I wanted to introduce our best friends to fine dining in a Michelin starred restaurant, and thought Spectrum would be a great place to do it. The restaurant of chef Sidney Schutte opened in 2014 in the Waldorf Astoria hotel, immediately gained 2 Michelin stars in 2015, and has held them since. I’ve eaten there in 2015 and 2017 (when it was stilled called Librije’s Zusje), and for the last time in 2019 due to the covid lockdowns. At the moment I’m on a ‘cutting’ regimen of nutrition and working to get a bit leaner, so this was a bit of a cheat meal. If you’re doing a cheat meal, you should do it well! The 7-course degustation menu is 210 euros, and we opted for the wine pairing (100 euros).
The first amuse bouche was crispy and filled with an ancho chile extraction, avocado, Mexican tarragon, and cherry.
The second of artichoke with lumpfish caviar and grapefruit, was served on an artichoke.
The third was the only repetition of my previous visit to Spectrum, and I did not mind at all: cauliflower and kaffir lime zest mousse, served with caviar in a conch shell.
The first wine was a Feinherb Riesling from the Mosel. Fineherb means something like off-dry, and should be a perfect balance between acidity and sweetness. That perfect balance was certainly accomplished in this wine. I forgot to take a photo of the first course, but you can see it on the table in the photo with the three of us at the top of this post. It was a crunchy roll of lovage with wild strawberries, ramsons, and peteh beans. A wonderful combination of textures and flavors, that worked very well with the wine, especially the tart sweetness of the strawberries.
The second wine was a ‘natural’ version of Pouilly-Fumé, Sauvignon Blanc fromt he Loire valley. I’m not a fan of natural wines (because they all taste the same and you can’t really tell it’s Sauvignon Blanc), but this wine was very nice with the dish.
The second course was Blue Lobster with duck tongue, licorice, pearls of foie gras, and green apple ‘jus’. Another marvelous combination of textures and flavors; I especially enjoyed the duck tongue that was crispy and at the same time had a very nice duck flavor. The wine had a bruised apple character (think of a grated apple you’ve left until it turns brown) but with a creamy texture. Thus it worked with the creamy lobster and foie gras as well as with the apple jus. The sommelier said this was a case of 1+1=3, but I said it was more like 0.5 + 1 = 2.5, as I would never drink this wine on its own, but with the dish it was indeed very enjoyable and brought out the flavors of the dish.
The following wine was an oaked Chenin Blanc and Verdelho blend from South Africa, enriched with some Grenache Blanc, Roussane, and Clairette, with elegant oak and mineral notes.
The third course was sole and crab with buckwheat, blackcurrant, and elderflower. At this point we realized there was fruit in almost every dish, but in a elegant way that adds complexity rather than in a ‘pizza with pineapple’ way. It makes the wine pairings more difficult, but this South African wine could easily handle the blackcurrant. The sole and crab were perfectly cooked and the crunchy buckwheat added a nice textural element.
Next was an oaked Grenache Blanc/Gris from Roussillon in France. Another natural wine, but luckily not as outspokenly so as the faux Pouilly-Fumé. This was was enjoyable by itself, but became even better with the dish.
It was paired excellently with cockles (clams) in a sauce with black truffle, beetroot, and pistachio, and topped with grated sweetbread. (The sauce was foamy but luckily not a foam.) The grated sweetbread was made by freezing the cooked sweetbread in liquid nitrogen, and then grating it. This original combination of ingredients made for a wonderful dish.
The red wine was a Ploussard (also known as Poulsard) from the Jura region in France. It was a very elegant wine with nice mineral notes and velvety tannins.
It was another great pairing for what could have been a sommelier’s nightmare: lamb with oyster. The dish also included king oyster mushrooms, rhubarb, anchovies, vanilla, and artichoke. The cut of lamb was from the neck, one of my favorite cuts of lamb. It was very tender (probably cooked sous vide). The oyster had been turned into the ‘pancake’ you see at the front. I don’t know how this was done, but it was great. I can’t begin to describe the combination of all these flavors, that more or less became one new complex and delicious flavor when tasted all together. In many cases the main course in a degustation menu is just a piece of meat and a bit boring after a long series of creative dishes with complex flavors and textures, but in this case the main course was really the pièce de resistance and the best dish of the whole menu. Kudos to the chef! And kudos to the sommelier as well for the perfect pairing.
Both dessert wines were not actually wines. The first one was a ratafia, which is a mixture of grape juice with alcohol. They can be quite simple, but this was a very nice one from the Champagne region, made from grape juice from the grapes used in Champagne (Chardonnay, Pinoit Noir, Pinot Meunier) and marc (grappa) from Champagne, aged in a solera system. The result is both complex and elegant.
The first dessert was also a cheese dish: époisse with blackberries, a crispy sticky rice cake (mochi), and horseradish. Both original and delicious, and another excellent pairing.
The final pairing is Prunello, wine of Sangiovese and Montepulciano from the Marche, that is enriched with wild Prunello berries and cherries.
The dessert was cherries with sourdough, sesame seeds, almond, and magnolia. It was very complex and elegant, and the pairing with the Prunello was wonderful.
As a bonus there were two frozen cocktails.
Since this was my fourth visit without seeing the chef, I asked if he was just shy or just not around. We were then informed that he was indeed shy, but that we could greet him in the kitchen if we liked. And so we did.
The meal ended with chocolates with ‘echoes’ of flavors from the dishes.
This was indicated by an overlay of the menu.
I’m really glad I opted to go to Spectrum to introduce my friends to fine dining, because this meal was outstanding. The chef has his own unique style that includes Asian elements and fruits. All the dishes were delicious, technically perfect, creative, and beautifully presented. As mentioned above, he even managed to turn the main dish into something special rather than just a piece of meat. The wine pairings were excellent, all were great, not one exception. That is also quite rare. The wine pairings have clearly improved since my previous visit in 2019, so compliments to sommelier Cas Kratz. The service was excellent. On the menu it is explained that at Spectrum they want you to have a memorable evening and feel at home, and that is exactly what was accomplished this evening. If I compare this to our recent experience at Geranium (three Michelin stars and the best restaurant in the world according to the World’s 50 Best Restaurants), at Spectrum there were less courses and less expensive wines, but otherwise this was at the same level in terms of enjoyment. I wonder when Michelin is going to realize that and award a third star.
If you are in Amsterdam and looking for the best fine dining experience the city has to offer, Spectrum is where you should go.