for the vegetarian version.

About the food:
In the grand, yet surprisingly cozy and relaxing dining room, we sat down for our fixed 4-course surprise lunch (€47,50), which was just that. Refreshing, as it is pretty customary nowadays to offer the extra appetizers, mains, or cheeseboards at regular prices to get some extra revenues to compensate for the relatively lower menu prices.

We started off with a nice glass of Champagne (€14), and 3 amuses. A donut puff filled with cheese, a pickled Kohlrabi parcel with Grey shrimps, and a “mini poke bowl” with seeds and roe.

On to the surprise menu – for which we chose the by the glass wine pairings (€9 and €5 for my halfsies) – and all of them were spot on.

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1a. North Sea Crab with Kohlrabi, Yuzu, Foie, Saline Vegetables, Apple and Fennel
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1b. Tomatoes, Pickled Melon, Green Strawberry, Sourdough Crisps, and Yuzu Dressing.
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2a. Green Asparagus, Potato Gnocchi, Egg Yolk, and Madeira Sauce. As some beef broth was involved in the 48 hours freeze-brining of the egg yolk, it was not vegetarian.
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2b. Consequently, Chantal had a sous vide egg yolk instead and some porcini mushrooms
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3a. Chilean Wagyu, Aubergine, Herb Oil, Shiitake Mushroom (I don’t know how the Chilean wagyu is compatible with their local sourcing objectives, but it was damn tasty)
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3b. Pointed Cabbage Rendang Style, Sticky Rice Cake, Bok Choi, and Pandan leaf sauce
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4. Fresh Blackberries, Blackberry Mousse, Chocolate and Butterscotch shards, and Yuzu custard
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Coffee/tea and friandises (€7): Advocaat (Eggnog) shots, Spiced Bread & Butter Pudding cubes, Strawberry and Basil Macarons, Sea Salt Caramels, Coffee and Cardamom Fudge

We definitely had a great time at Olivijn. The food was top-notch, refined, and inventive. The service was leisurely paced, and considering it was just Milton Verseput and the newly appointed Maitre Patrick Rijnders taking care of 6 tables, they were very attentive and accommodating. It turned out to be Rijnders’ 4th day on the job, but we surely couldn’t tell!

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