I don’t actually feel attracted to either picture, but I suspect that the shrimp is meant for me – as a woman I would also have preferred an oyster than a mussel. Inside the toilets you look at a wall-sized skyline of an Asian city. The restaurant itself has a more South American atmosphere with peppers hanging from the ceiling.
We also find that mix on the menu at Ají: Latin-Asian. That sounds like fusion and that sounds old-fashioned. But we also come across this combination in the Japanese-Peruvian nikkei cuisine, for example, and that is very hip. In the end it doesn’t matter much, as long as it tastes good. And that works best with Ají.
On the map
The kitchen is led by Pelle Swinkels. He does this under the auspices of his old chef Mario Ridder, the husband of star restaurant Joelia. The menu is divided into fish, meat, veggie and dessert, but we start with some ‘bites’ with the cocktail – a very sweet negroni (10 euros) with mezcal, which tastes mainly like campari.
I always get suspicious of raw oysters with stuff. You should not do too much with a raw oyster. It soon dominates and even if it does not, it is often still a shame. But here it is logically done: sriracha instead of tabasco, sambai vinegar instead of the classic shallot with red wine vinegar, and a single sesame seed that is difficult to disturb (4.25 euros). The pieces of toast with artichoke cream and boquerones (sour anchovies) are just really tasty (7 euros). The steamed soy pods (edamame, 6.50) are topped with sweet chili sauce so that the almond pieces stick to them. Nice idea, but it mainly results in a lot of mess.
Everything else is a side dish. We choose a bit of everything, the waitress suggests a multi-course layout. She does this skillfully, at least she knows what she is serving. In the meantime we glide from Air via Stevie Wonder to UB40 and the food connects seamlessly with that: diverse, a bit easy but tasty.
The fish shouldn’t have been in it for a second longer, but the sea bass ceviche (17 euros) has everything it needs to be a classic ceviche: good acidity from the lime, nice big corn kernels and sweet potato. Fish of the day (16 euros) is fried squid (the little ones) with a tomato salsa and swirls of a few things around. Not really a whole (the chorizo could have been better processed by the salsa in my opinion), but it tastes fine otherwise.
The skrei (16 euros) is well fried, beautiful lamellae, on a fine bakkeljauw puree. What is presented as water spinach seems like a garter to us and the madam jeanette has probably been watching the piccalilli from a distance, but it is very tasty again.
Only thing that is a bit disappointing is the langoustine (18 euros), which is a bit mushy around the edges, with pork belly and atjar with a sweet mango cream as a platinum blond color rinse – it makes the whole thing tacky in one fell swoop. Serving sweetbreads (17 euros) as a nugget with sweet chili sauce is, in my opinion, humorous. Especially with a very decent rendang. For vegetarians, three mini quesadillas (12 euros) with mozzarella and cheddar are dressed with avocado tufts and sun-dried tomatoes. Much nicer is the Peruvian fig (14 euros) with a mix of pine nuts and nuts, old aceto and tempura of asparagus – classic flavors in an original form.
“Creating a wine list for a restaurant with a preference for South American cuisine with Asian influences and a Spanish touch is a big challenge,” the wine list reads somewhat apologeticly. That is why the choice was made for ‘mainly European and South American wines. With the aim that the wines can be combined with the dishes of Ají”. Which basically boils down to: here’s the wine list – it’s got wine on it.
Ají is worldly but not earth-shattering. You can come here for a casual evening to eat original without too much risk. To keep in mind for such a spontaneous yet-fun-eating-out-the-door evening.