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Postcard From Tom: Amsterdam

Sunday, May 11, 2008

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

No visit to Amsterdam is complete without a walk through the Anne Frank house, a few hours at the van Gogh museum, a bike ride through Vondelpark -- and a meal in one of these delightful restaurants.

BLUE PEPPER (Nassau k ade 366, 011-31-20-489-7039): A legacy of Dutch colonization, Indonesian restaurants are as easy to find in the city as pickled herring, Gouda cheese and shrimp croquettes. This place, a narrow turquoise dining room with a loyal food following, takes the prize for style and innovation. Diners have the option of traditional or modern tasting menus or ordering a la carte. Among the dishes to seek out: chilled oysters ignited by a chili vinaigrette, a scorcher of a soup with fried sea bream, and beef draped in coconut gravy. A la carte entrees all $38.

RESTAURANT GREETJE (Peperstraat 23-25, 011-31-20-779-7450) : Named for the owner's mother, this cozy restaurant may be the best example of contemporary Dutch cooking outside a home. Here's the place to try tiny, tender local shrimp; delicate slices of Dutch lamb dressed up with chive-flecked potato salad; lightly smoked eel with herbed mayonnaise; and the tasty North Sea fish known as tub gurnard. Aim for Table 7, which offers a canal view. Come dessert, splurge on the "grande finale," a tiered tray that puts a taste of everything sweet -- semolina pudding, licorice ice cream, rhubarb compote with thick farmers yogurt -- on display. Entrees $30-$38.

CAFFE TOSCANINI (Lindengracht 75, 011-31-20-623-2813): When I invited Johannes van Dam, Holland's esteemed restaurant critic, to dinner, I was admittedly disappointed when he chose an Italian restaurant. But it was lust at first bite when the food started showing up; the pastas and fish were equal to what I've enjoyed in Italy. Set in the newly chic Jordaan section, the sprawling dining room is watched over by a young but savvy crew; be sure to tap Gijs Thio, Toscanini's ace sommelier, for his wine picks. Entrees $24-$31.

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