Every year we celebrate our anniversary at Librije, our favorite restaurant in the Netherlands and one of our favorite restaurants in the world. The restaurant run by chef Jonnie Boer (no relation) and his wife and sommelier/maitre Thérèse is located in Zwolle, about an hour from Amsterdam, in a historic building (a former prison for females) together with Librije’s Hotel. We have eaten here every year since 2005, so this was the 12th time. We have already booked for next year again. As usual we opted for the degustation menu with matching wines. A dinner at Librije is a 4-hour gastronomic experience.
The first amuse bouche: crunchy pine with a dip.
A ‘ring’ with tomato and cardamom.
A classic: beef tartare with oyster, served on your hand.
The degustation started with North Sea crab, veal heart tartare, chicken liver and smoked celeriac juice, paired with a silvaner from Rheinhessen. The combination of flavors on this dish is absolutely wonderful, the smoky juice, the tender crab, the velvety liver, the succulent tartare. What a start, 10/10. The wine seemed a bit simple at first, but the dish brings out all kinds of flavor nuances that make this a great pairing.
Langoustine kombucha-ceviche with ginger, lime leaf, and smoked egg yolk grated on top. The texture and flavor of the langoustine is special and just delicious, and again it all works together. Paired well with a grüner veltliner from Wachau. Again 10/10.
River bass with lardo and ‘kruudmoes’, the latter being a local traditional dish with groats (peeled barley) and herbs. The fish perfectly cooked and it all works together very well. 10/10. Paired very well with a Dutch wine, made especially for Librije, from solaris and aged in American oak. This wasn’t just good “for a Dutch wine”, it was simply good, and worked very well with the dish. It is nice to see that using new varieties like solaris, good wine can be made here.
Yet another 10/10 dish: a Brussels sprout with caviar, paired well with a cava gran reserva. All I can say is: wow.
The next dish looks amazing like some kind of insect. It is the tail of a monkfish with pickled bell pepper, eggplant, and pearl onions, paired with a south african pinot noir. Very good but after all those 10/10 this was slightly less impressive, 9/10. The pairing was okay and the pinot noir was great (Newton & Johnson from Hemel & Aarde Valley), but I think a white wine could have worked better.
Fillet of hare with orange and ‘royal’ sauce. This is normally a very rich sauce with a gamey flavor, but the orange freshens it up very nicely. 9/10 This was paired with a Cahors (malbec), but Thérèse also offered a glass of mystery wine that turned out to be Château Musar, a cabernet sauvignon, cinsault, and carignan blend from Lebanon. Especially the latter worked very well with the hare.
The first dessert: toasted white chocolate with pistachios and blue cheese, paired with some type of sherry made from PX grapes but not as sweet and sticky as the usual PX. The dessert was excellent with an original and delicious combination of flavors. 9/10 I thought the wine could have been a touch sweeter.
Mushrooms, pine apple and browned butter ice cream, paired well with a Côteaux du Layon. A very original dessert and a good pairing. 9/10
I don’t remember what this was (we had had 9 glasses of wine by this time), but it was nice that it was served on top of ice.
The chocolates that came with coffee or tea had all kinds of wonderful flavors: blackberry & bergamot, pine and apple, pine kernel and sorrel, hazelnut and elderflower, porcini, juniper berry and lemon.
Very nice yuzu ice cream to finish.
A dinner at Librije is a rare treat. There aren’t many restaurants in the world at this level, certainly not for this (relatively low) price. As we have been coming here for so long, it is great to see how Jonnie’s style of cooking develops. The style is clearly recognizable and some of his favorite ingredients keep returning in different dishes, but every year his dishes are new creations that are always simply wonderful. As I’ve written before, what makes Librije even more special is the great wine pairings and great service. It is a close call, but I preferred this dinner just a notch over the one at De Leest last month. 10/10 for the food, 9.5/10 for the wines and wine pairings, and 9/10 for the service.