Bistro de la Mer on Utrechtestraat 57 in Amsterdam is the sister restaurant of De Juwelier, just a few doors down on Utrechtsestraat at number 51. It is also owned by Richard van Oostenbrugge, chef of Restaurant 212 (just around the corner). Those of you that understand French have already figured out that Bistro de la Mer is a seafood restaurant.
Most of the seating is at the bar, with some very narrow high tables for two along the wall. Bistro de la Mer holds one Michelin star, just like the Juwelier. The structure of the menu is very similar to De Juwelier. It is à la carte only, with a choice of four cold starters (13-23 euros), three warm second courses (13-33 euros), four main courses (28-53 euros), cheese (18 euros), and three desserts (13 euros). All of the savory dishes are seafood (although one main course is chicken stuffed with smoked eel). Just like De Juwelier the ambience is very informal and in that way different from traditional Michelin starred restaurants. Both restaurants share the wine cellar of the Bistro, and the wine lists are identical.
We started with a nice glass of champagne: Jean Velut Premier Temps Brut, mostly Chardonnay with a bit of Pinot Noir.
The complimentary amuse bouche was a delicious bisque of Dutch shrimp with salted lemon. The bisque was very well balanced and nicely complex and fresh because of the lemon.
We also had some Irish Mor oysters, which were served with a shallot vinaigrette and lemon juice. These oysters were a bit small, but very elegant and creamy.
As starter I had picked Dutch shrimp with celeriac remoulade, XO sauce and foam of Poiré. This was delicious and my favorite dish of the evening. XO sauce is a sauce from Hong Kong of dried scallops with oil and chillies, but for some reason the version with scallops is now illegal to be imported in Europe and so it is made with shiitake mushrooms instead. The solid part of the sauce was arranged as a strip on top of the shrimp, while the shrimp was brushed with the XO oil. The shrimp was arranged very neatly on top of the celeriac. The celeriac remoulade consisted more of celeriac than of mayonnaise (which is a good thing). Poiré is a pear cidre, also known as Perry. The foam was nicely tart. The combination of the shrimp, celeriac and foam was very nice. There was also some horseradish sauce on the plate, but I preferred it without that sauce.
The starter had already been served before we could order a bottle of wine. I had picked a bottle of Sémillon from South Africa by the famous (deceased) Dutch sommelier Lotte Wolf, a 2017 “Onkruid vergaan nie” (78 euros), which is Afrikaans for “Ill weeds grow apace”. I had asked the waiter if the wine was oaked and he said yes, but he failed to mention it was an orange wine. It was a nice and complex wine, but an orange wine is a bit of a surprise if you are not expecting it. (This was the first time I tried a wine by Lotte Wolf so I did not know what to expect.) An orange wine is a white wine that is made in the same way as a red wine, i.e. the skins are left in during the alcoholic fermentation. This gives the wine specific aromas and tannins, making orange wines more astringent than regular white wines.
As a second course I had chosen garganelli (fresh pasta shaped like penne but thinner) with smoked eel, Australian black winter truffle, cream, and lots of black pepper. This was called “Carbonara style” on the menu, while real Carbonara is always made with eggs rather than cream. But this is not an Italian restaurant so it is forgivable. The pasta with truffles, eel, and cream was delicious. The black pepper was great for providing a fresh contrast to the creaminess of the dish, but there was a bit overpowering. About half of the black pepper would have been perfect. Still a very nice dish.
As main course I had selected the tarbotine (small turbot) confit with grenobloise and veal jus. The tarbotine had been filleted with the two fillets stacked on top of each other. I was not familiar with a grenobloise sauce, which is a tart sauce with capers from the city of Grenoble in the South of France. This sauce was invented when there was no refrigeration yet. Being some 300 kilometers (200 miles) from the coast, the fish wasn’t completely fresh anymore when it arrived, and so this tart sauce helped to mask that. Since the turbot at Bistro de la Mer obviously was impeccably fresh, it was a bit of a shame that also in this case the sauce overpowered the elegant flavor of the turbot. I always like to try dishes I have not had before, but in this case it would have been wise to google sauce grenobloise before ordering this. The restaurant prepared it expertly the way it is supposed to be, so it was my own fault ordering it.
I didn’t care for any of the desserts, so at the end the meal I just ordered a glass of a red dessert wine from Austria, a 2021 Zweigelt Auslese by Kracher from Burgenland. Very elegant and mineral, mildly sweet with aromas of red gooseberry.
The food at Bistro de la Mer was excellent and a touch better than at De Juwelier. The prices of the food are very good value for money, especially for the location in downtown Amsterdam. Compared to my visit to De Juwelier three months ago, many of the more affordable wines had been sold out. This meant the selection of bottles below 100 euros was limited. New wines come in all the time, so this was just a temporary issue. Just like at De Juwelier, the wait staff was not very knowledgeable about the wines on the wine list. The service was good and very friendly, with two exceptions. The starter came too quickly after the oysters and before we could order the wine, and after we were handed the dessert menu it took forever to take our order, and then as long again to serve it. But those were minor issues and we had a great evening at Bistro de la Mer. This is now my favorite seafood restaurant in Amsterdam, so I’ll definitely be back!