Just before the new corona measures came into effect, we ended up on the terrace of Sjas in De Baarsjes in Amsterdam. Not long ago, the Chasséstraat was considered simple, now the square meter price has risen to six thousand euros. A hotel, a boutique hotel with four stars, was built in the former Roman Catholic Chassé Church, so the adjacent Sjas gets a good turnout from hotel guests. Besides that, local residents also come and sit on the spacious terrace, the business is open all day.
Outside the tables are at an appropriate distance and in addition, small groups settle on wooden benches with cushions. The atmosphere is friendly, laid back. With a careless move, the waiter puts the card on the table for us, apparently the party can begin. Sjas, started last year by two young women who earned their spurs at Ron Blaauw, has a varied menu with plenty of choice for vegetarians and vegans and attention to “pure, simple ingredients”, as they say themselves. One of those ingredients is tuna, which is on the menu as ‘tuna wellington’, a nod to Beef Wellington, where steak with a layer of mushrooms with herbs – duxelles – is wrapped in puff pastry and cooked.
Tuna Wellington (21,-) is clearly the hit of Sjas, on the toilet hangs a folder in which the dish is bombed into Wednesday evening dish at the reduced price of 15 euros. Sjas has more hits: watermelon tartare with kimchi, crème cru and serundeng (9.50), for meat-leavers who are homesick for the structure of meat. The watermelon is cooked until it looks and feels just like beef tartare. We order the hits anyway and the ceviche of corvina (11,-) and grilled pointed cabbage with pumpkin and antiboise in beurre noisette (16.50). The main courses come without side dishes, so we add tiger fries with mayonnaise (4.50) and green lettuce (4.50). Just to be sure, we inquire about the origin of the tuna – and immediately end up in a swamp. The service has no idea, but is willing to ask at our request. She returns with the announcement that the cook does not know and the manager also scratches behind her ears. Much later she returns with the story that “the tuna comes from a fish farm in IJmuiden and is sustainable”. Pretty crazy to name tuna, especially tuna, as a house classic and then not know exactly where it comes from.
By the way, our tuna in puff pastry is mediocre: the cuisson of the fish is okay, but the puff pastry was pale, not well cooked and it lacks that crispiness. The watermelon is beautiful and indeed fleshy, but the gorse salty serundeng – a sprinkle of peanuts, coconut and spices – dominates and ruins the taste. The raw corvina, a perch-like farmed fish, has been cooked too long in the Tiger milk (tiger milk, lime); the cooking in acid should be done briefly with ceviche. The fish is surrounded by rock hard popped corn kernels, not a good idea either. The pointed cabbage comes from the barbecue and turned out well, crispy on the outside and cooked on the inside, but the beurre noisette has turned into a splash of gravy with roasted hazelnuts in it. Beurre noisette has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with real hazelnuts; it is melted, browned butter with a nutty color, smell and taste. Here it lacks that attractive umami. On the dessert, coconut panna cotta (7,-), there is an old, limp cookie – and then we know for sure: people work too carelessly here.
The catering industry – certainly things that still have to prove themselves – does not have it easy and that is also close to our heart. But that means taking it up a notch, slacking is not possible.
When we leave, we see how the writer Kees Fens looks down on us from a photo on the side wall of his birthplace with the text: “The sky is around us, in shards on earth”.
Reviewer and journalist Rock Possel tests a restaurant in and around Amsterdam every week.