Coulisse has been awarded its first Michelin star in 2023, and so I was curious to check it out. It is located in a historic building, a former theater. The Dutch word “coulisse”, usually used as plural “coulissen”, refers to the backstage area of a theater stage or “behind the scenes”. Chefs Simon and Tim have worked at Michelin starred restaurants like Noma and have now started their own restaurant. They call it “easy fine dining”. There is only one set menu of 6 courses for 80 euros (3 amuse bouche, 3 starters, bread, 1 main, 2 desserts, friandises), which can be enriched with an additional course (17.50 euros) and cheese (14.50 euros). The wine pairing is 50 euros for 5 glasses.
The restaurant does offer the “totally relaxed atmosphere” as promised on the website.
First amuse bouche: chilled soup of watermelon, habanero, and the liquid from fermenting rice with koji. There was just a hint of habenero and unexpectedly the flavor and mouthfeel were not really like watermelon because of the koji.
A glass of champagne to start with (not part of the wine pairing) for a very reasonable price (15 euros). The Grand Cru champagne is made with 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay, and aged for more than 5 years on the lees. A nice champagne in an aged style.
Next amuse bouche: oysters with elderflower and cod roe.
Raw yellowtail with salted green strawberry and shiso, on a koji flour base. The koji flour is made by fermenting rice with koji and then drying and grinding it. If they hadn’t told me this, I would’ve thought it was made with regular flour because it didn’t really have a particular flavor.
First wine: a ‘blanc de noir’ (white wine from red grapes, in this case Pinot Noir) from the Ahr in Germany. It had a faint pink tinge and tasted more like a rosé than a white wine and was quite mellow and fruity.
This was OK as a pairing with the salad of Lisci melon, zucchini, and deep fried parsley, which was very light flavored, mellow and fruity, as well as slightly sweet.
The next wine was a Falanghina del Sannio from Campania, Italy.
This wine was nice by itself, but turned bitter together with the dish: smoky violet eggplant, with almond milk, rose, and daikon cream. The dish itself was quite nice, probably the best of the menu.
With the extra dish, turbot, a Chardonnay from the Jura was suggested. I asked whether it was in the typical oxidative style from the Jura, because I don’t care for that very much. The waitress said it wasn’t, but allowed me to try it first. It turned out to be in the oxidative style after all, so an oaked Chenin Blanc from Saumur, Loire, France was offered instead.
The grilled turbot with sauce of the smoked turbot bones was served with a lot of chives and some freshly grated ginger. The fish had a nice cuisson but I could not really detect any smokiness; the sauce tasted very strongly of chives. The fish was perfectly cooked but perhaps a bit underseasoned.
The following wine was a Timorasso from Piemonte, Italy. Timorasso is often made with skin contact, similar to an orange wine but not as outspoken, and this was a relatively light rendition of a Timorasso.
It worked as a pairing with hasselback potato, brined egg yolk, parsley, and fried scape capers.
The red wine with the main course was a Nerello Mascalese from the Etna on Sicily, Italy.
An adequate pairing for the boneless rack of lamb with bell pepper-wrapped eggplant, camomile and a sauce of coeur de boeuf tomato. The lamb was served rare (not medium rare) and was very fatty with the fat only seared on the outside. The meat was very tender, but I would have liked the fat to be more crispy and perhaps a bit more seasoning on the lamb.
We declined wine with the cheese, as three very different types of cheese were served that would have required a different pairing each. The crackers provided with the cheese were charred a bit too much, rendering them slightly bitter. The tomato marmalade was quite nice.
The pre-dessert was a sorbet of white currants with raspberry and angelica.
The final wine was a late harvest (Sp?tlese) Riesling from a Grosse Lage (Grand Cru) in Rheinhessen, Germany. Medium sweet and elegant.
It was a good pairing for the mousse of fig leaf with Reine Victoria plum. I like figs but have never tried fig leaves before and could not really detect a flavor in the mousse other than a light sweetness.
The friandises were financier to be dipped in sea buckthorn custard (very nice), very fluffy chocolate, and (very dark) canelés, the typical pastries from Bordeaux.
The amount of effort that goes into preparing the dishes at Coulisse is certainly at the level of a Michelin star, perhaps even two or even three stars. Many techniques are employed expertly to arrive at the dishes. However, in most cases I could not really taste the effect of all that effort in the final dishes. Nothing was bad, everything tasted just fine and was nicely presented, but nothing was REALLY good either. At least not to me. Most of the flavors were a bit understated. To me it is the result that counts, not the amount of effort that went into it or the technical prowess. I would prefer less effort and more deliciousness.
The wines were fine and the pairings were OK (with one exception), but the wines were perhaps a bit boring. The service was good, very friendly and correct.
I still had a very enjoyable evening at Coulisse; just not a memorable one.