Last summer I moved to Amsterdam-North. To Nieuwendam to be precise. This has existed since the end of the fifteenth century a new dam had to be built on this spot. Today it has been completely swallowed by Amsterdam, it is even located within the ring road. Still, I thought it was quite a step. I grew up on the other side of the water. Noord, that was the marginal part of the city, with gray gallery flats and squatters’ strongholds. It was far and there was no reason to go there.
In the meantime, Noord is a bustling district: there are five ferries and there is a real metro line, Hotel de Goudfazant is always good, just like the brilliant Taqueria Coba a little further away, fromagerie Kef has a tasting room, we have the best sourdough in the bakery Ex. the city and on the Buikslotermeerplein a huge branch of the super-shop Amazing Oriental has recently been opened (thank you, Lord!). But North is still North: the variety of ‘carts’ on which people move here remains amazing – recently we saw someone walking the dog on the sidewalk with a scooter.
Still an exciting decision. But I’m sure it was the right one. We have received a sign from above: less than two weeks after we signed the purchase contract, we received the news that the sous chef of Kaagman & Kortekaas (one of my favorite places in the city) together with the owners of Michelin restaurant Lastage would open a new business. in Nieuwendam. Literally 300 meters from my brand new front door.
Anyone who has ever looked at my Instagram knows that I sit there at the bar every week with the baby in the baby carrier. Distrustful minds may wonder whether I can write about this restaurant with an appropriate distance as a child at home. But I wouldn’t be doing you any favors if I didn’t tell you about Lazure. Of course I’m there every week for a reason.
Chef Sherif Khalil has Egyptian and Portuguese roots. We see the latter in particular on the menu. The warm and tasty Portuguese cuisine is originally quite rustic and knotty. Khalil keeps it fairly tight and simple, but gives it a subtle interpretation. The squid, for example, is straightforward: grilled briefly, juicy and tender with tasty blackened edges. The refinement lies in the subtle acidity of the delicately sliced, short pickled white cabbage in the silky sweet beurre blanc based on fish bones.
Less obviously Portuguese, but very ingenious is the cauliflower with green curry: cooked but not mushy, nutty brown on top, the spicy curry hidden in a thick, cooling yogurt, flanked by a rustic mountain of chopped capers that are turbocharged with aromatic grated various citrus fruits. The chicken with Jerusalem artichoke is also worth mentioning because of the deep-droppy bay-kombu gravy. The drywall filler – I know what that looks like since I’ve owned my own house – from celeriac is a less successful detail on the otherwise fine mullet with wafer-thin sourdough crust. The gnocchi with pumpkin, mushrooms and butter cheese is a bit one-dimensional and the potato dumplings are a bit heavy.
Khalil’s best work is the surf and peat dishes, such as the voluptuous mussels with smoldering homemade chorizo in a velvety tomato sauce. Such as the sticky filming-fat veal cheek with a salty-sweet sauce of Dutch shrimps. There’s something sultry about those dishes, sun-drenched with a kiss from the coast. That’s why I find it so incredibly unfortunate that the pulled pork with cockles, normally one of my favorites, comes out of the kitchen so soggy tonight. The whole dish – the smokiness and oiliness that can be so sultry along with the black olives – literally falls into the water.
The menu at Lazure largely consists of nice dishes that do not get boring easily. The good thing is that they are (almost) all available in two sizes. If you eat together and order everything but the steak rossini in small portions, you are five bucks further per person and you have eaten enough and tasted everything. In addition, the wine list is also reasonably priced, a bottle of waxy-fresh Grüner Veltliner from the Wachau for 38 euros goes a long way.
Entirely in the Portuguese theme, Lazure also has an extensive selection of port and madeira. Elise Moeskops, the wine half of the Lastage duo, is happy to pour you a flightje white-tawny-ruby with a thorough basic explanation. That is highly recommended, just like the Colheita from 1974 – the penny has really dropped for me now.
Khalil is a modest man, who does not flaunt great ambitions. But I think he does have them. He is constantly tinkering with the dishes that form the backbone of his menu and is also always tinkering with his pâtés or his sausages; tonight in the über-Portuguese warm green – a kale soup bound with potato (stew, but tasty) – a trio of homemade black pudding, smoked sausage and tartare with chorizo herbs. So it’s always nice to pop in for a while.
That makes Lazure an ideal neighborhood restaurant: food and wine are much better than average, but not too expensive. Sometimes things can go a little more smoothly, but the staff – some of whom actually live in the area – know who you are and what you drank last time. And on the wall is the beautiful coat of arms of our Nieuwendam: the proud swan, with a golden crown around its neck, against a blue-blue background.