Very good to Excellent (89-92)
Above average to Good (86-88)
Below Average to Average (80-85)
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Parkheuvel restaurant in Rotterdam is a culinary icon in the Netherlands; in 2002 it was the first restaurant in the Netherlands to be awarded three Michelin stars. The head chef and owner at the time, Cees Helder, retired in 2006 and the restaurant passed to Erik van Loo. In the year before his move to Parkheuvel, Erik van Loo had been awarded a second Michelin star at restaurant De Zwethheul in Schipluiden. Owing to the change in ownership in 2006 the restaurant automatically lost all of its three stars, but the new patron cuisinier was awarded a first star just 4 months after the transfer. The second star followed in November 2008.
Parkheuvel restaurant is still in its beautiful riverside location in "Het Park" in Rotterdam. One of the first changes to be made however in 2006 by Erik van Loo was a total refurbishment of the dining room; the old decor had long been considered too austere by many. My last meal at Parkheuvel had been a very long and pleasant lunch in 2003, so I thought it was high time that I should visit the "new" Parkheuvel.
Parkheuvel offers a 4 or 6-course seasonal menu (80/100 Euro), a 5-course tasting menu (105 Euro), an 8 course tasting menu (135 Euro) and a choice from the à la carte menu. We decided to go for the 8 course tasting menu.
With our aperitif, a glass of Pol Roger white foil Brut, we were served 5 appetizers, a crisp sesame canneloni filled with a piccalilli mousse, a lovely "airy" macaron filled with cream cheese and paprika, a sandwich of crisp filo pastry filled with a tomato mousse, a stockfish cheeseburger and some prawn crackers made from tiger prawns and nori.
After this lovely start we were served one pre-starter, baby white asparagus, "Bommeriger" pork belly, ham brunoise, asparagus dressing, jelly and a potato crisp. A nice new take on the traditional Dutch way of serving white asparagus with ham. Tasty white asparagus with slow cooked pork belly and a lovely elegant dressing made from the asparagus cooking juices. I liked that the dish was served at room temperature which gave a certain lightness to the pork belly.
The first course of the tasting menu was oyster, pickled salsify, salsify puree, potato rosti, creme fraiche and Perle Imperial caviar. This is one of Van Loo's signature dishes. A beautifully presented dish and a feast for the taste buds. A perfect plumptious Dutch oyster with strips of pickled salsify, wich still had a bite to them and provided the dish with a perfect sweet and sour balance, a crisp potato rosti, creme fraiche and the lovely caviar which intensified the sweet and briny taste of the oyster. I would gladly have devoured a second mouthful.
The next course was composed of a sourdough sandwich of North Sea crab, mint and a lobster mayonnaise and a brown shrimp, potato and mango brandade served with a gazpacho jelly and some 5 year old Pata Negra. A good crispy sourdough sandwich with perfectly dressed crab and a delicious strong-flavoured lobster mayonnaise, balanced perfectly by the mint. The brandade was fabulous and had wonderful meaty flavours and the exquisite clear gazpacho jelly had a beautiful light fennel after taste. A very refined and complex dish which was a good example of Erik van Loo's skill and expertise. Spot on.
The third course was one of the chef's other signature dishes: Flower Power Asparagus. White asparagus, edible flowers, soft boiled quail's eggs, Valderrama Ocal olive oil, vinaigrette and Perle Imperial caviar. Again a beautiful looking dish and a dish that is seemingly uncomplicated at first glance, but looks are deceiving. Brilliantly cooked 'al dente' asparagus, lovely bitters from the vinaigrette which was made with the cooking juices. A dish that got its seasoning from the ingredients rather than from salt and pepper; lovely saltiness from the caviar and a light pepperiness from the flowers; the olive oil rounded it off.
The fourth course was turbot with a creamy morel sauce, fresh peas and sea lavender. The turbot was poached in the morel sauce which gave the fish a wonderful buttery flavour. Nice fresh peas which had a lovely bite to them and beautiful plumptious morels. Flawless. A rich and satisfying dish which turned up the volume after the light and elegant first three courses.
On to the fifth course; sea bass, broad beans, an olive beignet, an olive jus and olive brick pastry. A well thought out dish with lovely structures. What can I say: everything was perfectly cooked. Clever use of olives, which gave the dish a lovely depth of flavour. The flavour of the olive sauce had many layers and beautiful length. Again a seemingly basic dish at first sight (sea bass, broad beans and olives) but a dish that leaves the diner with a sense of wonder.
The last fish course in the tasting menu was lobster, snake beans, lavender Hollandaise, basmati rice and lime. A magical dish and for me the star of the evening. A dish with only a few components, but each cooked to perfection with all the flavours perfectly balanced. Lovely succulent lobster, creamy basmati rice, a touch of herbiness from the lavender Hollandaise (lavender vinegar was used) and last but not least the crispness of the snake beans.
The seventh course was slow cooked "Maas, Rijn, IJssel" beef, peas, potato, and a Westmoreland jus served with a light beef and potato stew on the side. The cut of beef used in this dish was "sucade" which is a typical Dutch beef cut and can best be compared to chuck or blade. Although sucade is a cut that is traditionally used for stews in this dish is was slow cooked at low temperature and it almost tasted as if it were fillet of beef. The light beef stew was a very elegant and summery stew. The dish had the most beautiful onion flavour which was obtained by the use of chives.
The last and eighth course was a Lambada strawberry dessert. This dish was served in 2 parts. A strawberry Romanoff cocktail and Lambada strawberries, a jelly, salve and a strawberry crisp. A nice and refreshing dessert. The Lambada strawberry has a lovely sweet strawberry flavour but it is beautifully balanced by an inherent appetizing tartness.
Erik van Loo served us a wonderful tasting menu which was well structured. Van Loo's style of cooking is not always easy to fathom. Although dishes may seem straightforward at first glance, there is more than meets the eye. The turbot dish e.g. seems simple (just turbot, morels and creamy sauce) but on closer scrutiny it proved to have many multi-layered flavours. Erik van Loo's food is very complex and has great finesse because of its intricate flavours which he achieves by his accomplished mastery of classical technique. His style of cooking is very authentic too; no need for trendy ingredients or techniques here. Fans of yuzu, ponzu and froths and foams will search here in vain.
Parkheuvel is a wonderful restaurant and the overal dining experience it offers, firmly puts it at the very top of the Dutch culinary pyramid. Furthermore I am convinced that the tasting menu only afforded me a glimpse of Erik van Loo's culinary repertoire. I wish me many happy returns!
Wine notes by Xavier Auerbach:
The first three courses were accompanied admirably by a Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Rotes Tor 2008 from Franz Hirtzberger which we had selected from the wine list (mature and rounded style, but clean and precise - like the dishes). After that we gladly put our vinous fate in the hands of the very competent sommelier Robbert Nijenhuis. Roussanne 2009 from Cuilleron was a brilliant match with the turbot - rich and buttery but with pleasing bitters and adequate acidity. Arbois en Paradis 2006 VV from Rijckaert was classically oxydative but with tremendous energy and minerality in a "takes-no-prisoners" style that makes you want to drink it by the bucket. Hermitage Blanche 2007 from Chave was the wine of the night and a perfect pairing with the (lobster) dish of the night! Immensely floral and perfumed, deep and intense, granite minerality, the product of a great terroir, will last a very long time. Corbières Ollieux Romanis 2009 had lovely sweet fruit that deliciously enveloped a firm core. Zweigelt BA 2009 from Kracher was an essence of strawberry, with nice freshness and energy and an obvious choice with the dessert. Not so obvious but very appealing was the Malaga Moscatel 2007 from Jorge Ordonez - mountain vineyards imbue the wine with an almost painful minerality that perfectly balances the intense sweetness and avoids any sense of cloying. Masterful. And finally a soupçon of Pol Roger to refresh the palate....
PS: we didn't have to drive home