Dining in the Netherlands: De Librije***

Every year since De Librije has been awarded its third star (in late 2004) we have celebrated our wedding anniversary on June 15th with a dinner at De Librije. The first time in 2005 was very special, as it was our first dinner at a three-star restaurant and we were completely blown away by both the food and the wine. As I’ve written before, follow-up visits to a restaurant are like sequels to a movie: it is hard to beat that first great experience. But De Librije has held up quite strongly, and that’s why we keep coming back. We have already made our reservation for next year! For an independent restaurant like De Librije (without the resources of a big hotel chain where the money does not have to be made in the restaurant)  it is difficult to innovate quickly enough to completely renew the degustation menu annually with original dishes that are truly at the three-star level. Although everything we’ve ever been served at Librije has been good (which you should be able to expect at a *** restaurant, although we have had other experiences at other *** restaurants) and there has always been at least one dish including the matching wine per evening that blew us away, we did think that last year our dinner was slightly less special than the year before that. Since we feel more and more at home at the restaurant and still had a very good time we never even thought of discontinuing our tradition of going to De Librije every year for our anniversary (for as long as they stay in business) anyway, but to our great joy our experience last night was really top-notch again!  This was one of our best evenings at De Librije yet, which according to me remains the best restaurant in the Netherlands (especially the service and wine are way better than Oud Sluis). I can think of two reasons for this: one is that De Librije not only has a famous chef (Jonnie Boer), but also a famous sommelier and host (Thérèse Boer), and two is that the service is nearly flawless (usually not more than one minor glitch per evening that is fixed straightaway) without being formal and uptight. On the contrary, the serving staff is friendly and makes us feel at home. De Librije is the 33rd best restaurant according to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2012, up 13 from 2011.

Amuse-bouches (Mondvermaakjes)

The only thing that has been the same for all our eight visits (and we don’t mind at all) is the crispy peanut with gherkin. The surprising effect is that although the crispy peanut is on the outside, you taste the gherkin first and the peanut afterwards.

Baked potato ‘light’. Served on a stove with smoking herbs. The potato is hollow, very thin and crunchy and thus ‘light’ indeed.

‘Kipperling’. (A play on words that cannot be translated.) Crunchy chicken skin and crunchy fish skin. Very nice presentation on fish skin and fish bones.

Dressed pigskin; banana, cauliflower and coffee; eggyolk cooked at -20C/-4F with a cream of apricotkernel oil.

Tartare from your hand, very nice presentation as well as very tasty.

All amuses are very original, tasty and beautifully presented. Some were the same as last year. 9/10

The degustation ‘8 x Mini’

The 8-course degustation is 177 euros per person, with 87,50 euros for matching wines.

Foie gras, crab, olive, hazelnut, and juice of fermented red cabbage  

The combination of flavors and textures works really well. The crab had a very nice texture and was accentuated just right with a bit of lime juice. Good pairing with a white bordeaux (sauvignon blanc, sémillon, muscadelle), where the sauvignon matched with the crab and the sémillon with the foie gras. Wow, what a start! 10/10

Scampi with parsley root, cabbage juice and oil of fir trees

Last year’s menu also had barely seared scampi, but otherwise this dish is completely different. The fir tree is a very original idea. The wine pairing with a Sancerre (we declined the Dutch wine of Cabernet Blanc that was too acidic, sorry Thérèse) was good. 9/10

Monkfish with bacon, rollmops, lovage and baharat 

As with many dishes there is some humour that only works for a Dutch audience. In this case, lovage is known in Dutch as “maggiplant” and “Maggi” is the brand of Maggi seasoning sauce. A seasoning sauce that you wouldn’t expect in a three-star restaurant, but the lovage-oil is served from the same bottle as Maggi seasoning sauce.

The monkfish was cooked sous-vide and very juicy and tender. The pairing with bacon is a classic one, but the tart sauce made this an original and very nice dish. Rollmops is a rolled up pickled herring. This dish doesn’t include the actual pickled herring, just a stock made from rollmops. Good pairing with an Auxerrois from Baden Baden (Germany). 9/10

Scallop with veal marrow, black garlic and jus of roasted celeriac

The combination of scallop and celeriac is a classic one, but again this takes it to the next level. The celeriac was roasted on a BBQ and thus also had a smoky touch that went really great with the scallop sashimi. The 2010 white Cote-de-Nuits was an amazing pairing with this because of the smoky oakiness. Despite being from 2010, the wine was in perfect balance (and not too acidic as is usual with young white burgundy). 10/10!

Mackerel belly with Madras curry and tomato

Good combination of flavors and a first for me: it was paired with a Manzanilla (very dry sherry) that I actually liked! The dish really brought out the fruitiness of the wine. 9/10

A nice touch was this bread dough made from fermented seeds that was put on the table to rise at the beginning of the evening. At some point it was taken away to be baked.

And then the bread was served with goat butter, mixed with a bit of Dutch grape juice from Librije’s own vineyard. This reminds me to mention that not only this bread, but all the bread served with the meal was top-notch sourdough bread.

Lamb with spinach, goat’s cheese, dandelion and asparagus

Another great dish. The combination of the super-tender lamb (cooked sous-vide) with the seared asparagus and the goat’s cheese was amazing. It paired well with an 2007 Amarone that was very complex, nicely balanced and remarkably fresh for an amarone. 10/10

As a bonus (not part of the degustation) we got this piece of slow-cooked neck of lamb, a classic from De Librije that we also got on our first visit in 2005. Still excellent 9/10.

Epoisses, chorizo, rabbit kidneys and potato ‘juice’

We got the option to replace one of the sweet desserts with a cheese dish, and this is what we got. I’m not terribly fond of kidneys, but the combination worked well. I didn’t take any notes and I’m writing all the wine pairings from memory, but I can’t remember this one. I do remember that it was a good pairing and kind of ‘saved’ the dish for me. 8/10

Raspberry with magnolia and radishes

Light and fresh, paired with a special Moscato d’Asti from the Colli Tortonesi. 9/10

Unripe strawberries with ‘Thai Green Curry’

Very original and very good. The combination of the green curry with the strawberries worked very well. Paired with Librije’s own beer. I’m not a beer drinker and this accentuated the beeriness for me, so I sticked with a bit of the moscato that was still in my glass. 9/10

Coffee and small pastries

These are all as delicious as they are original. The walnut on the chocolate is not a walnut but crispy pigskin!

Edible joints

Again a joke, and this one will also work for tourists. This doesn’t have anything to do with drugs, but is made from mint, hemp oil, chocolate,  and lemon.

Conclusion

Food 9.5/10, service 9/10, wine 9/10. Can’t wait for next year!

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15 thoughts on “Dining in the Netherlands: De Librije***

      1. Wow, that’s really interesting to know. I’ve never heard of ‘lavas’. Wait a sec… query via Google Translate (Dutch Wikipedia!). Ah, it’s called ‘lovage’ in English. I definitely understand why you’d call it the Maggi herb. They’re so clever to serve it in a stock cube shape though!

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          1. Haha, that’s awesome Stefan! I am so impressed by the creativity at De Librije! If I ever make it to the Netherlands I will definitely book a table in advance. I’ve really enjoyed reading these posts.

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