Nice that you manage to ruin even this dish (6)

special

Dinner at six. Cool name, nice quip to the petit-bourgeois Dutch food culture. The menu is compact, four courses each with two dishes: one with meat or fish and one without. Not expensive, but very affordable dishes (for and between 7 to 9 euros, head around 17) with cleverly chosen ingredients: affordable fish such as mackerel and mullet, asparagus in season and undervalued products such as razor clams and roosters. Combinations such as asparagus with basil gnocchi and aubergine sauce or crème brûlée of aged cheese with sorrel ice cream sound original and inviting. The interior is open and industrial.

Dinner at six has all the paperwork to be a fun, contemporary place – one that everyone would want to have in their neighborhood. And that in Houten. (Yeah, yeah, think I’m a metropolitan snob. There are certainly exceptions, but the fact is that the average level in the mid-range is a bit lower outside the big cities. Sorry.)

On the map

Anyway. It could have been so beautiful.

Tartar is officially raw, finely chopped meat. The same goes for fish. But what is billed as tartare in this case are large chunks of roasted mackerel. “We cut it a bit coarsely,” the waiter winks. Then don’t call it tartare. My sense of humor is briefly buried under the brown tufts that stand proudly between the stale, pickled radishes (own fermentation attempt?). They have a pungent, faded flavor that’s somewhere between the brown edges of the pre-cut lettuce in that last plastic bag at the grocery store and soured Nutella. Surely this can’t be the cream of salsa verde (that was just herb mayo for a drink a moment ago)? Inquiry shows that it must represent broccoli puree. Nice that you can make something so unpleasant out of that.

The evening is full of basic mistakes from start to finish. Chewy octopus. And tough razor clams with oversized chunks of sour cauliflower in between. Well baked mullet with totally tasteless cauliflower grit underneath and the same wild garlic foam on top. Sin and loveless. A cocktail that tastes like a double drink laced with vodka. Brioche that looks more like cornbread – nothing fluffy and stuffed with grease at the bottom.

And then another totally misplaced term: asparagus pot-au-feu. Pot-au-feu is a stew. This dish is completely nothing stewed. The aubergine sauce is a nice idea, but the gnocchi is mushy. Pulling the sauce by the cock of the carcass and then binding with the liver is in itself a very good idea. But rooster liver is not foie gras. A very large knob of butter must be added, otherwise the sauce will become loose. Whose deed.

Was there nothing good at all? Yes. The combination of gently cooked egg yolk with parmesan and hazelnut is a classic. In this case, we managed not to mess that up. The crème brûlée made of aged cheese is nicely lobed, the sorrel ice cream original and fresh. Off the menu there is oxtail and it turned out surprisingly well: tender tasty meat, rich tomato sauce, with fresh string bean juice and spicy nasturtiums. Huh, this is correct. Simple and effective. The wines are nice and competitively priced. We drink a balanced chardonnay from Moldova (Radicini, 5 euros per glass, 23 euros per bottle) and a tasty Austrian Zweigelt (Claus Preisinger, 38 euros per bottle).

Final verdict

Dinner at six sticks its head above ground level. That is commendable. The business exudes a charming ambition, but there are simply too many failures. Is someone here haphazardly beating around in the kitchen? I do not think so. The menu looks a little too inspired on paper for that. The oxtail turned out just a little too well for that. And there are still quite a few preparations among them that betray some knowledge. Are we then dealing with a cook who wanted to become a chef too soon and should have learned something better? Or an owner who can’t find good staff? Everything is possible. Everything can still be straightened. But the person responsible for that piping bag of brown gunk must be fired immediately.