This evening is full of ups and downs. Sometimes it will be a little unusual, or intense, says Ola Lanko. “But I will take you by the hand and always take you to a safe place.” She asks us to approach this evening with an open mind… Don’t worry, this is not a ouija seance or ayahuasca ceremony. But it soon turns out that no ordinary evening out for dinner either.

The website didn’t reveal much: “Diptych is an omakase-style restaurant.” And further: “inspired by japanese principles and cuisine, diptych combines … different culinary traditions and turns them into something new.” The interior of this inconspicuous corner building in Amsterdam-West is beautifully sleek: one bar, wood along a granite top and eight stools attached to it. Two things stood out upon entering. The music: minimal soundscapes reminiscent of the Dream Flight from the Efteling. And the 240-gallon tank of liquid nitrogen in the corner.

When the last guests have arrived, the chef pours liquid nitrogen over a wooden bowl with warm water and a few drops of oil. Suddenly the scent of bergamot rolls over the counter like a thick white mist. She then makes ice cream from samphire and pistachio in a matte black magimix, again with that nitrogen, and scoops it on some sliced ​​​​tomato, plum and sage, topped with a strawberry mousse. It is fruit, it is vegetable, it is savory, salty and sweet. It’s strange. And it stays that way all night.

Some creations are stranger than others. The homemade stracciatella cheese (a type of burrata) with fermented garlic and barley syrup under a slice of roasted cucumber with soy and yuzu is extremely enjoyable. Just like the porridge with goat cheese, black currant, porcini mushrooms and capers. One is downright nasty: tempura of heavy, French stinky cheese with ice cream of kimchi and licorice. brrrrr.

It gradually becomes clear what is going on here: art is being done here. Not the kind of gifted chef who rises above his craft and elevates gastronomy to an art. This is the work of a conceptual artist who has chosen ‘food’ as a medium. We’ve walked into a three-hour form of installation art.

Lanko, originally from Ukraine, is an artist and photography teacher. Two years ago, she decided to expand her artistry into the culinary field: she started making ice cream in crazy flavors such as tobacco and fish. She started Diptych about five months ago. She has delved deeply into the matter: she consults a chemical database that matches ingredients based on the aromatic compounds they contain. She presents various and special ingredients, such as hogweed and flax killer. And her creations are committed: the celebration of bitterness – soy milk skin, chicory, hazelnut and seaweed – is an indictment of global warming and the disappearance of bitter vegetables: because more and more CO2 in the air, plants grow faster and have too little time to develop their characteristic bitterness.

Not a grain of salt

There are some really nice combinations – smoked yellow beetroot with coconut, for example, is a brilliant find. But they are not dishes, more a collection of flavors, which are pleasant at best. It looks messy. There are a disproportionate amount of nitrogen preparations. And the porridge hasn’t seen a grain of salt. Anyway, maybe I shouldn’t be sitting here, but the art critic of NRC.

Dish three – seaweed, pea, cashew, knife liver cheese and fermented rice jelly – represents puberty: it shoots in all directions, explains the chef. By corridor six we are given erratic cutlery that is difficult to hold, to make us aware of the inconveniences of aging. Along that line, I suspect that cheese-kimchi-licorice horror represents a slow, painful death from lung cancer.

She prefers not to call it art herself, because ‘art is always mediated, through a book, image or museum. This is freer and more intimate. The word ‘art’ can be intimidating: what’s the message here? Can I understand? Diptych must be a place of freedom without the expectations that the term ‘art’ evokes.”

But the word ‘restaurant’ also creates expectations. That’s why I’m here. There is at least one guy sitting at the bar with me who was under the impression that she was going to eat nice sushi – her distraught gaze clearly reads the letters F, E, B and O.

Nevertheless, Lanko does have a goal in mind as an artist. She wants to show the diversity of ingredients and the complexity of flavors. And create more empathy: „you taste opposing flavors that nevertheless go together. If your neighbor is different from you, you can think about that.”

Lanko carries this gracefully designed evening with verve and is an engaging, entertaining hostess. At the same time, it is evident that she has no culinary background. She has to, she says, because chefs are always tied to references and frameworks. But in this way you can choose any discipline whose craft you do not master under the guise of a frameless free spirit. That provokes some resistance in me.

Lanko doesn’t call it art. I don’t call it a restaurant. Of course, that does not mean that a gustatory participation installation like this has no right to exist. You can say it. It is useful to know exactly what you are getting yourself into. And a sandwich in advance might not hurt either.

Tags :