Joël Broekaert eats brill bone with herring caviar

special, sounds like a website, is a restaurant. And not just any one: it has been named ‘wine restaurant of the year 2016’ by boast, the restaurant guide of the trade magazine Press wine. Grootspraak writes: “Everything in this restaurant breathes love and passion for wine. The wine list is characterized by good choices, in addition to reasonable prices. Also from less obvious countries such as the Netherlands, Greece, Croatia and Brazil (…) The choices in the arrangement fit well with the dishes and are without exception also exciting.” About the food, the guide says: “The international cuisine has an Asian touch.” looks like a cross between a lounge bar and a chic Chinese: blue light along the walls, fake crocodile leather chairs and tables with a bamboo feel. The music is somewhere in between what they play in the herbal bath of a hip spa and an average women’s fashion store. It’s not too loud, so it doesn’t really bother me.

On the table is a brush ready on a tray with a black blub. It’s fermented garlic. The intention is that we “paint” our prawn crackers with it and then “eat it nicely”, says the somewhat over-enthusiastic waiter, who is also extremely helpful and attentive – nothing but good things about the service tonight. The gold-sprayed mouse from burrata, served on a real mousetrap with a crispy Beemster cheese in it, also fits perfectly in the interior (tip: don’t play with it, it really hurts). It’s all nice and kitsch, but it radiates a lot of fun. And that fun is there all night long.

On the plate

The menu is a bit strange: there are three ‘fine bites’, a small starter, but still around two tens; and cheaper ‘classics’ without size indication. In this way we are carefully directed towards the tasting menu: four courses for 48.50 euros to eight for 84.50 euros. Wine pairings are offered in whole and half glasses.

We start with a crispy dry Barons de Rothschild and a much smoother, but no less tasty cava and a trio of appetizers, including an interesting vegetarian rendang with a coconut-bergamot foam – there’s more to it than an amuse-bouche.

Then the real thing. There is something to criticize about every course, at the same time it is all very entertaining. The dishes are not very refined: the portions are not bland and there is always a lot going on. For example, course one consists of sea bream, both fried and tartare, ice cream of green herbs including Vietnamese parsley, passion fruit gel, green curry foam, egg yolk cream, a cucumber-lavas pastille and quinoa. There is also a gilardeau oyster that in itself has been given all those elements. It is a huge fair of structures and tropical flavours.

Then it goes better with brill bone with herring caviar, a cream and a meringue of peas and lovage, salty vegetables and a kaffir foam. Beautiful fish, well fried, some sweetness from the pea, salty vegetables and a modest tropical citrus aroma from the kaffir – much more subtle.

Later it flies completely out of control with a combination of miso foam, dashi and raspberry. It goes better in the vegetarian version with fried tofu (original is with duck liver and duck) – but it remains far-fetched.

It is nice that the Asian theme is not limited to the usual (South) East Asian flavors. Turkey is also Asia. The roasted cod with ayran (salty buttermilk), bulgur with pomegranate, string bean sauce and rillette of sucuk (Turkish garlic sausage) is very cleverly put together; a particularly nice salt-acid balance has been found with the ayran and the sausage. Very refreshing.

And then the wines. We were promised that they would go well with the dishes and be exciting. As for the first one, agree. But it’s a lot of lychee, wild peach and tropical citrus, so exciting: oh well. Nice that there is Hungarian and Lebanese wine in the arrangement. And that at the foot of each glass there is a small card with the name.

Final verdict

Eight courses at is a lot of violence, it really goes in all directions. It pinches here and there, but we are not bored for a second. Above all, you can see and taste that the chef enjoys it and that makes the food fun.