In the picturesque part of Muiderberg is a large white house with a wooden veranda, overgrown with vines, and a beautiful spacious terrace with small trees – we would almost defy the rain for it. Fortunately, the fireplace is burning inside Restaurant and Foodbar Quarz, which is also cosy. The rest is modern design, or what should pass for that, but the seats are good – that’s the most important.
An eye-catcher is the enormous wall with living moss: to improve the acoustics. I think that’s really cool, when nature works better than Styrofoam. And it looks great. Unfortunately, the moss doesn’t absorb the totally generic, annoyingly monotonous and corny lounge music. (Yes, this is subjective – but it remains astonishing that the semi-restoring Netherlands has remained stuck in a musical time capsule).
We come for the food, of course. And we look forward to that. Chef Nicky Quarz learned the trade from éminence grise Robert Kranenborg and later worked as a sous-chef for our culinary prophet Jonnie Boer (De Librije).
On the map
The menu consists of six dishes and two desserts, all the same size for 15 euros (plus oysters and cheese). In a menu they are cheaper, from three courses for 39 euros (the chef chooses) to eight courses for 89 euros.
Round one is cold smoked zander, white bean, mustard, egg, fennel and grapefruit. The fish is top: lightly salted, lightly smoked, beautiful firm raw structure. With a nice mustard cream and vinaigrette, topped with gossamer fennel and some watercress. So far very light and tasty. However, the tufts of endive and white bean cream, and especially the quail egg yolk (which is ‘cooked’ at -20 degrees and therefore has the structure of butter) make it cumbersome and fat. The grapefruit could have saved it, but instead of rind/bitter/sour/fresh (all this dish needs) the jelly is mostly sweet.
It works well with the cod cheeks. The celeriac chips are cooked with mandarin oil, which gives an explosive taste and freshness that is supported by yogurt and sorrel oil in a warm bath (literally) of cod stock. Next to it we are treated to the tongue and chin (those tasty fatty parts are the real delicacy of the fish) in a pure broth. Stimulating and playful.
Pork cheek with cauliflower cream, shaved scallops with coffee oil, pickle and gravy with anchovy is also a fairly brilliant combination, but, unlike the cod, a very heavy one. (It’s too bad we have to penalize the ‘mandatory crispy’ again: a fried anchovy bone with puffed rind sounds clever with this dish, but it’s simply not tasty.) Tasty, coarse venison tartare made with venison broth, pieces of bone marrow, (too much) beetroot and (too little) fresh-sour shallot is a nice idea but lacks enthusiasm. Just like the barbecued veal loin with Jack Daniel’s gravy. The wines are good but what middle of the road, with the exception of the cooled container of ripe blueberries (spätburgunder) with the deer.
Nothing on the menu is vegetarian, but Quarz can do it! On request we get marinated carrots with sherry vinegar, cream of yellow and sand carrot, carrot foam, green curry and salty plants. The chef has artfully extracted all possible flavor from the carrots. The curry gives depth and spice, the coastal plants give pungent, salty peaks and an intrinsic crunch – then you don’t need artificial crisps. It is a beautiful dish and has a sparkling lightness that the other dishes could also use. Unbelievable that it is not on the menu.
Quarz can cook, his preparations are perfectly fine across the board. He has fun, modern ideas (especially the mandarin cod dish and the pork cheek), but a heavy style. That slows down, like a sports swimmer in a wool sweater. If he wants to measure himself with his masters, he must look for sparkle and lightness. It is, as witnessed by the carrot dish.