Dining in Amsterdam: 212** (2023)

To celebrate my friend Anja’s birthday, I took her to dinner at Restaurant 212. This is the main restaurant of chef Richard van Oostenbrugge, who first held two Michelin stars at Bord’eau (I had the pleasure of dining there in 2013 when it still had one star, and again in 2013 when the second star I had predicted was there, as well as in 2015) in Hotel de l’Europe, and then started for himself with 212 (where I went in 2018 and again in 2020), where he now also holds two Michelin stars. I had wanted to return to 212 already in 2022, but unfortunately the restaurant had been destroyed by a fire just after it had reopened after COVID. The reconstruction and redecorating took longer than expected, and the new 212 has been open now since December of 2022.

I love the new setup of the restaurant. The guests are still seated around the kitchen so you can see what the chefs are doing, but now on a comfortable curving bench that circles around the kitchen. The advantage is that you can now also face your dining companion (at a 90 degree angle) while at the same time seeing what’s going on in the kitchen. Each table has its own cupboard for wine glasses and drawer for cutlery, so the wait staff doesn’t have to walk around with glasses and cutlery.

The restaurant also offers à la carte, but we opted for the chef’s menu (228 euros) (4 amuse bouche, 5 savory courses, 2 desserts, friandises). I mentioned that I wouldn’t mind some upgrades to the wine pairing, especially if any white Bourgogne would be available. The sommelier than selected a custom pairing for us from the wine cellar (that had to be completely restocked after the fire), that ended up at 248 euros per person for 6 glasses (with refills).

The first amuse bouche consisted of pea leaves that they had crisped up with sugar, with a mint jelly. Very tasty and a classic combination.

There were two champagnes by the glass. Anja had the rosé champagne…

…and I had the 2012 millésime blanc de blancs (i.e. Chardonnay only) from the C?te de Bar, aged for 8 years on the lees.

The final touches on each dish were done at the table.

The amuses bouche continued with bread sticks with old Beemster cheese, orange, and fennel; North sea crab with lavender and sourcream, and shiitake mushrooms with foie gras and umeboshi. Each of them a delicious explosion of flavors.

As a lover of white Bourgogne I was spoilt with three different ones in the pairing. The first one was a 2020 Aligoté by Boyer-Martenot, aged in oak. Aligoté used to be inferior acidic stuff, but thanks to climate change this is now a very nice wine with great balance and a pleasant acidity.

This was a very good pairing for the sunchoke with Dutch shrimps, garlic vinaigrette, and Belper Knolle (Swiss cheese). The freshness of the wine worked very well with the vinaigrette. For the best flavor and pairing it was important to make a good mix of the crispy sunchoke and vinaigrette in each bite.

The sourdough bread was very good and served with smoked butter.

The second white burgundy was a 2019 Meursault Le Limozin by Pierre Girardin. This wine had great minerality combined with creaminess.

It was a perfect pairing for the next course: green beans with the Ventrèche belly part of bluefin tuna that was ‘kissed’ by a charcoal fire, Imperial caviar and a sauce of green bean juice, Gillardeau oyster, and mustard. Wow, what a dish. The green beans were halved lengthwise and stacked to build a container for the tuna, that was topped with a generous helping of caviar. The oyster was blended into the sauce. Great complexity and balance, as well as delicious, and definitely worthy of three Michelin stars.

The following wine was a 2022 Chenin Blanc (Steen) from South Africa. A well-balanced wine with typical aromas of Chenin Blanc.

The next dish came with freshly shaved katsuobushi. The bonito (a type of tuna) is dried, fermented and smoked. It was shaved at the table.

The dish was a langoustine confit in duck fat, with arabica (coffee), and a sauce of dashi and foie gras, topped with the freshly shaved katsuobushi. The wine pairing was wonderful and this was another delicious dish. The katsuobushi reminded me of prosciutto in a way, and that makes sense because prosciutto-wrapped langoustine or shrimp is of course a classic combination. The flavor of freshly shaved katsuobushi is so much better than the store-bought already shaved dry stuff.

The third and final white Bourgogne, a 2018 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Vergers by Fontaine-Gagnard. A wonderful powerful, complex, balanced, and mineral wine.

It was an excellent pairing for the sea bass with smoked eel, marinated grapes, fresh porcini mushroom fried with sourdough and verjus. The sea bass was puffed on the scales (which thus had become edible) and larded with the smoked eel. Brioche bread, made with the fat from smoked eel rather than butter and with a wonderful flavor of smoked eel, was served on the side to mop up the leftover sauce on your plate at the end. Another delicious dish, although I would prefer the sea bass to be cooked to a lower core temperature to keep it more tender and juicy. The smoked eel made sure that the sea bass didn’t seem dry, but when sea bass is cooked to only 50C/122F or so you wouldn’t even need the eel.

The wine with the main course was a 2013 Barolo Bussia Vigna Modoca Riserva by Oddero. This was a wonderful Barolo at the perfect drinking age, which became even better after some time in the glass (the sommelier mentioned he had opened the bottle half an hour before, but a wine like this is even better with two hours of decanting). Smooth tannins, balanced, and the wonderful aromas typical of good Barolo.

This was a perfect pairing for the roe deer venison, cooked in hay, with pink pepper, a jus of venison with lemongrass, tempura of pimiento de padron, and plum with mustard. The venison was tender and perfectly cooked and a wonderful combination with the fresh and spicy flavors on the plate.

The pre-dessert was chocolate with roquefort.

If you think the wine pairing couldn’t get any better, it just did! With a glass of 2019 Ch?teau d’Yquem, the very best Sauternes. Because of the young age, it had wonderful fresh tropical fruit aromas. And of course the complexity and balance that Yquem is famous for.

I was thrilled about the Yquem but wondered if it would work with the chocolate dessert, that was served on a plate and disguised to look like the plate (beautifully done!). The dessert was made with Gianduja chocolate, lapsang souchong (smoky) tea, smoked salt, raw cocoa bean, verveine, and I think I also tasted ginger. A very complex and elegant flavor that was in fact a great pairing with the Yquem.

The meal ended with a wonderful selection of friandises. The baba au rhum was served with Dutch aged genever, the canelés were so much better than yesterday’s at Coulisse, perfect madeleines, and nice bonbons.

Wow. This was one of the best restaurant meals I’ve ever had. Every bite was delicious, from the first amuse bouche to the last friandise and everything in between. The food isn’t only presented beautifully and prepared technically perfect, but also tastes great, with wonderful, original, complex, and balanced flavors. And that is what counts in the end. I remember eating at Bord’eau in 2013 when it had one Michelin star thinking the second was on its way, and if it were up to me 212 should certainly get its third star soon. A dinner at a restaurant like this is never cheap. That is impossible with the quality and type of ingredients and the large amount of work involved. But compared to other restaurants at this level, 212 offers great value for money, certainly in an international context. All of the wines and wine pairings were wonderful. It is great how the sommelier Sjoerd Hartog made a personalized pairing — I think it helped that our reservation was for 6.45pm and the restaurant didn’t get busy until after 8pm, so he did have enough time to go into the cellar for us. The service was great as well, with a good pace to the menu and very friendly and attentive. I can’t wait for the next time!

4 thoughts on “Dining in Amsterdam: 212** (2023)

  1. It was absolutely amazing ?? Enjoyed every single bite. Great to have my first fine dining experience in this mind blowing place. Thank you for a wonderful evening and experience ?


  2. Beautiful restaurant! I love when restaurants have smart seating arrangements instead of going with the traditional. I’d be happy with the bread and butter! Well maybe the dessert, too…

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  3. Methinks I am wearing out my computer mouse scrolling up-and-down a menu I also would so love to share! Love the imaginative use of vegetables and would have loved to taste the bonito . . . ! Wonder of wonders . . . have actually tasted three of the wines . . . and think way back when, more than once, the well-situated de l’Europe was ‘our pub’ !!! Yes I also like the imaginative new ‘geography’ of the room!

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