Don’t get me wrong, I have the best job in the world. It is a privilege to go out to dinner for you and write about it. I’m lucky. And the last thing I want to do is complain. But sometimes, dear reader… When I see the perfectly starched linen, the black high-gloss lacquer on the window frames, the ‘funny’ friandise trolley, I think: let’s go again. Langoustine again, foie gras again, truffle and turbot again. With ponzu you say? God, how original.
That is not meant to be blasé (give me truffle and turbot as much as you want). In fact, these tents often have their affairs in order. High-quality products, the profession is understood. But it’s all so comme il faut. In the chic provincial restaurants – the restaurants that are in the books – people color within the same lines so very often. The same ingredients, the same menu structure, the same anthracite boulevard interiors. And the lounge house could be a little softer. Everywhere.
Then I secretly sometimes think: how often can a person come up with an original way to say that the duck’s cuisson was perfectly à point? How long do you like to read that the whole was nicely balanced by the use of fresh acids? In short, how much longer can I write about this?
The answer is: as long as people like Jim and Mike Cornelissen manage to make such a refreshing, playful, sparkling and surprising dish from a totally worn-out, grey-turned, tired combination like ‘beetroot and goat cheese’. A beet tartar and foam with a very subtle perfumed-funky, tangy note of fermented elderflower, all covered in such a mound of white powder that you wonder why it isn’t served with a credit card and a straw. The powder is frozen goat cheese. It is a stimulating, layered, contemporary variation on a theme. A small amuse-bouche with great class.
Restaurant Rijnzicht – just outside the town of Doornenburg, just below Arnhem – appears to meet most of the criteria of the modern-classic, provincial, better restaurant. White painted brick wall, anthracite poles, suspended ceiling with spotlights and a daytime beach tent playlist so generic that even Shazam can’t place it at times. North Sea crab, foie, sweetbreads, lobster, truffle and Anjou pigeon on the menu. And a waiter who covers cutlery with one white glove – I hope he still has the other somewhere, otherwise he has to cycle all the way home with one hand in his pocket. But the food is much more endearing and surprising than all this suggests.
Jim and Mike Cornelissen are incredibly good cooks, with a refined touch and a well-deserved Michelin star. Take the crab with foie and caviar. Three obligatory numbers in one bowl! With a cream of the scissors, apple-marshmellow, topped with a gel of dill. An extremely delicate balance of understated luxury of a modest bit of liver and caviar and an old-fashioned flavor combination of apple and dill. Or the plaice with truffle, combined with lactic acid from yogurt. It is always a surprising variation on a classic theme.
That game does not always yield exciting results. The pickled and lightly smoked salmon is nicely cooked: not overcooked, but no longer snotty. Tomato, kemangi and yuzu is an interesting version of the standard tomato, basil and citrus. But it really doesn’t get much more exciting than that. And the pigeon’s cuisson is perfectly à point. The wines are generally very serving. There is one very strange duck in the arrangement: a chenin blanc from India. Sounds nicer than it is. It’s quite flat with the aroma of a cup of raisins and a hint of inflatable crocodile right out of the box.
Take the crab with foie and caviar. Three obligatory numbers in one bowl!
The vegetarian gets a completely full menu here with completely own, equal dishes. They often lack the refined touch of the regular menu. On the other hand, the Cornelissen brothers seem to be a bit liberated from the classic straitjacket and that results in a robust but challenging combination here and there. Like tomato with ginger beer gel, aromatic verveine and a blast of a rettich kimchi in a tempering bath of slightly sweet plum wine stock. That’s rock and roll.
That same rock ‘n’ roll is hidden in the Korean BBQ lobster – the best dish of the evening. A delicious piece of tasty fatty pork belly with a frothy, rich blanket of doenjang sauce (Korean miso) and again that fresh-spicy rettich kimchi. Next to it lies another snow-white powder, this time made from the oil drawn from the lobster claws. It turns into a functional filming, greasy layer as soon as it hits your tongue and is packed with lobster flavour. You may wonder why that piece of lobster tail is still there, like a kind of chaperone that should not be drowned out.
Jim and Mike are chefs with a lot of talent. They give a contemporary interpretation to a classic Michelin evening with verve. But I think they are much tougher than they show. I’m so curious what happens when they loosen the reins of gastronomy. If they cook a little looser, freer, naughtier, but with that refined touch. They are, after all, the new generation. A little more rock ‘n’ roll, that’s okay, even at this level.
But the most important thing is: I had a delicious meal at Rijnzicht. You should definitely do that too. This way I will keep it up for years to come. My problem is that I don’t like lounge house. And anthracite is a beautiful color.