Picturesque Preserves and Dutch Treats
In a stroke of genius the former director of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam decided that a world-class museum also needed a world-class restaurant. Since November 2014 restaurant RIJKS, which quickly gained a Michelin star, is residing in the western wing of the home of Rembrandt’s Nightwatch and Vermeer’s Milkmaid. Is chef Joris Bijdendijk creating equally artful dishes?
We visited soon after the opening and were impressed by the Dutch-inspired dishes and wines, that is, wines from Dutch vintners abroad and wines from The Netherlands itself. As a side note: in 2004 I was excited about having dinner at Chateau Neercanne in the southernmost part of The Netherlands where they served a Dutch Apostelhoeve wine. Meanwhile, climate change has gone so far it facilitates wine production all the way up to the northern province of Drenthe. As a result, you have a choice of Dutch wines at Rijks. I feel ambivalent about this, but there are upsides to higher temperatures. May I remind you of the excellent Cabernet Blanc Kus van Thérèse from the Dutch province of Overijssel?
Lidewij van Wilgen - Dutch vintner in Languedoc
Library of Preserves
Back to RIJKS. My enthusiasm about this restaurant was such that I wanted to revisit. The fact that I did is a compliment in itself; most of the time I can’t resist trying something new. The interior is as handsome as it was. The entrance doubles up as a picturesque library display of hundreds of glass jars filled with all sorts of preserved fruits and vegetables. From here we were led passed a prominent black bar, well stocked with many different Dutch jenevers (gins) to the nifty dining room. Classic museum-style parquet floors, grey and beige chairs, dark green leather bistro-style benches, slick light fixtures, all with an updated fifties feel. With a stretch of the imagination, the early afternoon light made the dining room resemble a Saenredam interior in the color palette of a Heda or Claesz painting. (See main picture.)
Once seated a dip of celeriac and lovage oil, and a rice blini with a bit of feta cheese, farmer’s cheese (boeren oplegkaas) and fresh herbs (mint among others) were brought to our table. As I love the savoury freshness of lovage, the dip was a favorite, without however disqualifying the blinis that were presented as a small still life on a black-charred knotty piece of wood.
From oyster-, king trumpet – and other mushrooms braised in a shiitake tea with a hint of earl grey served with leek oil and a just-not raw duck’s egg (rich, smoky and earthy with a vague fresh spark from the bergamot), we moved on to ultra soft beef cheeks that came with three preparations of onions (popped, cream and crumble), and some green (spinach) and red (pimento) millet. Contrasts galore: soft and crunchy (popped onion) textures, sweet (onion) and savory flavors, green and red colors. Delicious and pretty, without going overboard on the art of plating.
Beef cheeks with spinach and pimento millet
For dessert there was caramelized wild peach with plum compote, puree of sweet potato, truffle-potato ice cream and chips, a wild combination that worked surprisingly well. Sweet potato was a fantastic base for fruity flavors and a tittle of truffle actually gave the dessert more depth. The idea of adding potato chips is understandable, but it was one thing too much; without, it may have lacked some crunchiness, but for me it would have been better.
(Sweet) potato dessert
If the waiting staff wouldn’t have seated another couple right next to us in an otherwise almost empty restaurant (we had an early lunch) and if they wouldn’t have been arguing (visibly and audibly) with the sous-chef (the chef himself wasn’t there), it would have been a perfect meal. The décor is really smart and classy and although I missed a stronger Dutch touch in the set lunch menu the dishes revealed the hand of a master, both in taste and looks. Overall a good match with the Milkmaid.
Museumstraat 2 – Amsterdam (NL)
T: +31 (0)20 6747 555
Gault & Millau: 16,5/20 (2 toques)
Three-course set lunch menu: € 37,50
Four-course set lunch menu: € 47,50