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FG Restaurant (previously Ivy), Rotterdam - 2012 review

Rating: 93.
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Extraordinary (96-100)
Outstanding (93-95)
Very good to Excellent (89-92)
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Avoid (below 80)
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Note: In June 2013 Restaurant Ivy changed its name to FG Restaurant.

In February 2009, former sous-chef of The Fat Duck François Geurds opened his own restaurant in Rotterdam. He called it Ivy. Nine months later a Michelin star was born. François Geurds has trained in some of the top Michelin starred kitchens in Netherlands and before his sojourn at the Fat Duck, François also did a brief stint at Gordon Ramsay Royal Hospital Road. Ivy has a beautiful water-side location in a dock area in Rotterdam called the "Lloydkwartier".

Ivy in Rotterdam is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday till Saturday. The restaurant offers several multi-course tasting menus (5 courses €91, 7 courses €111, 9 courses €131, 11 courses €151) and there's the a la carte menu. Ivy also offers multi-course vegetarian menus. I had lunch with my husband at Ivy on Saturday 3 November 2012 and I ordered the 11-course tasting menu.

With our aperitifs some delicious thin beetroot, parsley root and sweet potato crisps arrived. Next we were served six amuses bouches.

Cannelés topped with a duck foie gras mousse. Well-made cannelés, soft on the inside and with a crisp and caramelised outside, a lovely combination.

Beetroot puree, goat's cheese ice cream, pine nuts. Lovely clean and pure beetroot flavours and fresh and creamy goat's cheese ice cream.

Next, one of Ivy's signature amuses bouches. A crisp, tomato flavoured, cornet dipped in liquorice and popping candy, filled with a piccalilli sorbet. A fantastic amuse bouche with lovely fresh flavours. Also a dish which I can't seem to be able to photograph, so no picture unfortunately.

Then came Francois Geurds' take on the classic Spanish 'Pan a la Catalana': Lightly grilled, crisp sourdough toast covered with a sweet ketchup-like sauce, topped with different tomato varieties, some baby basil leaves, dots of yoghurt and mint cream, crumbled feta cheese and grated Comté. The toast was wonderfully crisp and had nice, subtle, charred flavours. Lovely freshness from the yoghurt and mint cream and nice sharpness from the feta cheese. The grated Comté added a wonderful depth of flavour. Also on the plate were two refreshing lemon jelly bonbons.

The last amuse bouche was wonderful soft and moist salmon, slowly cooked in salt (the salt crust was removed table-side), served with fresh herb crème, runner beans, thinly sliced Joselito ham and melted butter. Lovely richness and warmth from the melted butter and the thinly sliced Joselito ham provided a nice touch of saltiness. An elegant salmon dish that had a perfect balance between richness and freshness and a dish that could have easily been a starter in its own right.

The first course of the tasting menu was: Broccoli, quail jelly, langoustine, herb infusion, foie gras. At the bottom of the bowl was a smooth and pure broccoli puree, followed by a layer of beautifully clear and intense quail's jelly and a layer of rich yet elegant langoustine cream, topped by a quenelle of creamy duck foie gras and sprinkled with crisp brunoise potatoes and finely chopped chives. A perfectly executed dish, the broccoli, quail and langoustines combined beautifully with the duck foie gras and the chervil added a lovely touch of freshness. Great textures too. This dish was accompanied by a piece of buttery toast that was covered with a thin layer of duck foie gras, dried taggiasche olives and crisp bread crumbs and a juicy langoustine on top. Divine and wonderfully moreish.

Second course. Cauliflower (fried, puree, dried and grated), veal 'klapstuk' (thick rib), crumble. Cauliflower florets fried in beurre noisette, the beurre noisette adding a wonderful, rich flavour. Delicious, smooth and creamy cauliflower puree with lovely concentrated flavours. Great texture from the dried cauliflower, grated cauliflower and the crisp pieces of toasted bread. The grated fresh cauliflower also added a lovely touch of lightness. Also on the plate were a few pieces of anchovy which, together with the beurre noisette, provided length and depth. The 'klapstuk' was delicately flavoured and combined really well with the cauliflower. A very creative dish with pure and intense cauliflower flavours and I loved the extra drizzle of beurre noisette.

Next up, the third course: Chicory, scallop, razor clam foam, Pata Negra. Sliced ceviche-style marinated scallops with subtle lime notes, covered by a thin layer of velvety rich duck foie gras and a wonderful, creamy and elegant razor clam foam. Hidden underneath the scallops was some braised chicory and the braising juices which were sublime. Beautiful, subtle bitters. The Pata Negra provided saltiness and depth of flavour. A terrific dish with incredible length and refined briny flavours, complemented by the richness of the foie gras.

Fourth course. Potatoes, Epoisse, brioche. A potato and Epoisse puree accompanied by some brioche toast, 'runderkaantjes' (crispy, small pieces of beef), purple potato crisps and thinly sliced dried fennel. The potato puree had good strong Epoisse flavours but the puree itself was quite heavy and could have been slightly smoother. Lovely richness and flavour from the runderkaantjes.

On to the fifth course and an Ivy classic: Nitro cocktail made table-side. The ingredients with which this cocktail is made vary with the seasons. This time the cocktail was made with a carrot and ginger puree and verjus sorbet, this is were the nitro part comes in. The verjus sorbet is made instantly with liquid nitrogen. So a smooth carrot and ginger puree at the bottom of the glas, topped with fresh and creamy verjus ice cream and then sprinkled with chopped almonds, hazelnuts, cocao crunch, fresh lime zest and pink peppercorns. A refreshing cocktail with vibrant flavours, the pink peppercorns providing floral notes and a touch of heat.

Sixth course. Oyster, rhubarb, foie gras. Excellent pan-fried foie gras placed on top of the most sublime Gillardeau oyster cream and served with a crab and sesame crisp which had a fantastic crumbly texture. Also on the plate was rhubarb puree which delivered subtle sweet and tart flavours. The oyster cream was wonderfully salty and concentrated and cut through the richness of the foie gras perfectly. An unusual but bloody fabulous flavour combination; usually sweet flavours are used to balance a foie gras dish but in this case the salty oysters did a brilliant job. A creative and innovative dish with a long and intense aftertaste and the crab and sesame crisp added texture and an extra flavour dimension. Clearly, there is a master at work.

Seventh course, Lobster, verjus, parsnip. Fantastic succulent and sweet lobster served with a very rich sauce of smoked butter, finely chopped lobster and verjus. The parsnip puree was lovely and smooth and had a hint of white chocolate coming through. A had versions of this dish on previous occasions at Ivy and I still believe it's a beautiful dish, however this version could have done with a touch of freshness eg the caviar and oyster leaf used in a version of this dish during my previous visit, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Next we were served an amuse bouche-style dish, a dish that is mentioned on the amuse bouche list on the menu, but is served later on during the meal. Textures of onion: puree, sauerkraut-like, breaded onion ring and braised. A well-executed and delightful dish with lovely intense onion flavours a light touch of curry.

Eight course. Venison, celeriac, beetroot. Beautiful, slowly-cooked venison covered with a delicious 5-spice crumble and served with a venison reduction, beetroot and three preperations of celeriac: lovely smooth and earthy sweet celeriac puree, buttery celeriac fondant and a lovely and fresh celeriac salad. The mayonnaise used for the salad was made with Chardonnay vinegar, which provided the perfect touch of acidity. Very-well-judged use of 5-spice; the spices added a wonderful warmth to this dish but weren't in any way overpowering. A perfectly conceived and executed main course.

After the main course a dish called 'Autumn' arrived. A clear mushroom bouillon with wonderful clean mushrooms flavours topped with a puff pastry cap. The mushroom bouillon was placed on a beautiful autumnal display poured over with a fragrant moss stock which created an attractive smoke effect.

Ninth course, Jerusalem artichoke, Manchego, rice, bonito. Jersusalem artichoke puree served with some dried bonito crisps, Manchego slivers, puffed rice, grated tonka beans and herring caviar. A comforting dish with great textures and and multi-layered flavours. First the creamy and pure artichoke puree, followed by the intensity of the dried bonito and herring caviar and then the a lovely salty finish from the Manchego.

Next, the pre-dessert. Macadamia, vanilla ice cream, olive oil. Fresh vanilla ice cream poured over with olive oil and accompanied by a caramelised macadamia nut and some buttery bread crumbs. A lovely and elegant pre-dessert; the vanilla, macadamia and olive oil combination worked really well.

Tenth course; Millionaires' shortbread, cherry sorbet. The shortbread had a delicious salted caramel filling and the touch of lemon made it very digestable; the texture however was slightly grainy. Wonderful buttery base and well-made chocolate ganache topping. The sherry sorbet was nice but the cherry flavours could have been a bit more intense.

Final and eleventh course: Nougat, star anise, Taggiasche olives, Napoleon lemon sweets. Fantastic fresh and pungent Napoleon and Granny Smith sorbet served with chopped nougat, Taggiasche olives, pink peppercorns and grated star anise. I got the impression that the pink peppercorns were oven-dried. Thus they provided the perfect subtle fruity flavour and gentle heat and also enhanced the citrus flavours in the sorbet. A clever and evocative dessert with great textures and precise sweet and bitter flavours.

Homemade sweets and candy floss (served with our coffees).

This was my third visit to Ivy in 18 months. Ivy is a wonderful restaurant and I have thoroughly enjoyed every visit. Francois Geurds' cooking evolves continually. Some of the dishes in this 11-course menu are clearly still inspired by the Fat Duck (the moss, the quail jelly) but this time he served us more individual dishes too. Contemporary food with the occasional molecular touch and with flavours that show tension and excitement (perhaps even more so than before). Dishes that are very carefully conceived and occasionally push flavours to their limits but not in an experimental way. This is a chef who knows and researches his ingredients and flavour combinations very carefully. Francois Geurds is a very hands-on chef whose skill and technique are among the best in the Netherlands. Ivy is one of the finest tables in the country.

More FG on ElizabethOnFood:

2011 review of FG

SLIDESHOW of my lunch at FG on Saturday 17 May 2014

Posted 27-11-2012


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