It has been a while since I did a ‘Lunch Date Saturday’ review, so without further ado, let’s get on with my experience at Krab aan de Haven yesterday, a seafood restaurant located in Almere-Haven. It isn’t a new restaurant. It’s been there a while and has had it good moments (being chosen as best restaurant in the city by Robert Kranenborg in 2006) and its lesser moments (having to be helped by Herman den Blijker’s restaurant makeover program ‘Herrie Gezocht’ in 2011). I am a huge seafood fan and had yet to visit the restaurant. It’s hard to believe that yesterday was my first time. Perhaps the reason is because I’m quite biased when it comes to choosing places to eat out. I usually prefer restaurants outside of my own city. Not because the restaurants here are horrible (although we certainly have a few disasters), but because the atmosphere is quite different in other cities, in my opinion.
That was my first thought when I stepped into an empty Krab aan de Haven yesterday afternoon.
If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you may remember me mentioning Bel Ami several times. We discovered the restaurant last year and have regularly returned to enjoy an experience which I can honestly describe as faultless.
Entering Bel Ami, situated in Bussum in the Dutch province of North Holland, feels like coming home. As soon as I sit down, I know that for the next few hours life will be good, and that I will not merely pay and leave the restaurant, but float away — smiling and looking forward to my next visit.
Where should I start? Their service is outstanding. From the way the waiters look and their professionalism, to the way they serve the food and are attentive to everything without ever being pushy or arrogant. Something which I detest. Not too long ago I visited a very fancy restaurant in Amsterdam where the staff was staring and looking over our shoulder the whole time — ready to attack with a wine refill before the glass was even empty. I’m not a big fan of being asked if ‘everything’s OK’ every five minutes either. I go to a restaurant to delight in the pleasures of great food and great company, not to be harrassed by overly attentive waiters. At Bel Ami, you are left alone, yet any desire is quickly fulfilled.
The place looks like a dream, too. Hardwood floors decorated with classically beautiful stone tiles, soft ligthing in the form of elegant chandeliers, and my personal favorite — a collection of stunning artwork interspersed throughout the establishment.
I’ve eaten so many wonderfully prepared meals. There’s the perfect steak tartare, exquisitely cut and served with golden shoestring fries and a well-dressed salad. And speaking of salad, their ‘Salade Riche’ is pure sensuality with seafood delicacies and, if desired, duck liver curls. Every season the menu is updated with new selections. I’ve had mustard soup with trout, the best tarte tatin with cinnamon ice cream ever, spaghetti alle vongole which moved me to tears, and yesterday a creamy truffle risotto with mushrooms and a poached egg that was every bit as fabulous as it sounds. You want French classics? They’re there. Sole à la Meunière, escargots, boeuf bourguignon, crème brûlée, Gillardeau oysters… A great wine list, too and house wines that are quite a joy to drink.
Four stars for the admirable accomplishment of serving consistently superb food without ever being pretentious — plus one extra for never failing to put me in a state of culinary ecstasy.
It wasn’t that long ago that people looked at me with a certain amount of compassion when I mentioned I lived in Almere. That “boring ass” city where no one would want to be caught dead in. At first, I couldn’t help but bow my head somewhat and agree. But long gone are the days when venturing outside of town was necessary in order to shop (commerce is growing stronger by the day), enrich the mind (plenty of cultural activities such as expositions, readings, film and theater), and wine and dine (though not all of them are equally exciting, there are enough new restaurants popping up all over the city).
I had heard of Barista in Almere, a café which opened late this past July, but had yet to visit.
If you read my last post, you might remember that I said my next ‘Lunch Date Saturday’ review would be in two weeks. Swamped. That’s what I was (and still am). I really didn’t think I would get around to going out yesterday — 24 recipes to test, remember? But by three in the afternoon, my head was spinning, and I was craving lunch and a glass with the boy.
We ended up going to Hudson Bar & Kitchen in Almere, one of the six branches of the trendy restaurant serving all-American classics such as burgers, fully-loaded hot dogs, spare ribs, bar bites and cocktails. I had visited the restaurant before with friends, both for dinner and for drinks, but never got around to writing a review. Now’s a good time as any!
One of the first things I tried was their grilled rib-eye served with coleslaw, red onion compote, salad and thick-cut chips. I’m a seasoned steak connoisseur and this one passed the test in every way. Good grill taste, good seasoning and a perfect ‘cuisson’. Their Argentinian Malbec — plump, plummy and a little smoky around the edges — also managed to impress my palate. So much so, that I’ve gone back a few more times just for a glass. Exactly my type of wine. Strong, aromatic and not for wussies. Fine piña coladas too, generous on the rum, in other words.
Yesterday, however, hubby and I both went for their chili con carne, served with guacamole, coleslaw, sour cream, tortilla chips and bread. A choice that was not on the lunch menu, but that they kindly agreed to make for us anyway. Good service? Check. Good chili? Also check. Rich, meaty and mellow on the spice. The only thing that was slightly overpowering was the garlic. Tone that down a notch or two and you’ve got a great bowl.
I still have to try their burgers, which are actually what they pride themselves on. The prawn one with lime mayo sounds godly. As does the ‘Mr. Big’: 300 grams of beef with bacon, cheddar, red onion and a fried egg — not a bad name either.
I’ll be popping over again. You’ll find me at one of their tall tables, slurping on a broad chested Malbec and saying to the charming waiter: “Give me a Hudson burger and no one gets hurt.” Now the only question is… which one.