Postcard From Tom: Amsterdam

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema's monthly report from the road.

Amsterdam's open-minded approach to the pleasures of the flesh extends to its dining scene, where the portions tend to be generous and the dining rooms are generally cozy. Here's a taste of what's tempting:

BORDEWIJK (Noordermarkt 7, telephone 011-31-20-624-3899)

With curvy turquoise walls, bare wood floors and red tables set with tall candles, the trendy Bordewijk adheres to a style sense all its own. The same goes for the cooking, which makes detours to France, Italy and the Mediterranean but pays allegiance to no one part of the map. Winter delights run from a salad of roasted squid, fennel sausage and lentils to pigeon partnered with truffled risotto. Entrees $29-$35.

TEMPO DOELOE (Utrechtsestraat 75, 011-31-20-625-6718)

Like canals, restaurants offering the flavors of Indonesia are everywhere in Amsterdam; much of the country was once a Dutch colony, after all. Possibly the best place to sample the luscious cuisine is this tiny, three decades-old retreat, where the gracious servers recommend that you order a flurry of dishes known as rijstatafel (rice table). Heed their tip. Out flow pickled vegetables, savory pancakes, pork with peanut sauce, chili-spiked beef -- the courses getting progressively hotter, until your brow sweats and your tongue numbs. But on you eat anyway, so teasing is the food. Rice table $30-$40 per person.

VISAANDESCHELDE (Scheldeplein 4, 011-31-20-675-1583)

The seafood tank up front, the fish mural in the back and a lone meat entree on the menu drive home the restaurant's reason for being. Aim for a table near the open kitchen, where you can watch the cooks assemble your dinner. Among the many reasons you'll be happy to land here are salmon pizza, lobster bisque, wolfish over couscous and pike-perch bedded on sauerkraut -- make that cabbage cooked in goose fat, and absolutely fabulous. Entrees $27-$45.

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