One of my biggest passions is the art of the Dutch Golden Age. Especially Rembrandt. Every time I visit the Rijksmuseum I tell myself I will not cry when faced with one of my favorite paintings, The Jewish Bride (ca. 1665 – ca. 1669). Only to find myself with that funny sensation at the bottom of my throat within seconds of standing in front of it, hoping no one will notice my eyes as they well up. I just cannot help being overcome with emotion. Rembrandt managed to capture a peacefully intimate moment with strokes that are thick and make the painting appear almost three-dimensional. I once read that Vincent van Gogh would sometimes stare endlessly at the painting, especially admiring the detail in the two hands that lovingly touch and demand the viewer’s attention.
After hearing about the newly-opened restaurant named Rembrandt in Amstelveen, I knew I had to check it out. Not only did the name appeal to me (and the fact that they had chosen my favorite painting as a focal point of their interior), but the menu looked pretty good, too. I wanted to try the Dutch prawn salad, the Maas Rijn IJssel steak from the Lindenhoff with red wine sauce, the zuurkool stamppot (potato and sauerkraut mash) served with Brandt & Levie sausage, the cod with mustard sauce from Meeuwig & Zn. All names that will ring a bell with Dutch food lovers. Choosing was not going to be easy.
As we drove up to the restaurant, the first thing that caught my attention was its location. Unfortunately, it is not really in the center of town, nor is it in an area that’s very much inviting. In fact, it is surrounded by apartment complexes for senior citizens. I immediately wondered how this would affect the success of the restaurant in the long run. Would the food and service manage to rise above what could potentially pose a problem?
Upon arrival, we were cordially greeted by our hostess before choosing a cozy table for two next to one of the windows. You would think that in such a large space this would be difficult, but that certainly wasn’t the case. Our table was beautifully set with sturdy silverware, rustic linen napkins and water glasses reminiscent of the ones seen in Dutch 17th century paintings, the so-called roemer.
The interior features a huge open kitchen and is graciously decorated with warm color accents and touches of Dutch such as Delft blue and colored glass. The Rembrandt theme is present in the sketches that decorate doors, the books scattered about and of course, the majestic replica of The Jewish Bride.
We both decided to go for the menu of the day which kicked off with a mild and velvety broccoli soup served with a dollop of cream. The main was one of my favorite Dutch classics, rundersukade (meltingly stewed beef) accompanied by buttery mashed potatoes, red cabbage and a small pot of stewed pears. The meat was well cooked and succulent, and the gravy thick and aromatic. Both courses were washed down with a glass of their fruity Pinot Noir, uncomplicated and perfectly pleasing. For dessert I chose the cinnamon ice cream served with crisp wafers of honey and dark brown sugar, while Hans had a plate of Dutch cheeses presented with nut bread, thick apple syrup, fruit and walnuts. Compliments throughout for a perfect balance of flavors and textures.
I’m almost sorry to say that we were, in fact, the only lunch guests that afternoon. Our hostess told us they still needed work in their PR department. Considering the location of the restaurant, I’d be inclined to do that sooner than later.
Aside from that, for anyone who doubts that beauty of the simplicity in the Dutch kitchen, or thinks that the Netherlands has nothing to offer foodwise, a visit to this restaurant is in order. Rembrandt idolatry is, of course, not a prerequisite.