I visited Oshima, the new restaurant of Akira Oshima, the former executive chef of Yamazato*, a couple of weeks ago.
I tagged along to Koen & René’s monthly dinner club, in which they frequent restaurants in the vicinity of Amstelveen. The “grand finale” of 2019 was Oshima, a restaurant that opened in the Southern part of Amsterdam (Beethovenstraat 180) late October 2019.
Don’t be deceived by a quick first glance on their website; it may seem like a basic “Mom & Pop” restaurant, but Mr. Oshima can be considered the pioneer of traditional Japanese cuisine in the Netherlands.
About the chef:
Mr. Oshima started almost 50 years ago as a sous-chef of the Yamazato restaurant in Amsterdam’s 5-star Okura hotel. In 1985 he became the manager and executive chef of both Japanese restaurants in the Okura hotel: Yamazato, and Sanzanka, their teppanyaki restaurant. Under his reign, Yamazato was the first traditional Japanese restaurant in Europe to receive a Michelin Star in 2002. For his efforts to popularize that cuisine in the Netherlands, Mr. Oshima received a knighthood (Ridder in the Orde van Oranje Nassau) in 2006. He also published a book about the art of Yamazato’s kaiseki-style cuisine.
After Mr. Oshima stepped down from the kitchens in the Okura in the early 2010s, he was appointed as an advisor & honorary executive chef, focussing on workshops and recruitment of Japanese chefs. The call of the kitchen became strong enough to start his namesake restaurant at the respectable age of 76!
About the menu:
The menu is omakase-style (the Japanese equivalent of a Chef’s surprise menu showcasing the creativity and skills of the chef) and therefore fixed; 7 courses for EUR 70.
The booking was made just after they opened, after a single message from Koen to see if Chantal and I were interested in joining mid-December. Of course we were! A couple of days before our visit, we double-checked if a vegetarian option of the menu was possible for Chantal. Mrs. Oshima replied that due to limited staff in the kitchen, they were unfortunately not able to accommodate special requests unless fish was a viable alternative. Chantal does occasionally eat some small amounts of salmon and tuna, but not so much to have a multi-course dinner. Therefore, she declined and, in hindsight, an excellent idea as the quantity and variety of fish we had, would have been way out of her comfort zone. This still resulted in profuse apologies for not being able to accommodate her dietary wishes (per e-mail and in person when we arrived at the restaurant). However, Mrs. Oshima did indicate that they were thinking about offering an à la carte menu in 2020 to provide more options for their guests.
Mrs. Oshima was correct; the restaurant is quite small (about 20 seats in total), and the staffing was minimal (2 in service and we spotted 2 persons working in the kitchen). Consequently, the output of the kitchen pretty much dictated the pace of the dinner, regardless of whether used plates had already been cleared before the new courses arrived. The announcements of the dishes were a charming, very soft-spoken mix of Japanese, English, and Dutch. We didn’t always catch everything that we were eating (all captions of the pictures below are from memory), but the service itself was incredibly hospitable and friendly.
From a beverage perspective, the wine list is pretty classic European, and a limited number are also available by the glass (champagne isn’t by the way). Besides a wide range of sake, you will also find shōchū on the menu. It is a beverage typically distilled from rice, barley, sweet potatoes, buckwheat, or even brown sugar. We tried it (I don’t recall which of their 3 options was available that night), and with an ABV normally between 25 and 45%, we concluded it to be a punchier, less floral, and more earthy alternative to sake. During dinner, we enjoyed a delightful and crisp French white wine.
About the Food:
The food was light, balanced, and cooked and seasoned to perfection and with great attention to detail (even the slice of pitaya in the dessert had been pre-cut for our convenience). Incredibly crunchy, yet not fatty, tempura, and arguably the best – melt in your mouth – tuna sashimi I ever had. Also, the condiments (various dips, real wasabi, pickled ginger) and the depth of the mushroom-filled miso soup were simply stellar. The only downside of the evening was the choice of fruit that came with the dessert; they were a bit underwhelming as most of them were not in season. However, the perfect, creamy matcha ice cream totally made up for that.
With a historically large Japanese expat population in Amstelveen and Amsterdam, we have always been blessed with the presence of various authentic Japanese restaurants. Restaurant Oshima definitely is a great addition. Highly recommended!