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March 30, 2010

The Peripatetic Gourmet Amsterdam

Three new restaurant offerings

In this city, the best dining alternatives usually fall into two categories. Either the food is modern French with a Dutch accent on ingredients—served in top hotels like Blakes and the Amstel Inter-Continental or in stark, hip, often cramped spaces in canal houses—or there's rijsttafel. Three recent relocations by cooks from Michelin-starred restaurants all stand out by offering something different: a glassy refuge that could have been transported from California, a French restaurant (not in a hotel) gunning for three-star status, and an Indonesian bistro that dares not to offer rijsttafel.

De Kas
Gert Jan Hageman earned his star in 1993 at Amsterdam's Vermeer, but in his heart he dreamed of urban farming. When he heard that the city greenhouses in Frankendael Park were being abandoned five years ago, he made his move. He stripped and refinished the old girders, then reglazed the walls and ceilings. The result is a light and airy space that would be remarkable even in California; on the edge of central Amsterdam, it is astonishing. Hageman's sous-chef at Vermeer, Ronald Kunis, presides over De Kas' open kitchen while Hageman is general manager, supervising (among other things) the cultivation of organic vegetables. Dinner is a three-course set menu, which one summer night began with small portions of three delicious appetizers: a tomato tarte tatin, a couple of fat asparagus spears with a free-range egg and sliced Spanish ham, and a smoked-mackerel salad with lima beans. The main course was a grilled pork medallion and a langoustine on top of a potato rosti, with a green-bean coulis. To close, there were strawberries marinated in elderberry juice, accompanied by a grappa-flavored panna cotta and a strawberry sorbet. Relaxed, flavorful, up-to-the-minute food. Three-course dinner, $80. At 3 Kamerlingh Onneslaan; 31-20-462-45-62.

Vossius
The word is that Robert Kranenborg, chef at the Amstel's La Rive, was discontent with only two stars, so he left to start a restaurant of his own, in a handsome townhouse with a gold-leaf ceiling, a stainless-steel-and-wood bar, and charcoal-gray walls. His food is as sophisticated as his decor: roasted sea bass adorned with a caramelized lemon slice, resting on a purée of fennel and pearl onions; or a neatly sliced rectangle of lamb with a thin layer of its fat on top, sauced with a foam flavored with sherry and chorizo. A mixture of warm vegetables—perhaps turnips, snow peas, and asparagus—is always served, salad-style, after the main course. This is ambitious French cuisine, executed admirably. Four-course tasting menu, $155; seven-course menu, $225. At 2 Hobbemastraat; 31-20-577-41-00.

Blue Pepper
Sonja Pereira, who favors her native Bandung cuisine, cooked at the first Indonesian restaurant ever to earn a Michelin star: Spandershoeve, in the Dutch town of Hilversum. At her new, stylish bistro, she eschews rijsttafel, in which many small dishes are served simultaneously, for meals structured in courses. And there's no batik anywhere: The walls are deep blue-green, with a tomato-red, high-backed banquette providing a jolt of color in the industrial-chic room. The beef consommé with fried onion, red-pepper flakes, horseradish, and oxtail bits is a standout; giant prawns in a light, spicy sauce and coconut-flavored mixed vegetables were also excellent. After a top rating from the local food critic Johannes van Dam, the place has taken off. Dinner only. Tasting menus, $80-$120. At 366 Nassaukade; 31-20-489-70-39.