Chefs Richard van Oostenbrugge and Thomas Groot left Bord’eau (where they had earned two Michelin stars within three years) and started there own restaurant: 212. The name refers to the address of their new restaurant (Amstel 212 in Amsterdam) and could also be a reference to the area code of New York City. It is a no-table restaurant, which means that you eat at a bar that surrounds the kitchen and you can watch everything being prepared. There is one table for six (with the same high seating as at the bar) and at the corners there is seating for parties of 3 or 4. The restaurant opened in January 2018, so it has not yet been evaluated by Michelin. It is obvious that one or two stars are on the way, and the prices are already at a two star level.
Each guest has his own drawer with cutlery (this reminded me of Relae in Copenhagen) to use as you please. The concept is high level dining in an informal ambiance.
212 has a 7 course tasting menu (138 euros), which can be reduced to 4 courses (88 euros) or enhanced by a cheese course (23 euros) or an additional wagyu beef course (63 euros). Thanks to the coravin system that allows to serve wine from a bottle without opening it, there is a very large selection of wines available by the glass, at about 1/5 of the price for the whole bottle on the wine list. Two pairing suggestions are provided for each course, one regular (about 12 euros) and one premium (about 25 euros), but more exclusive options are available. Albeit not cheap (but not more expensive than at other restaurants in Amsterdam either), this is a great option for wine lovers like myself.
The appetizers were little works of art, like this one with shrimp and celeriac.
Or this one with crispy chicken skin.
Or this one with runner beans, egg yolk confit, and crab, with a crab bisque inserted into the egg yolk.
The first course of the tasting menu: ‘crumble’ of sea bass with smoky stock and seaweed. The smoky stock is made by smoking the bones of the sea bass before using them for the stock. The crumble is actually a ceviche made using passion fruit juice.
Here you can see better what was under that foam: jellied fish stock and morsels of tender sea bass. This dish is usually served with red mullet, but the quality of the red mullet was not to the satisfaction of the chef, and therefore it was replaced by sea bass. The matching wine was a white Rioja with a blend of viura and malvasia, that had a lot of minerality. The wine really opened up with the dish and could handle the tart elements very well. 9/10
The second course: open ravioli of oyster with briny veal shank velouté, hazelnut, BBQ lemon confiture, and green cabbage. The oyster wasn’t cooked but just barely warm. What a great combination of flavors, such complexity and elegance. Here we opted for the premium, a Chablis Grand Cru, that paired very well. 10/10
Third course: langoustine (scampi) poached in duck-fat with Dashi Albufera, coffee and katsuobushi (Japanese grated dried and smoked bonito). What a great and original dish. The texture of the langoustine was absolutely perfect and the flavor combinations just wonderful. 10/10
We tried both the suggested wines, a Vermentino from Tuscany and a Meursault, and thought that both were slightly too strong for the dish. A white burgundy is a good choice, but not as full bodied and perhaps a bit older. But still not a bad pairing.
The fourth course came in two parts. This is cod jowl…
…and this is the ‘darne’ (cod steak). Served with a red wine sauce, cantharelle mushrooms, and spruce. Plus crispy cod skin and cod liver. The cod was cooked sous-vide and very tender. I really liked the combination of flavors and it was paired well with a German pinot noir (Spätburgunder). 9/10
The fifth course came also in two parts: this is the heart of the pigeon (squab) with ‘potatoes’…
…and this the breast fillet, cooked on the BBQ, with garlic vinaigrette and black truffle. This was paired well with a Spanish garnacha. The pigeon breast was cooked to perfection and very tender. 9/10
The cheeses were arranged right in front of us to come to room temperature…
…so we could not resist sampling them. I like that they are all Dutch cheeses. I opted for goat cheese and brie-type cheeses, that were paired with a Sancerre and a Saint-Aubin.
The sixth course was a very good palate cleanser: a frozen soufflé of avocado and jalapeño.
The seventh and final course was an outstanding cherry dessert. The cherries you see on the right-hand side are reconstructed cherries. They look like amarena cherries and they taste like amarena cherries and they are made from amarena cherries, but their texture is amazingly soft. The other part with smokey bourbon, lemon, cherry-umeboshi foam, black olive, and crispy walnut was also amazing. This was paired well with an Auslese made from Zweigelt from Austria, that was just sweet enough and really brought out the cherry flavors. 10/10
I liked what these guys were doing at Bord’eau, and I like what they are doing here even more. The dishes are complex, elegant, and original. Everything is technically perfect and absolutely delicious. The dishes look great too, without issues of form over substance. I’d say the food is slightly better than what I remember from Bord’eau, 9.5/10 for the food.
This restaurant is great for wine lovers because so many wines are available by the glass. The pairing suggestions are also very good. 9.5/10 for the wine.
The advantage of being seated at a bar is that you can be served from the other side, without any servers having to reach around you. The chefs serve the dishes themselves and explain them. The wine was always served on time for each dish. The pace of the courses was just right. The whole spectacle lasted about 4 hours, and ended with a tour of the kitchen downstairs and the wine cellar.
Of course it is hard to say whether the Michelin inspectors will be willing to award two stars so soon after the restaurant has opened, but if it were up to me those two stars would be well deserved. This is a great addition to the Amsterdam dining scene and I will be back!