Very good to Excellent (89-92)
Above average to Good (86-88)
Below Average to Average (80-85)
Avoid (below 80)
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"De Leest" in Vaassen is a restaurant run by husband and wife team Jacob Jan Boerma and Kim Veldman. After having trained at several Dutch Michelin starred restaurants, the couple opened De Leest in 2002 and in that same year the restaurant was awarded its first Michelin star (2003 guide). A second star followed in 2006 (2007 guide). De Leest is located in Vaassen, a town on the fringes of De Veluwe and a good hour's drive from Amsterdam. For the select few who will not be in Vaassen this year, it is perhaps worth mentioning that in November 2012 Jacob Jan Boerma will be guest-chef at Hangar 7's Ikarus restaurant in Salzburg. Other chefs that will be cooking at Hangar 7 this year are Nuno Mendes, Tim Raue, Daniel Patterson and Peter Gilmore, so Jacob Jan is in good company.
De Leest is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday till Saturday (no lunch on Saturday). You can choose between a 'Flora & Fauna' menu (5 courses €95), a 'Micri' menu (€135), the a la carte menu and for lunch the restaurant serves a 3 course menu for €45. My husband and I had lunch at De Leest on Thursday 17 May 2012 and we both opted for the 5 course Flora & Fauna menu.
We started off with six amuses bouches. (i) Aerated eggwhite and garam masala disc, liver mousse (made from various livers), marinated apple and shallot - lovely subtle garam masala flavours and a nice contrast from the apple and shallot. (ii) Pea cake with fresh peas and Parmasan cheese - nice sweetness from the peas and the cake had a lovely moist consistency. (iii) Homemade fresh herb cheese, toasted brioche, celery, radish - lovely creamy cheese and nice texture from the celery and brioche. (iv) Textures of white asparagus, finely chopped egg, red cabbage jus, crispy small potato cubes, sourdough and pine nut cracker - wonderful clean red cabbage flavours, lovely combination with the asparagus and nice crunch from the potato cubes. (v) Lightly smoked couscous, salmon, salmon caviar, vintage (6 year old) soy sauce, yuzu, seaweed crisp - nice interplay of flavours, high on umami. (vi) Yellow fin tuna tartare, textures of cucumber (jelly, chopped, pickled), cucumber flower, iced horseradish powder, herby crisp - wonderful textures and flavours, very well balanced and full of flavour.
First course Langoustine, grey shrimps, crayfish, gamba tartare, sea grapes, anchovy cream, cucumber, shellfish jelly, fennel and kohlrabi. Beautifully cooked langoustine and crayfish, especially impressed with the incredibly succulent texture of the crayfish. The jelly had a soft consistency and had wonderful, intense shellfish flavours. Lovely vegetables, the cucumber was lightly marinated and had a wonderful floral finish, very elegant. A beautiful dish with precise and clean flavours. No soy sauce, no yuzu, just an interplay of delicate and more profound shellfish flavours rounded by the richness of the anchovy cream. Shellfish in all its natural beauty.
Second course. Cod, North sea crab, wood sorrel, sea purslane, white asparagus, carrot/celeriac/kohlrabi puree, lemon verbena, mint and lemongrass jus. A gorgeous piece of cod with a perfectly crispy and caramelised top. The smooth carrot, celeriac and kohlrabi puree was delicious and had a wonderful touch of sweetness. Beautiful lemon verbena, mint and lemongrass jus, very subtle mint flavours on the finish. Lovely white aspargus and the North sea crab base for the cod provided the dish with richness and smoothness. A sensational dish with a fantastic combination of flavours, saltiness from the cod and sea purslane and sweetness and bitters from the asparagus and vegetable puree.
Third course. Lobster, marinated potato, broad beans, goat's cheese, braised onions, onion puree, plants and herbs from the De Leest's vegetable garden called 'De Birkenhove'. Lovely tender lobster with lightly marinated potatoes. Fantastic braised onions and onion puree which both had a wonderful depth of flavour. Great texture from the broadbeans and potatoes. A lovely combination a flavours even though I would have preferred a more liberal dose of goat's cheese for added richness.
Fourth and main course. Pigeon, Moroccan spices, carrot, beetroot, different types of radish and pigeon jus. Perfectly cooked pigeon, bleu but wonderfully tender and with a terrific, concentrated pigeon jus. Lovely carrot puree and textures of beetroot and radish. The Morroccan spices were nice and fragrant but flavourwise they were far too subtle. An immaculately executed, delicate dish but I can't help noticing a clear lack of intensity and depth of flavour.
Before our desserts we had an elegant cheese course.
On to the desserts. First a pre-dessert, Pineapple creme, apple sorbet and an apple and lemon verbena crisp. An elegant and refreshing pre-dessert. Loved the tartness of the apple sorbet.
Followed by 'Happy Berry', citrus, mango, yuzu and blueberries, goji berries. A delicious dessert with a lovely balance of sweet and sharp flavours with spicy, almost smoky touches from the goji berries.
Next up was Textures of strawberry (sorbet, parfait, crème, jelly, fresh, mousse), basil crème and ras-el-hanout granita. A perfectly executed and beautifully presented dessert with lovely fresh strawberry flavours, wonderful warmth from the granita.
The last dessert was Raspberries, mascarpone, hibiscus sorbet, jasmin. Terrific fresh raspberries and amazing floral notes from the hibiscus and jasmin. A wonderful dessert with lovely pure flavours. Marvelous.
In the Netherlands Jacob Jan Boerma and his wife Kim Veldman are renowned for their extensive culinary travels around the world, travels that clearly inspire Jacob Jan and result in eclectic dishes. With his calm and detailed cooking, using top-quality ingredients and techniques, Boerma delivers modern and very refined dishes with clean and precise flavours. His food is not about theatrics but about true craftsmanship. He is above all a great chef in the artisanal sense of the word. His internationally styled and very elegant food represents very well what is expected of modern Michelin starred food, but paradoxically the impeccable execution of the dishes only seems to underline an occasional lack of panache. I was impressed with Boerma's cooking, but is he sometimes playing it a bit safe? I admire his elegant and restrained food, but I can't help wondering what would happen if he takes the brakes off.
More De Leest on ElizabethOnFood:
De Leest 2015 review (click here)