Opposite the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam we gathered as high school students to leave by coach for winter sports or summer camp: a huge parking lot with one gray shack in the middle, where the most famous croquette farmer in the country was located … the tastiest!
The square has been renovated in recent years. It should become a lively center of a bustling residential area. To this end, two residential towers have risen from the concrete plain with a park with benches in between (to quietly enjoy your cheese soufflé or chips of war) and there is of course enough space for catering. The touring car atmosphere is not completely gone yet, but the culinary offer on the Stadionplein has in any case improved a lot.
21 beers on tap, that is ambitious for many a beer café. Let alone a restaurant. Bar Alt – subtitle: great food, craft beer & natural wine – is a joint venture of the brewery Two Chefs Brewing and the restaurateurs behind Jacobsz in Amsterdam-East. The idea behind Bar Alt is to fine dining to be combined with artisanal beers. Beer has been more than just lager for years. One or two beer pairings in the ‘wine package’ has long been normal in the better, modern tents. We are already familiar with restaurants with full beer packages from culinary world cities such as Copenhagen and New York.
Where wine is blown away, beer holds its own
The cuisine at Alt is modern European with a hip Asian twist here and there. The preparations are fine, but the menu is a bit of a mixed bag. Some dishes are a bit mixed up, like the veal loin with everything Japanese and hip – wasabi, nori, shiso, a mushroom and salmon eggs. On the other hand, as main course we get a piece of mouflon (wild sheep) with blackberries and porcini mushrooms. A very nice piece of wildlife that you rarely encounter.
Hamatchi with tomato is a great idea. Subtle raw fish with a sour and savory, light tomato stock, that could have been a delicate dish. Unfortunately, the sharpness of a rather large raw shallot ring and the aggressive kick of the Chilean spice mix completely blow the fish away. In addition, a crazy gelled, transparent blob floats in the broth. (I hadn’t written this at the time of serving, so I’m assuming it wasn’t real, but it reminded me of a flume in every way. That’s not very pleasant to eat.) Also the combination of the sticky, sweet onion gravy with smoked beer and hazelnut give a misplaced praline taste to half an onion filled with pulled pork from knuckle of ham – like a crazy pork shank bonbon.
The combination of artichoke with corvina, sobrassada (a kind of spreadable chorizo), escabeche sauce, black garlic and anchovies was particularly successful. It’s busy in the mouth, yet down-to-earth in a burly way and the piece of fish is big enough to keep it all on track. This is a good dish: well thought out, well dosed. Just like the voluptuous scallops with lobed, frothy mashed potatoes, smoked butter and grated Belperknolle. Of course that’s vulgar violence – fat, sweet, cheese, salt and smoke – but it works like a charm. This is mainly due to the beer pairing: the lemon and thyme saison from Partizan. The lemon-thyme flavor fits seamlessly and the tight bitters go nicely against the fat.
It’s actually the one and only pairing of the evening. It is also the fourth saison in an eight-course menu. That’s just a shame for a restaurant that prides itself on beer with dinner.
Beer is an incredibly versatile drink. It offers numerous starting points if you want to combine it with food. For starters, beer usually picks up the spiciness of Asian food well. Where wine is blown away, beer holds its own. Heavier beers such as doubles, tripels or porters with a maltier and sweeter taste often combine well with winter stews or the more robust farm work. Dark stouts often have coffee notes and sometimes even slightly licorice – you can even play with dessert. You can also give beer many secondary flavors by aging it in, for example, whiskey or port barrels. Or by brewing herbs or spices (from Sichuan pepper to cloves, just think of it.)
Too much carbon dioxide is not good. Then you are constantly ‘bleeding’
From super-tight to hoppy, to tropical-fruity IPAs – beer is bitter above all else. That makes it interesting and drinkable. But when you eat, you prefer to drink something sour – wine is, in addition to a lot of other things, mainly an acidic drink. In my experience, gueuze and other wild fermentation sour beers are the ideal styles for the most beautiful, complex beer-food combinations.
Whatever you prefer, what you certainly don’t want is a lot of carbon dioxide. That gives a full and bloated feeling. Up to four times we are poured with a saison with the explanation that this style is characterized by the high carbon dioxide content. As a result, I have not drunk a single glass and I am constantly venting between bites.
The real beer aficionado interested in a nice flavor combination should sit at the bar and enjoy a spoonful of caviar with a shot of altbier for 15 euros – who would have thought that that bittersweet malty folk drink would merge so beautifully with that salty-creamy decadence – and then let those twenty-one taps flow. We can always grab a croquette around the corner.
Correction (October 27, 2018): Bar Alt is located at Stadionplein in Amsterdam-Zuid, not in Amsterdam-East, as the photo caption stated earlier. The restaurant is partly the initiative of the owners of restaurant Jacobsz, which is located in Oost (on the Ringdijk).