Food bloggers are a godsend when you’re travelling for culinary exposure. During my last visit to Amsterdam, I found some really good gems on Vicky’s blog (Amsterdam Foodie). I ended up picking a few cafe and restaurant recommendations, particularly Restaurant Lt Cornelis which, later in 2016, she listed as her choice for best Dutch restaurant of the year.
Set in a tastefully decorated building in Spui, Lt.Cornelis aims to enable punters to experience Dutch cuisine through a combination of traditional and seasonal local Dutch ingredients and modern cooking.
The bar setting looked cosy and I loved the round lamps atop the counter.
We perused the short menu and opted for the safe choice, a 3-course menu which was a bargain at €35. It took three waiters to show us how the set menu works and which dishes came on the list. But we got there in the end.
A trio of amuse bouche came. First, some saucisson with pickle, then some strong parmesan crisps, and finally good ol’ prawn bitterballen which I absolutely adored and wished more of.
To start, a salad of smoked ham, apple, and root vegetables. It’s refreshingly crisp, and embodied what I had envisioned Dutch picnics were like.
Another starter was a fillet of mackerel shines on top of rhubarb and mustard seed dressing. Mackerel is my “marmite” of the sea; I love it and hate it and have to be in the mood for it before I eat it. This dish was quite a winner, as the fish was fresh and had a tasty zing that livened it up.
In place of dessert, I ordered the extra barley risotto, which was clever and delicious. Made with Jerusalem artichokes, grilled leeks and messenklever cheese, and some chopped nuts, it was delightfully rich and rather comforting. I enjoyed the textures of the risotto itself, the barley having a bit of a toasted crunch. There’s an earthiness to it that reminds me of colder days but it’s light enough to eat for the sunshine.
My main was a dish of grilled hake with langoustines, samphire, pea puree, and a foamy bisque. I dug into the langoustine first, attacking it with memories of the beautiful dish from Alain Ducasse… only to find it was raw.
I had to send it back to the kitchen, which I hate doing. I felt embarrassed for the chefs and I felt rather apologetic about it. It’s exactly how I felt at La Palme d’Or in Cannes when I had to send my sweetbreads back for a teensy eyelash I found.
When my dish came back, instead of an apology, our server seemed a bit huffy.
HIM: We cooked your dish now. But do you know langoustine? ME: Yes, I know my shellfish. And I've had a brilliant langoustine starter at Alain Ducasse in London a few months ago. HIM: Oh really? Because it was meant to be served raw. The only mistake here is that it goes raw on the dish and I didn't say it.
I was taken aback. Is this guy for real?! I’m not sure where the whole defensiveness came from but my gosh, did it annoy me. Also, I think we all know I can tell sashimi from a mistake.
It’s such a shame that my server was a bit too nonchalant about the slight mishap because I think I got a bit turned off after the attitude issue. But in all deference to truth, my fish was beautifully cooked. And the langoustine, once grilled, ended up bringing a sweet-smoky element to the dish itself.
B’s beef dish fared well although admittedly, I would’ve preferred it a bit more rare. Laid on a bed of greens, each slice was tender and well marinated. The dish as a whole was delicious and I enjoyed it more than the fish dish.
B was rather full so I happily helped with dessert. It was a deconstructed tart of some sort, with a hefty serving of berries and coulis, topped with pastry biscuits which were ace. It was a nice summery dessert and a sweet, light ending to our meal.
Verdict for Restaurant Lt.Cornelis
I’m going to be as frank here as I possibly can. During my visit, I found service in the restaurant rather lacklustre. And that incident with the langoustine was just really annoying. Thankfully, the redeeming factor was the food itself, which I thought was relevantly modern and interesting. It was a good introduction to inventive Dutch food. Perhaps floor service was having an off-day, but I applaud the kitchen for producing outstanding fare.
If you ever find yourself in Amsterdam and get the munchies, this is a place you should absolutely try.
Restaurant Lt Cornelis
Voetboogstraat 13, 1012 XK Amsterdam
Ave spend pp is €45