Dining in the Netherlands: Inter Scaldes*** (2020)

There are two restaurants holding three Michelin stars in the Netherlands: Librije and Inter Scaldes. Librije has held the 3 stars since 2004 and we have eaten there every year since (click here for the review of our latest visit). When we visited Inter Scaldes in 2014 there already were rumours about a third star, but back then we didn’t think that would be justified. In 2018 Inter Scaldes did get a third star, and so we thought we should give it another try. The chef is Jannis Brevet and his wife Claudia is the host.

Inter Scaldes is located in the province of Zeeland, famous for its oysters and lobster. We booked a package that included dinner, hotel, and a visit to an oyster farm (890 euros for two excluding beverages). The tour of the oyster farm was very nice. We tasted six different oysters (including oysters imported from France, Portugal, and Ireland). We could really tell that the oysters were extremely fresh because they had so much more depth of flavor (not just salty like oysters can sometimes be). It was great to taste the difference between the different oysters.

The package included an 8-course degustation menu (225 euros), with wine pairing (92 euros). We were disappointed the menu did not include Oosterschelde lobster, as they are still in season. The menu started with savoureux apéritifs: beetroot with roses, pineapple and buttermilk; watermelon infused with lime, cardamom, and cream of peas; smoked Oosterschelde eel with daikon and miso. Although most people have champagne as an apéritif (as did we), only the eel went well with the champagne. The champagne was a Grand Cru blanc de blancs (i.e. Chardonnay only) (24 euros per glass).

The amuse maison was crab.

First course of the menu: brandade of turbot with grapes and caviar. The brandade is an emulsion, very much like mayonnaise, and included raw garlic. It worked nicely with the caviar. It was paired with a Roussette de Savoie, a wine you don’t see often from the Jura in France, made from the grape variety Altesse. This was an aromatic wine that worked well with the dish; it could handle the unctuous brandade as well as the grapes. 9/10

The next course was served on a very pretty plate. Petoncles, a small type of scallops, with foam of bay leaf and black summer truffle. This was nice, although the truffle wasn’t aromatic at all. It was paired with a Sylvaner from Germany that had very high acidity. It did work with the dish, but the wine was a bit out of balance because of the high acidity. 8/10

The chef really seems to like emulsions and foams, because there was an emulsion of foie gras underneath this foam of parmesan, with a reduction of port.

The same course also included another emulsion of foie gras with popcorn foam, and quince jelly. This was paired with a Riesling from Luxemburg. The Riesling was slightly sweet and by itself a very elegant and complex wine with a great balance. Unfortunately the elegance of the wine was smothered by the foie gras. It wasn’t a complete disaster, but the wine was much better by itself than with the dish. 6/10

When we mentioned this to the sommelier, he told us that we would not have enjoyed a wine that would hold up to the dish, as it would be too heavy. We explained what kinds of wine we like, and he said “Well you’re not getting wines like that from me, because I don’t like them”.

Three preparations of “Special Geay” oysters from Normandy (local ‘flat’ oysters from Zeeland are out of season between May and August): one warm with roses and fava bean (and more foam), the other two cold: one with sauerkraut and the other with gelatin and pickles. The one with sauerkraut was sweet & sour. The oysters were paired with a Chardonnay from Macon in a style more like Chablis. I have to say that I liked the pure oysters we had in the afternoon much better; for me the preparations did not add anything. The Macon only worked well with the oyster with pickles and clashed with the sweet & sour sauerkraut. 6/10

We mentioned to the sommelier that it would be impossible to pair all three oysters with one wine, and asked him whether he had discussed this with the chef. He responded that there was no way that he could ask the chef to change a dish to make it work better with wine. According to him the chef doesn’t taste the wines and leaves it all to the sommelier. He also said he likes the freedom this gives him.

Mrs Brevet stopped by and asked if we liked everything. We responded we liked the food but not the wine pairings. She responded that is a matter of taste and went on to explain that we would not have liked what we said we would like.

Lemon sole with Dai Dai ponzu, fresh peas, and San Marzano tomato. The fish was perfectly cooked and we enjoyed this dish. 8/10

We had mentioned to the sommelier that we would like to upgrade the wine pairing to a nice white Burgundy, if possible. Many restaurants offer premium wines by the glass using the Coravin system. He responded that he refuses to work with Coravin because he had had one bad experience with it, where the last glass from a bottle was oxidized. We indicated that sounded like not using the Coravin system properly (because you have to make sure the needle is filled with argon rather than oxygen before you push it through the cork). Since we could only order a nice white Burgundy by the whole bottle, we decided to stick with the wine pairing. This was a Chenin Blanc from Swartland in South Africa. According to the sommelier this was one of his favorite wines, because he really likes the wine maker as a person. The wine was okay with the dish, but not great.

Lamb fillet with fennel, sea lavender, and piquillo pepper. The lamb was very tender but it looked like it had been cooked sous-vide without any searing afterwards, so a tasty crust was lacking. It was smothered in a green sauce and we could not taste any lamb. It was paired with a simple Rioja. 7/10

At this point we decided to skip both dessert courses and leave, which we have never done before. Mrs Brevet did not inquire why we left prematurely and the next morning when I paid the check she did not ask if we had enjoyed ourselves and neither did she offer a discount for the courses we had skipped.

In conclusion I am only going to say one thing: if you want to go to a three star restaurant in the Netherlands, go to Librije instead.

11 thoughts on “Dining in the Netherlands: Inter Scaldes*** (2020)

  1. Oh my goodness. This was hard to read! Are you sure you weren’t at a French restaurant? 🤣🤣🤣 I certainly never would have had any clients if I only cooked food I like back when I catered. That’s just a crazy approach to being a professional sommelier. The Coravin system is amazing, and certainly helps in situations like yours, but is perfect for a degustation menu of pairings. Crazy that he liked someone or didn’t, and that was his criteria for recommending a wine. This made me crazy!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Imagine how hard it was to sit through — and pay through the nose for the experience. You are right, the only time we’ve had a similar experience at a 3-star restaurant was in Paris!

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  2. That definitely sounds like a very disappointing experience; they must be running the restaurant as amusement for the chef and staff as opposed to a business. It was expensive too, which makes it even more difficult to swallow.

    I would have loved to experience the freshest oysters you had at lunch, why bog down the simple, pure flavours with emulsions and foams at dinner (you know how I feel about foam)! And that foie gras dish looked ridiculous, way too much foam, like it’s taking a bubble bath! The sommelier acted like a child, and what chef doesn’t taste the pairings? He’s definitely leaving too much in the hands of the sommelier. Perhaps your knowledge intimidated him (or should have). It’s not every day that a couple with as much knowledge graces a restaurant, you would have thought that the sommelier would have loved a discussion, instead of shutting it down!
    I’m sorry your experience wasn’t great, they’ll have to try a lot harder if they want to survive post covid.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow Stefan, that’s too bad…
    I think you did the right thing. But even then no reaction sounds pretty arrogant.
    Who was the sommelier? Cannot believe it would be Koen? (who was working on a book then, about Dutch wines)
    A good *+ sommelier would discuss with you to serve you the ultimate experience.
    And a chef who isn’t interested in wine pairings….?!
    We went there in 2017 and had exactly the same Lamb!
    (Still have the photo’s)
    Although I must say we also had there one of the best lobster dishes ever, together with a perfect Auxey-Duresses 2015.

    I fully agree on your advice, of all good **-* experiences, Librije’s wine pairing is by far the best. Leave that to La Therese!

    We planned Sunil’s Lindehof in two weeks. Let you know…

    Best regards,
    Frans

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    1. Hi Stefan, I’m pretty sure you would like De Lindehof in Nuenen.
      We had a 6 course lunch “Toque Blanc” last Friday.
      The dishes are a very balanced harmony between classic ingredients and the spicy roots from chef Soenil. It seems tough to find matching wines, but I think they do a very well job. Would love to hear your professional opinion on this 😉
      Best regards,
      Frans

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  4. What a very interesting ‘read’ half the world away on a Down Under Sunday morning. I believe I first began following you for your fabulous critiques of some of Europe’s most interesting tasting menu restaurants. After I have commented I always go back slowly, try to ‘taste’ each course and see how I believe I would have found the scene. SO interesting this time around. Somewhat of a mismatch in both food and personalities. Methinks the latter made you leave rather than what was as yet to be served. Ipso facto – what they did have was presented with ‘we are right whatever you may say !’ attitude. A pity . . . a disappointment . . . but, for someone like me . . . interesting !!! . . . be well . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was thinking of you with the lamb course because it is an example of how sous vide should not be used. What made us leave was the feeling that we were there for them instead of the other way around.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. *smile* One of these days I shall get to Amsterdam and you will change my fixed ideas about sous-vide and we may cook lamb together !! Methinks I did read your feeling-world correctly re your evening . . . methinks I would have done the same. I believe more than a few such places expect people worshiping them and what they provide and are taken aback if they actually have to prove and explain . . . their loss in the long run . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Stefan, thanks for your usual professional review. They always a pleasure to read. I am sorry that your expensive experience has been so disappointing. Could you better explain why the Lux Riesling and the Foie Gras dish didn’t match well? I have both Auslesee riesling a frozen foie gras and was planning to serve them together for my birthday dinner.

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    1. Hi, it all depends on how rich the Riesling is. Auslese guarantees a certain amount of sugar in the grapes, but it doesn’t really say anything about how rich the wine will be as that depends on how much of that sugar is still in the wine, as well as how much acid is in there. Because the foie gras was so rich, it made the wine seem out of balance (too acidic and lack of flavor). Without the foie gras, the balance of the wine was perfect.

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