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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

restaurant de kas, amsterdam

The day was perfect - it was one of those rare days where not only the temperature was well over 30C, the sky was sooo blue with very few clouds hanging about and despite being stuck in a traffic jam just outside Utrecth, our reservation held and thus making the perfect start to our summer vacation.

It is perhaps because the history of De Kas is nothing short of a fairy tale. Gert Jan Hageman described himself as a man who is only happy when he sees the sky and after working with different restaurants, achieving various accolades including a Michelin star decided not just to produce Michelin quality dishes but shape the quality of his ingredients as well. He realised his dream in 2001, when along with some friends, he rescued (there is a princess in this fairy tale!) a glasshouse about to be demolished, smack in the middle of Amsterdam, at the Frankendael Park, by a lovely canal with its own wealth of wildlife and perfect for birdwatching! It's like you have wandered off to a secret haven, an oasis but also a place for adventure and magic.
The glasshouse is now what is called De Kas (glasshouse in Dutch) where all the magic happens. Hageman who no longer cooks for the restaurant, now plays head gardener at the farm just outside De Kas that produces almost all the vegetables that is used in the restaurant. It is a pity that he was on vacation when we were there for lunch because I would love to have a chat about gardening with him. Elle Eten said the restaurant is part medicine cabinet and the owner is a little bit of a shaman himself.

The ambiance in the restaurant is perfect with the clean lines of the architecture and interior by Piet Boon
and yet the very warm and casual hospitality. It is very easy to be precious and preachy when you are advocating something organic and locally produce as we have experienced in other restaurants before, but the team in De Kas manage to deliver the goods in an almost non-chalant chic.
And yes, you can walk staight into the kitchen and take pictures ;-) or arrange to be in the heart of the whole operation for an exclusive chef table dining experience.

When we arrived, we were briefed on the concept of the restaurant and were asked if there is anything we absolutely won't eat or try. There is only one fresh daily menu which always begin with three starters. Nabila was delighted to find them making a mini version of our menu just for her instead of getting the kroket and frietjes so common in other restaurants' kinder menu. They even prepared a special bowl of summer red fruits for Q, on the house. We didn't even ask what's on the menu that day and was prepared to be swept off our feet.

Our starters were made of an aubergine salad with aubergine caviar, with greens and tomatoes from the farm; melt in the mouth tartar with potato crackers and colourful salad and deep pan fried sardines on a bed of beans, zucchini and greens from the farm. We enjoyed each salad and they were a hit with the children. The sardine was so fresh, I can taste the sea! The vegetables were crunchy and so unbelievably sweet, I would think they were seconds from being lifted off the ground to grace our table. And you know what? They did... we saw the host, Xavier Giesen snipping some herbs as we were enjoying the nibbles with Moet just before the starters were served.

Our main was plaice pan fried on the bone, on a bed of pappardelle with roasted leek and fennel and Beurre blanc sauce. it was delicious with a hint of lemon. The fish was flaky and sweet and the pasta was cooked al dente. I have always loved fennel and in this dish, the aniseed flavour just enhances all the other tastes to come together.

The lunch was special because not only that we had the most amazing meal that is also organic, wholesome, healthy, fresh, sweet and totally delicious, the whole thing worked. The service was friendly, attentive with such a great understanding of great food, produce and good eating, you feel secure to be surprised and letting them make all the decisions for you.
Sometimes in going to places like this, you have to psyched yourself into feeling virtuous that you're doing something good that even when flavour is somewhat compensated, you should be smug with your decision. There is no chance at all of that happening here. Not only all the flavour, texture and tastes were present; you can taste the love from the way they are prepared and presented. The level of understanding of source and produce is so high that there were hardly any fuss made with the dishes. They were all presented as if that was the only way they ought to be cooked. It was as if there was no skills required from the chefs at all when actually you can only produce something so magical when not only you have the aptitude to recognise a good thing but also the instinct to stop when everything is just right.
We chose not to have dessert or cheese but had some coffee with madelines and cookies instead. We only realised that we have been there for almost four hours when we left for the Hermitage.

We left giddy, nourished and in dreamstate... knowing it won't take us too long to make another reservation to dine there again!
De Kas
Kamerlingh Onneslaan
31097 DE Amsterdam
T +31 (0)20 462 45 62
F +31 (0)20 462 45 63E


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