I wanted to treat my friend Sebas for his birthday and allow him to experience a two-start Michelin restaurant for the first time in his life. Since I had not been to Ciel Bleu in a long time (the last time was in 2012, read about it here) and I thought it was the kind of restaurant he would like, so that is where we went. The restaurant is located on the 23rd floor of the Okura hotel, with a magnificent view of downtown Amsterdam. The restaurant of chef Arjan Speelman has held two Michelin stars since 2007, although there was a different chef back then and when I visited in 2012. The 8 course Ciel Bleu Experience menu (215 euros) can be upgraded with an additional lobster course (45 euros), an additional wagyu A5 course (90 euros), and cheese (6 euros per choice). I could not resist ordering the lobster and the deluxe wine pairing (320 euros for 7 glasses).
We started off with a very nice rosé champagne that was made by the winemaker of Penfolds and with a high percentage of pinot meunier (60%). This champagne was dry but nicely fruity at the same time.
There were only 2 amuse bouche, but both were small flavor explosions. The first crispy and fruity…
…and the second one cheesy with salted lemon. The champagne was also paired with the first two courses of the tasting menu.
First course: raw carabinero shrimp with ajo blanco (Spanish cold almond soup) with Spanish smoked paprika, bisque oil, grape, vermouth, and plankton.
Second course: an oyster with Baerii caviar, different structures of cucumber, and juniper berry. A nice contrast between the fresh and crunchy cucumber and the creamy and salty caviar and oyster.
The first wine of the pairing was a Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 2019, quite powerful with wonderful minerality and balance. A great wine and a promising start of the pairing.
The Puligny was an adequate pairing for the chef’s signature dish of raw bluefin tuna, marinated in aged soy sauce, with Oscietra caviar, and konbu and yuzu. According to the (Italian) sommelier Niccolò, this dish was very hard to pair.
Next was a Meursault Perrières 1er cru 2018 by Albert Grivault, more elegant and more complex than the Puligny, and again an excellent wine.
It was an excellent pairing for what was probably my favorite dish of the menu: lobster with an Indian (Tandoori) curry, kohlrabi, and just a tiny amount of rhubarb. The lobster had been cooked sous vide for only 6 minutes at 75C/167F and I really liked the texture, so that is something I would like to try (this is a much shorter time, but much higher temperature than I would normally use for lobster sous vide).
Next was a Riesling Brand Grand Cru 2018 by Domaine Zind Humbrecht, complex, balanced, and dry, with just a touch of residual sugar (5.6 grams/litre).
This was a good pairing with the turbot with peas, seaweed butter, and a saffron sauce. The turbot had a perfect texture and this was a very elegant dish. Niccolò mentioned that the saffron was hard to pair with, but that the residual sugar in the Riesling did the trick (without making the wine taste sweet at all).
The next wine was Coulée de Serrant 2018, one of only three wines in France with its own appellation. This was a Chenin Blanc in a rich and mineral style that was nicely developed despite the quite recent vintage.
This was paired with sea bass with razor clams, turnips, and a bisque sauce. The razor clams were remarkably tender and the bisque sauce had great depth of flavor without being too overwhelming. The turnips did not work well with the wine, which may have been exacerbated by my disaffinity with bitterness.
The only red of the pairing was a Volnay 1er cru Les Caillerets 2016 by Henry Boillot, very mineral and elegant with some minty notes.
The wine worked very well with the marjoram-stuffed morels, but also with the rack of lamb. The portion of lamb was very generous (three pieces), in contrast to the tiny portion of white asparagus. The lamb was tender and perfectly medium rare.
We decided to have just a smalla mount of cheese from the wonderful cheese cart.
Niccolò mentioned that this Mitis Amigne de Vétroz Réserve 2013 by Jean-René Germanier from Valais in Switzerland was his favorite dessert wine. I can understand, because this was truly remarkable with great complexity and so many different aromas. This wine was made from a local variety called Amigne, which I had never tasted before.
It was a good pairing for the blue cheese, especially the soft but pungent Danish blue cheese.
The first dessert wine was a 2016 Erdener Herrenberg Riesling Eiswein by Dr Hermann from the Mosel in Germany, nicely balanced between sweetness and acidity.
This was an excellent pairing with the dessert with tangerine, matcha, anise, and batak berry. Both wine and dessert were very refreshing (but not quite a palate cleanser).
The final wine was a Ch?teau Rieussec Sauternes 1er Grand Cru 2003. Due to the warm vintage, the wine was more developed and less fresh than is usual for a Sauternes of around 20 years old.
A fresher/younger Sauternes (and perhaps with a higher percentage of Sauvignon) would have been a better pairing for the dessert with green apple and celery.
But it was a good pairing with the vanilla ice cream with pecans and Frysian whiskey.
We ended the meal with coffee or tea and a very nice strawberry tartlet.
This was a wonderful meal with outstanding (but pricey) wines. The service was great and not as formal as I remembered from my previous visit to Ciel Bleu. For me there was the additional pleasure of observing Sebas enjoying himself so intensely.