One of our favorite restaurants is the Librije, three Michelin star restaurant in Zwolle (Netherlands) of Jonnie and Térèse Boer (no relation). Less than a year ago, sister restaurant Librije’s Zusje (“zusje” means little sister) opened in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Amsterdam. Chef Sidney Schutte is a former sous-chef of Librije and chef of the former incarnation of Librije’s Zusje in Zwolle, and has in the meantime been the chef of the Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong. Librije’s Zusje was awarded two Michelin stars within 6 months after opening. It was about time we paid Librije’s Zusje a visit. We opted for the 6-course degustation menu with matching wines.
The first course: cream of foie gras with cocoa and tuna belly with soy sauce, yuzu and crispy shrimp, paired with a riesling from Washington state. Very nice combination of flavors and good wine pairing, although I think a riesling with slightly more ‘zing’ would have worked even better. 9/10
Second course: scampi with scampi cruble, with macademia and grapefruit, paired with an albariño. I’m very sensitive to bitter and I thought the bitter notes in the dish and also picked up by the wine were a bit strong so it was the least enjoyable dish for me of the evening. The others at the label liked this a lot, so I’m still scoring 9/10.
Third course: red mullet, slowcooked in bay leaf oil, with tiny octopus arms, coffee, and a wasabi sauce, paired with a chenin blanc from New Zealand. The red mullet had perfect texture, which is quite a feat even with sous-vide techniques. This worked really well and wine pairing was amazing: the wine and the dish made one another taste better and that is how in an ideal world it should be with very wine pairing. 10/10
Fourth course: lobster with white asparagus and sour strawberries, paired with a white Rioja. The white Rioja was outstanding and it worked well with the dish. The lobster claw had great texture, the lobster tail was a bit tough. The asparagus had great flavor. 9/10
In most cases, the appetizers are the best part of a degustation menu and the main course ends up being underwhelming. Not so at Librije’s Zusje! This lamb, marinated for three days in yogurt and served with tulips bulbs and ras el hanout spices was the best dish of the evening and paired very well with a cabernet-shiraz-grenache blend from Lebanon (!). All the flavors and textures worked and it was just wonderful. 10/10
The sommelier is originally from Italy, and we asked him why he hadn’t served any Italian wines. He said he had a great marsala to serve with the cheese. We opted for an additional cheese course under the condition that the cheeses would work with the marsala. And they did! The washed rind, comté, cheese with cloves, and a mild blue cheese were all great cheeses and worked with the wine. 9/10
Although the influence of Jonnie Boer is apparent, the restaurant in Amsterdam stands even more on its own than the Zusje in Zwolle. All the dishes in the degustation menu are original, so if you have been to Librije you don’t have to worry about getting the same dishes again at the Zusje. Based on this first experience, I’d say Librije’s Zusje gives the original Librije a run for its money and I would not be surprised if the third star were to be awarded very soon. Chef Sidney Schutte very much has his own signature, with the Asian influences clearly showing in his cooking. 9.5/10 for the food!
Also the wines and wine pairings are at least as good as at the original Librije. We have been to a lot of great restaurants, and most of the time the ‘matching’ wine do not really match. Here at Librije’s Zusje all wines matched, and one was even a great match. 9.5/10 for the wine.
And finally the service. Service at a restaurant of this level is supposed to be flawless, and it was. What makes the difference for us is the interaction with the serving staff. We noted that that at each table the serving staff adjusted their style to what was desired at that table. A bit more formal here, a bit more informal and chatty there. We are clearly fans of the latter category, and don’t like it when serving staff is aloof or distant. Here it was quite the opposite, so this added to having a great time. 9/10 for the service.
I suppose I have to eat at Bord’eau again to decide which is now the best restaurant in Amsterdam, but Librije’s Zusje is clearly one of the top restaurants (and possibly the top) in Amsterdam. For the seven courses with seven matching wines, champagne, and coffee, we paid 230 euros per person, which is a bargain for a meal at this level. Many restaurants charge that much for the food alone.