It is never boring in Amsterdam-North. Take Spreeuwenpark, just behind Meeuwenlaan. There is always activity, some residents have laid out a beautiful flowerbed, others just put the three-seater sofa on the sidewalk in front of the house. They tinker with cars, play basketball in the park and smoke and laugh on the terrace of Café de Spreeuw. In addition, café Simon de Wit was opened last year. Finally a cafe where you can eat well, the atmosphere is casual and the prices are not as crazy high as in hipperdepip catering establishments in the capital. Once, in 1917, the Simon de Wit grocery store was located in this building, which faced fierce competition from neighbor Piet de Gruyter. De Gruyter eventually went bankrupt and Albert Heijn bought De Wit. End of an impressive grocery history.
The evening of our visit, the owner cum bartender is diligently dipping the menus (corona hygiene measure!) When a regular guest drives into the building on a scooter with thunderous violence, because he has forgotten to take the colossus out of gear. He is greeted with a smile. Look, that’s possible, we think excitedly.
Café Simon de Wit initially had an extensive menu, a hybrid connection between fine cuisine and Asian snacks. During the months of mandatory closure due to the corona crisis, the owners scratched their heads and decided to go for simple, Asian, but with the full scope of that kitchen. There are ten dishes on the menu, from snacks such as sticky tempeh, massaman bitterballen and kimchi nachos to ‘real’ dishes such as fried sweet potato, Korean taco and brisket burger. We actually want to order all ten dishes, but experience tells us that enough is really enough, so we keep it at five plus a dessert.
We take beer (Mannenliefde, brewery Oedipus, 4.50) and white wine (Grüner Veltiner, Kamptal, 4.30), there is an extensive drinks menu with homemade lemonades and many types of jenever. The litte gem salad with sesame miso dressing (5.50) is toasted, the dressing is delicious, but just a little too little, because you mainly want to eat more of it. The sticky tempeh (7,-) is a nice tower of tempeh fried just right; quite difficult to turn something rather cowardly like tempeh into something tasty. This is marinated in soy sauce with Thai lime, shallot and rawit. We think that rawit is actually sliced lombok, rawit is much spicier than this. Then comes a Korean taco (5.50), filled with gently cooked, super tender beef with pickles of onion, kimchi, lettuce and hot sauce.
There is also a vegetarian variant of this dish, there is also plenty of choice for vegetarians and that is a good thing. The bookseller in the Van der Pekbuurt recently told us that she mainly sells vegetarian cookbooks; the local residents are or want to get rid of the meat. Speaking of meatless, the yellow pumpkin curry (small portion 9.50) is full of flavor from the generous use of lemongrass and lime, and fills up well with sweet potato, tofu and glass noodles. The brisket burger (10.50) is quite large, a serious main course. On the halves of slightly sweet sesame brioche are slices of brisket (beef brisket) that have some fat and are marinated in hoisin sauce, cucumber pickles are included for freshness.
We now drink refrigerated, organic Cabernet Franc (4.80), the wines are well selected and reasonably priced, very pleasant! Finally, we share a dessert: wingko babat (6.50). This is an Indonesian cake of coconut sticky rice, not very sweet and with a firm structure, with some fat whipped cream and roasted banana, a dish somewhere between coconut macaroon and butter cake. And oh yes, very tasty.
Meanwhile, we gently say to each other how nice it is to be so far apart. Just eat in peace without the neighbor’s hot breath on your neck. Relaxed, not noisy, private. It may be a little bit of money for the owners, but it is quite tasty for the guests.