It’s not often that you come across a Michelin-quality fine dining restaurant in a prime location that is also unpretentious, understated and affordable. But in a former jazz café on the corner of the Lindengracht and the Eerste Goudsebloemdwarsstraat in the historic Jordaan area of Amsterdam, you’ll find Daalder; a fine dining yet casual restaurant offering a creative Michelin-quality tasting menu.
The head chef Dennis Huwaë has worked at various Michelin-starred restaurants, including the renowned Fat Duck in the UK, and his creative flair is evident in his experimental and mouth-watering creations.
When I arrived at Daalder one Sunday afternoon for lunch, the restaurant gave little away. A corner restaurant tucked just behind the Noorderkerk and Noordermarkt square, Daalder is one street inward from the canals and thus just off the tourist track – despite still being walking distance from the Anne Frank house.
Outside, scruffy men were sat smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee in zip-up windbreakers, whilst inside a lone woman sat at the bar drinking a large beer, and an old man was reading his Sunday paper. The interiors consisted of dark woods, a practical terrazzo floor and a few Art Deco details, creating a Parisian bistro vibe.
The menu was written in chalk on a large blackboard; a 3, 4 or 5 course tasting menu for lunch (priced at €35, €42.50 or €50 respectively), or a 5, 6 or 7 course tasting menu for dinner (priced at €57.50, €65 or €72.50 respectively). There was no mention of what the dishes entailed – because they are a complete surprise, guided by both the guest’s preferences and the ingredients which are all hand picked in Paris by Dennis Huwaë himself.
After taking our drinks order, our waiter asked whether there’s anything that we don’t like (fois gras) or are allergic to – then the rest was in the chef’s hands. Not having a menu was refreshing in itself, as there was no worry about whether we had made the right choice (or time wasted reading through a long menu) and it was exciting not knowing what we were going to get.
Every dish was artfully composed, beautifully presented, and absolutely delicious. And with every dish the sommelier made recommendations from Daalder’s extensive wine menu. Each course looked like a work of art, and encompassed many flavours and textures.
Our first course was a fluffy goats mousse served on top of a tangy rhubarb and hibiscus compote, with miniature ‘side sandwich’ meringues made with just egg whites.
We were advised to eat the ‘sandwiches’ first, and they dissolved instantly in our mouths, the savoury meringues leaving behind a faint bread taste – creating the illusion of a mini baguette.
The sommelier brought out a complimenting white wine from the Valenti vineyard in Sicily, explaining both the back story of the wine as well as the different notes and flavours.
Our empty plates were taken away and we continued sipping our wine until the second surprise arrived; a light and refreshing tuna tartar served with watermelon, avocado, chipotle mayonnaise, jalapeño salsa and green tomato.
The paired wine was a fruity and elegant Portuguese white, also called a ‘green wine’, which was citrussy, full bodied and balanced.
The next course was also beautifully presented and an unusual combination of ingredients; fluffy poached egg, cauliflower and coffee powder, with hidden croutons underneath to add texture.
The poached egg wasn’t eggy at all as there was no rubbery egg white (instead a melt-in-mouth frothy mousse), just a yolk in the middle that gave the egg away.
The dish came paired with French white wine from Château Barouillet, which was slightly floral and peachy, with an exotic and fruity aroma, citrus flavours and a medium finish.
Next came a turbot fish served in a rich soy and mushroom sauce, topped with green apple and lovage. The sauce was very rich and condensed, the taste similar to a peppercorn sauce, and the green apple and lovage herbs gave the dish a refreshing crisp tangy edge.
It came with the first red wine, a mild and light wine from Swellendam in South Africa, made from a blend of Shiraz, Mourvedre, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira. The wine carried sweet plum, vanilla and forrest fruit aromas, with notes of black cherry and blackberries, and an under note of toasty oak and leather.
Our final savoury dish was langoustine served on a rich, sweet and velvety sweetcorn purée.
This prepared our palate for something sweet; a mango sorbet and mousse, topped with freshly grated cinnamon.
This came with a sweet dessert wine which we continued to drink long after the meal was finished. A truly captivating, concentrated, smooth and soft golden wine with roast apricot, peach and honey notes. Magnificent.
After experiencing Daalder’s five course tasting menu, it was no surprise how they have garnered such rave reviews. It really was a dining experience to savour, with each creation a delight to the palate. On top of this, the service was very professional and our server explained each course in detail when it arrived.
It might have been my first visit, but it certainly won’t be my last. It’s the ideal place to take family or a date, and great to take visitors due to it’s central location. Whether you live in Amsterdam or are planning a visit, it’s definitely an experience to add to your list. The food at Daalder is the equal of many Michelin-starred establishments, and surpasses most – for less than half the price.