Yamazato Restaurant, Amsterdam
February 18, 2014
Linda and I spent the three nights of January 13, 14 and 15 at the Okura Hotel in Amsterdam. We chose the hotel as it is a short, easy tram ride to the museum area, including the Concertgebouw, which was our main objective of the trip. The first evening we went to the one-Michelin-star Yamazato Restaurant in the hotel. The second we went to the hotel’s two-star Ciel Bleu. The third evening we had a surprisingly good meal in the Mirror Room at the Concertgebouw before an excellent all-Brahms concert.
After arriving at Yamazato Restaurant, we were seated at a table alongside a window looking out onto a Japanese garden and pool. The decor is a modern, efficient version of traditional Japanese design. There is a sushi bar to the left of the entrance. You can see a private dining room in the rear of this photo.
We accepted the suggestion of the house apéritif, Champagne and Yuzu. The proportions were just right and this was delicious.
The menu was enormous, too big, but I suppose that a restaurant in a hotel with a global clientèle and substantial local business must offer a wide variety of styles and prices. It was like a comprehensive survey of Japanese cuisine. We ordered the
Chef’s Recommendation Seasonal Menu, January 2014
with the accompanying “sake arrangement.”
There was an appetizer of shredded pickled cabbage, daikon radish and carrot over an orange slice with a dab of lobster meat on top.
The menu started with
“Tazuna sushi” Sushi of shrimp , herring and cucumber
“Hirame kobujime’’ Brill flavoured with kelp
“Sake kobumaki’’ Simmered salmon rolled with Konbu seaweed
“Uzura aburani” Simmered quail cake
The sake with this course was a nice Junmai Dai Ginjo.
Fish soup with shrimp cake
Sashimi of sea bream, tuna and lobster
A “dry” sake was poured with this course.
Grilled sea bass wrapped in Japanese paper
The seabass was fresh and good with a crisp skin. On top was a sea urchin sauce. On the bottom right was a sweet grapefruit gel to refresh the palate at the end.
The sake with this was an even drier Junmai called Red River.
Deep fried oyster
This was sort of a tempura, but was not really hot or very crisp. One of the oysters was enhanced with nori.
The sake with this, and the next two courses was Honin, a fruitier, excellent Junmai Dai Ginjo .
Thinly sliced beef and vegetables with Sukiyaki sauce
Slices of good beef, onions and tofu were presented in a shallow metal bowl over a small burner. In the bottom photo you can see my dish in the foreground and Linda’s in the rear. When you had cooked the slices to your taste, you could dip them in the beaten egg white sauce. This abbreviated version of sukiyaki was fun and good. The traditional sauce is slightly sweet with mirin. The dip is just beaten raw egg.
Steamed rice with cod and Miso soup
Yuzu and green tea ice cream
Soup of sweet red beans
The macarons were yuzu and miso. The ball was mango.
The dessert was accompanied by a sweet, insubstantial 8% sake, Sakuragao Shuzo.
The service was always good, although the English of the younger Japanese staff was sometimes hard to follow. The pace was good, noise level okay and we enjoyed ourselves. As you can see from the photos, the presentation was excellent, but we were often disappointed by the ingredients and their preparation, which frequently had been done earlier. I was not expecting a Tokyo quality meal, but Amsterdam is an international business center with resident and visiting Japanese executives. I would have thought that this would have required a higher standard, as it does for successful Japanese restaurants in New York. With its Michelin star and location in the Okura Hotel, I would have thought that Yamazato should be the premium Japanese restaurant in Amsterdam. But it disappointed us in that.