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A few weeks ago head-chef Ron Blaauw of the two Michelin starred Ron Blaauw restaurant in Ouderkerk a/d Amstel announced that the restaurant will be moving to Amsterdam shortly. With this move Amsterdam will get a desperately needed second two-star restaurant. This news made me decide I just had to go to the Ouderkerk a/d Amstel restaurant before it moved to Amsterdam, because it was here that Ron Blaauw got his first star in 2004 and his second in 2005. So last Friday I had my first meal at Ron Blaauw.
First I would like to apologize for the quality of some of the photographs of the food in this post. Because the food itself is the first priority for me, I'm not always well prepared when it comes to the photography bit. In this case that means not checking your camera before you leave the house so I ended up with an almost empty battery and continuous low battery warnings so I had to use my iPhone for some of the photos.
When we were seated we were served the first of 5 pre-starters, deep-fried brown shrimps in their shells (a Ron Blaauw classic). A lovely and appetizing pre-starter which in a way can be compared to the deep-fried whitebait that is becoming quite popular in many UK restaurants.
At lunch Ron Blaauw offers a 4 course lunch menu for Euro 52,50 (3 courses Euro 47,50). Apart from the lunch menu you can choose 6 (Euro 75) or 9 (92,50) courses from the so called "Groen" menu or from an à la carte menu with 5 seasonal classic Ron Blaauw dishes. We decided to to go for 6 courses from the "Groen" menu without cheese or desserts.
After we had decided on the food the next 4 pre-starters were served. First a pomme soufflé filled with a tarragon emulsion, sprinkled with leek "snow" and a sprig of watercress. The pomme soufflé had a perfect crisp bite and dissolved instantly in the mouth and was followed by the smooth and refreshing tarragon. The leek "snow" added a lovely oniony sweetness.
The pomme soufflé was served together with another lovely pre-starter, a small cone filled with something (can't remember, gone in seconds) and crispy deep-fried sparling.
The first of the last 2 pre-starters was an "eggyolk" made of mango jelly filled with foie gras, served with yoghurt and cardamon. Great combination. Because of the mango jelly and yoghurt the foie gras was not overpoweringly rich. I loved the presentation.
Last up was a small potato cake (poffertje) served with a fried fat bloater, crème fraiche and sea grapes. Nice and elegant and loved the use of sea grapes. I have noticed that lately more and more restaurants are using this ingredient in their dishes.
The first course of the 6 course menu was Northsea crab (Cornish crab), cod and small potatoes served with a vinaigrette of young fennel and lime fingers. Crab and fennel is of course a classic combination but the use of young fennel made sure the crab wasn't in any way overpowered by the fennel. The fennel leaves gave a lovely herby finish and the potatoes provided a nice bite.
On to the second course, slow cooked and roasted beetroot, beetroot crisp, chicken thigh, black olive, mussels, piccalilli and a piccalilli crisp. As you can see a lot was happening on this plate and to my surprise it all went wonderfully well together. The chicken was nice and crispy, the olive and piccalilli was made into a crème, and the mussels where lovely and plumptious. The combination of soft and crispy elements made it a really exciting dish.
The next course was smoked oyster served with curly kale three ways; deep-fried, a foam, and a chlorophyll (the green pigment of the curly kale), smoky snow, black pudding, apple and potato gnocchi. Again a lot was happening on this plate but again it was a perfectly executed dish. The use of curly kale was just brilliant. It turns out that oyster and curly kale are a terrific combination. Again a dish with well balanced structures and ingredients, although one potato gnocchi would've been enough for me.
Fourth course: egg yolk, covered with thinly sliced squid, smoked eel jelly, red wine vinegar, sourdough bread crispies, mushroom duxelles, parsley foam and sorrel. This dish intrigued me from the moment I saw it on the menu and it was stunning. Rich and very satisfying - I almost ordered it twice. All the different textures, soft egg yolk, firm squid, smooth jelly, crispy bread: perfection. The parsley foam is a very clever use of parsley. Too much parsley can easily kill a dish but this foam added a perfect hint a of parsley.
As a fifth course we were served red, white and yellow organic onion with bonemarrow (slices and ravioli) and small cubes of pork fat. The onion was nice and still had a bite to it. Great to see the onion as a main ingredient.
The final and sixth course was quail (breast and leg), spring turnip, V.O.C. (East India Company) spice snow, polenta and a foie gras sauce. An excellent and elegant main course. Beautifully cooked quail with a lovely rich but not too rich sauce. The V.O.C. spice snow added a lovely touch of spice.
We didn't have desserts or cheese but we were served some lovely sweets with our coffees. A bowl with Gluhwein bubbles and blood orange, homemade ¨stroopwafels¨, and 3 other sweets disguised as typical Dutch bar snacks.
Ron Blaauw served us an excellent six course lunch and although we didn't fancy dessert that day, we could have easily ordered one because of the well portioned courses. He sources excellent produce for his food. The quality and variety of vegetables he uses in his dishes is exceptional. He's not afraid to use inexpensive ingredients in his restaurant and combines them perfectly with the occasional expensive one. I like that some of his dishes have a certain ¨Dutchness¨ to it, e.g. the use of curly kale in the oyster dish. In the Netherlands curly kale is traditionally served mixed with crushed potato - a bit like bubble and squeak.
It is clear that Ron Blaauw has enthusiastically embraced modern cooking techniques. Lately the seemingly unmotivated use of cremes, crumbs, powders, snows and foams etc. is often criticized and I agree; if they are added just for show they have no right to be on a plate. Ron Blaauw however has mastered the art of making them an integral and essential part of his dishes. He particularly demonstrated this with his parsley foam in the egg yolk dish and the V.O.C. spice snow with the quail.
In the Netherlands Ron Blaauw is known for his efforts to convince the public that Michelin starred restaurants are not necessarily posh and expensive places. He's not only doing this by the basic and informal design of his restaurant but he is especially confirming it with his pricing policy. A 6 course menu for € 75 equates to € 12,50 per course. In a two star restaurant I would say that is a great deal and if you order 9 courses the price per course goes down even further.
During our lunch we were taken excellent care of by Vincent van Riet, the maitre d´. He told us that this was the last lunch service in the Ouderkerk a/d Amstel venue. Talk about ¨at the eleventh hour¨. Ron Blaauw Amsterdam will open on 1 March (Sophialaan 55). At lunch they will also serve simpler dishes like oysters, salads and steak tartare. I can´t wait to go there!
In August 2012 I had lunch at the new location in Amsterdam. You can read my review here RON BLAAUW 2012 REVIEW