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Ciel Bleu in Amsterdam - 2 Michelin stars (2014 review)

Rating: 92.
Rating index:
Extraordinary (96-100)
Outstanding (93-95)
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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With its location on the 23rd floor of the Okura Hotel in Amsterdam, Ciel Bleu still takes the lead when it comes to bright lights, big city views over Amsterdam. But where Ciel Bleu used to be the only two-star restaurant in the Dutch capital for years, Amsterdam now boasts three two-star restaurants, the newcomers in this category being Bord'eau at the l'Europe Hotel and &samhoud places.


I last visited Ciel Bleu in 2011 and things have been quite consistent here since. At the helm of the kitchen are still Onno Kokmeijer and his right-hand man Arjen Speelman. The restaurant is still open for dinner Monday till Saturday and you still need to bring deep pockets. The prices on the a la carte menu range from €55-€85 for a starter, €75-€115 for a main course and €29-€35 for dessert. There's also a seasonal tasting menu on offer (4 courses €110, 5 courses €135, 6 courses €160). I had dinner at Ciel Bleu with my husband on Monday 17 February 2014 and we both ordered the 5-course tasting menu plus an additional cheese course.

To start there was a nice and refreshing campari, blood orange, carrot and lychee bonbon (no photograph). This was followed by an amuse bouche of smoked eel, quinoa, rye bread, beetroot (puree and meringue) and cream cheese (no photograph). A lovely, balanced flavour combination. Very precise. The final amuse bouche was comprised of a spicy tom yam cream, brown shrimps, finely diced cucumber, melon and wakame, served on edible rice paper. Delicious fresh and clean flavours, with just the right amount of heat.


First course of the tasting menu was Royal Cabanon oysters, cucumber, elderflower, algae. Two deliciously sweet and firm oysters, placed on a mirror of cucumber puree and served with yoghurt and elderflower pearls, cucumber sponge cake, crème fraîche and some salty sea vegetables. The fresh sweetness of the cucumber complemented the meaty and sweet oysters wonderfully.  A very precisely executed dish with a lovely combination of fresh and delicate flavours.


Next was a squid ink and celeriac cylinder filled with king crab salad, lightly dressed and flavoured with salted lemon, topped with beurre blanc ice cream, gold leaf and Baerii caviar. A very pleasing combination of mild and more intense flavours; the king crab was beautifully dressed, nice and elegant sweet note from the cylinder and the beurre blanc ice cream rounded out all the other flavours.


This was succeeded by Turbot, truffle, potato, spinach, Parmesan and pommes soufflé. Moist turbot, covered with thin black truffle slices, placed on top of some smooth and buttery potato mash and spinach, and served with a rich and foamy truffle sauce. An excellent dish, each element on the plate superbly cooked and the spinach being the perfect ingredient to balance the richness in this dish.


My main course was venison (fillet, chop and ragout), celeriac, foie gras, ras el hanout. The fillet had been cooked in a salt crust with ras el hanout, the latter subtly perfuming the meat. Both the fillet and the chop were wonderfully succulent and gamey. The ragout wrapped in bric pastry was very flavoursome. With the venison came a rich foie gras and venison jus, that had a good depth of flavour to it. A superb and refined dish, cooked with skill.







 
Time for dessert, but first there was cheese. Ciel Bleu offers a great selection of well-matured cheeses, supplied by local cheesemonger Abraham Kef. This was followed by a delightful pre-dessert of tonka bean cream, mandarin sorbet and 'speculaas' crumble (no photograph).

Last to arrive was a pear sorbet 'dome'. Inside was yuzu flavoured pear puree, caramel, Gianduja chocolate and fresh pear balls soaked in espresso. Loved the presentation but flavourwise this dessert did not deliver. Some of the flavours were surprisingly nondescript and the bitters of the espresso were quite overpowering.


The food at Ciel Bleu is consistently good and the prices are consistently extortionate. This was one of those evenings when you look at the total amount on the bill with some alarm and you wonder: where did this happen? Let's just say that the fee for parking two cars and the consumption of two glasses of champagne suggested by the waiter, already broke the € 100 barrier. At Ciel Bleu, your money does buy you a genuine two-star experience however, both for service, ambiance and food. The sophisticated dishes, with their clear and distinctive flavours, may not be groundbreaking, but everything is cooked with technical skill and attention to detail. Based on "big-gun" ingredients, the dishes display complexity and finesse. Compared to 2011, the style of cooking seems slightly more restrained but wild experiments are not what this establishment is about; at its heart it aims to deliver a solid performance on a high quality level at the more classical side of the spectrum.

Posted 20-03-2014




 
 
 
 

 
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