OK Lunch @ Farinella Ristorante Pizzeria Milan on 23Apr2014

Euro16 scampi with capellini - outstanding

Euro16 scampi with capellini – outstanding

went to sforzesco castle & decided to have lunch at farinella ristorante pizzeria at piazza del castello

my daughter ordered a euro16 scampi with capellini (above photo) which was very good. i tried the angel hair pasta & it was very tasty. 🙂

Euro12 set - seafood risotto (good, tasty)

Euro12 set – seafood risotto (good, tasty)

Euro12 set - seafood risotto (good, tasty)

Euro12 set – seafood risotto (good, tasty)

Euro12 set - squid (poor)

Euro12 set – squid (poor)

Euro12 set - squid (poor)

Euro12 set – squid (poor)

they had this set lunch or quick business lunch set costing euro12 which had seafood risotto (good, tasty, not much ingredient), and squid (poor, tasted nothing) & coke.

by comparison with the scampi past, the set was just ok & to me not worth trying. might as well pay for a good nice tasty pasta.

Euro16 scampi with capellini - outstanding

Euro16 scampi with capellini – outstanding

i would certainly come back for the scampi pasta if i am around the area & maybe give some other dishes a try. 🙂

c.h.e.f andy

 

Good Lunch @ Papermoon Milan on 22Apr2014

fungi papardelle - good

fungi papardelle – good

paper moon at via bagutta was just a short walk from our duomo apartments, past piazza san babila fountain. it was also recommended by Giuseppe. well he did recommend us the excellent fresco & cimmino, so we had to try this paper moon. 🙂

clam & mussels pasta

clam & mussels pasta

veal with asparagus - ok

veal with asparagus – ok

veal with asparagus ok

veal with asparagus ok

we were early. paper moon opened at 12noon, so we went around wandering a bit window shopping etc & back at the restaurant 12pm on the dot.

lunch was good (but fresco was still better!)

the veal with asparagus was pretty ok. the clam & mussels pasta was good & creamy fungi papardelle look plain but was tasty. well almost all pasta in all the places we dined in italy were good, with little exception.

we couldn’t be eating lunch & dinner for 3 days at fresco, so i would consider this a pretty good alternative.

c.h.e.f andy

Great Lunch @ Ristaronte Pizzeria da T Levanto on 20Apr2014

frutti di mare - seafood salad

frutti di mare – seafood salad

we decided to trek to levanto on 20.4.2014. 🙂

many parts of the sentiero azzurro (blue path) coastal route no. 2 were still closed. anyway we walked the incredibly scenic route to vernazza on 19.4.2014. the route to levanto was longer & took us 3.5hrs. the view was marvellous though looking back at monterosso beach was not quite the same as looking at the postcard picture perfect vernazza town when approaching from moneterosso. 🙂

frutti di mare - seafood salad

frutti di mare – seafood salad

we were strolling along the streets close to the sea on arrival at levanto around 1.30pm. the ristaronte pizzeria da T levanto was filled with locals & looked quite exciting.

grilled prawns

grilled prawns

grilled prawns

grilled prawns

we ordered the seafood salad (around 11euro) & the grilled large prawns (around 15 euro) which we saw many tables were taking. both were very good, fresh & tasty. 🙂

mussels pasta

mussels pasta

prawn pasta

prawn pasta

we ordered 2 pastas, one with prawns the other with mussels. both were very tasty too, but there was a negative part – both were much too salty.  if we could eat more pasta, maybe we could have asked them to toss in more plain pasta – just a thought. haha! 🙂

panna cotta

panna cotta

sweet cake

complimentary sweet cake

the panna cotta was poor though. my daughter & i were still thinking of the fantastic panna cotta at pizzeria balognett at tremezzo lake como, but this was a far cry, no better or worse than the ones in singapore, the reason i hardly ever ordered panna cotta.

surprising we were offered a huge helping of complimentary sweet cake. it looked very sweet & it was, but it was much better than the panna cotta.

c.h.e.f andy

Tak Shiok! (No Thrill) Dinner @ il Ciliegio Monterosso on 19Apr2014

scampi pasta

scampi pasta

we arrived at monterosso about 3.50pm on 18.4.2014 after returning the car (we drove from tremezzo lake como) at malpenssa airport & taking the malpenssa express to milano centrale to connect the train to monterosso.

we were booked at the very nice ballembra hotel in the old part of town & walked about 700m from the station. it was very pleasant as monterosso has a nice beach & there were lots of shops & gelato stalls.

for the first evening we had earlier made reservations & enjoyed a super dinner at miky, after strolling around.

the friendly proprietor of ballembra recommended & arranged for us to have dinner at il ciliegio, 200m up the hills the next day on 19.4.2014.

gianni, il ciliegio’s owner, came in his MPV to fetch us from the town centre. he stopped near the top for us to take photos of the monterosso coastline in the sunset. 🙂

the service was excellent. the view was actually quite limited as surrounded with trees, mostly ciliegio. afterall the whole cinque terre & monterosso offered awesome vista everywhere.

regrettably, dinner @ il ciliegio monterosso = tak shiok leh…NO THRILL! 😦

grilled zicchini

grilled zicchini

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swordfish steak

swordfish steak

swordfish steak

swordfish steak

scampi pasta

scampi pasta

food was quite mediocre & would be poorest if c/w miky OR even the cheap & very good trattoria scogliera at manarola.

scampi pasta was skimpy, 4 tiny scampis for 2pax portions (mike’s seafood risotto while 50% more ex had like 5times the ingredients so much greater value & of course superior taste & dining experience), trofie (a risotto like pasta that looked like our chinese “beetaimak”) pesto was totally plain, swordfish was ok, vege was actually good, very sweet.

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il ciliegio has a nice setting, but almost no customers. only 1 other table was occupied.10260019_10152334390929494_7737027130625861121_n 10171003_10152334390774494_7807149832331859890_n

the outside was pleasant. it was cold so more comfortable to dine indoors.10273369_10152334391954494_6956391925483448181_o 10153760_10152334391849494_2718618501736750980_n 10175067_10152334391549494_696552267939311361_n

we took some photos of the monterosso coastline & also in the direction of vernazza in the sunset. 🙂

owners gianni & rosanna are very nice people. after dinner, gianni drove us back to town below. he turned & reversed his MPV like >50m in one fluid movement on the narrow path like in car chase movies, but he drove safely & not fast.

food was ok, & i am sure if you speak italian, the company & conversation would be most pleasant. just on food however monterosso was filled with nice restaurants, so regrettably i would not recommend this. 😦

c.h.e.f andy

Great Value Wholesome Lunch @ Ristorante La Scogliera Manarola on 19Apr2014

seafood spaghetti in tomato sauce

seafood spaghetti

was raining in the morning & mid day on 19.4.2014. we were not able to take the sentiero azzurro (blue path) which is the coastal route no. 2 trek from monterosso to vernazza.

we were early in apr so not quite the peak. there was still some crowd, and later commotion when someone was apparently pick pocketed. some friends went later in may & commented that the cinque terre trains were late but our experience with it was good, fortunately.

we took the train to manarola. the views were excellent but again the sentiero azzurro (blue path)trek between manarola & vernazza was closed.

manarola was a tiny place so we had lots of time & decided to take lunch there. ristorante la scogliera manarola prominently displayed its 4 trip advisor stars. must say we were not disappointed. indeed cheap & good! 🙂

Ristorante La Scogliera Manarola.

Ristorante La Scogliera Manarola

restaurant was pretty crowded. we were early so we were able to get a table after few minutes before the queue formed up.

seafood spaghetti in tomato sauce

seafood spaghetti

the lunch specials were all about 10euros & 11 euros, and the menu dishes not far off. my seafood spaghetti was about 11 euros, and it was really good very tasty dish. 🙂

grilled octopus

grilled octopus

grilled octopus

grilled octopus

al the grilled octopus we had at lake como restaurants & at miky monterosso were all good, and so was this & it’s just 10 euros.

plate of mussels

plate of mussels

this my idea of eating mussels – wholesome, hearty, a large pot or plate & very reasonable prices (& not the meagre 4 stuffed mussels at miky). haha. i think also around 10 euros. 🙂

scampi pasta in tomato sauce

scampi pasta in tomato sauce

my daughter ordered the scampi pasta in tomato sauce. and they really do their tomato sauce pastas very well in all the restaurants we’ve been, very flavourful & great taste of tomatoes. 🙂

this definitely a lunch place i would recommend for all visitors to manarola. 🙂

c.h.e.f andy

Most Unforgettable Dinner @ Miky at Monterosso on 18 & 20Apr2014

monterosso restaurant miky's famous flamed seafood risotto

monterosso restaurant miky’s famous flamed seafood risotto

had been lazy to continue my posting on the cinque terre trip in apr2014.

did a number of posts on amsterdam and lake como after the trip & ran out of steam after a while..haha. time to pick up & write about the best restaurant & the best meals we had in italy. the best meal we had at amsterdam was at beulings. 🙂

we picked monterosso as our base for cinque terre (the “five lands” -comprising 5 towns – italian riviera along the lingurian coast) as it is the largest town, has a nice beach front, and of course good gathering of restaurants & shops. we managed to do the very nice trekking from monterosso to vernazza & also monterosso to levanto, both with incredible views.

monterosso restaurant miky

monterosso restaurant miky

miky is located near monterosso station, at fegina in the new part of town.

i read a bit about restaurant miky at monterosso & their famous flamed pasta dishes, and i made a prior booking on 18.4.2014. we enjoyed the dinner so much we decided to go again on 20.4.2014.

anchovies seafood platter

anchovies seafood platter 1

we had wonderful pickled herrings in the streets of amsterdam & also nice lake fishes platter at lake como restaurants. so we thought we would start with the fantasia of anchovies.

anchovies seafood platter

anchovies seafood platter 2

anchovies seafood platter

anchovies seafood platter 3

it looked wonderful & came with the 2 smaller platters i.e. 3 platters in a single order.

i would say it was something worth ordering for the first time. it was competent above average i guess but by comparison with alle darsene 7-lake fish platter or even street herrings in amsterdam, it was not as tasty & flavourful. for me the left & bottom 2 cured ones in anchovies seafood platter 1 though salty were the more flavourful.

grilled octopus tentacles

roasted octopus tentacles

grilled octopus tentacles

roasted octopus tentacles

the roasted octopus with asparagus was good! very tender.

it was a different preparation but quite comparable with alle darsene octopus appetiser. both i considered very good dishes. 🙂

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stuffed mussles

the stuffed mussels not my thing, but wife & daughter liked it. i preferred sweet fresh & plentiful pot of mussels like the ones we had at la scogliera at manarola the next day, not 4 stuffed one..lol. the tomato base soup was very good though. 🙂

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the flamed pasta covered pot of seafood risotto was the best outstanding dish. minimum order was 2pax @ 18euros pax so 36euros. the portions were good for 4pax & more seafood than risotto almost. the stock base i figured was chicken stock with prawn shells & heads & very flavourful.

the above photo was 1 of 3 servings for 3pax, and there was enough left in the pot for 2 more similar size servings including the seafood. 🙂

monterosso restaurant miky's famous flamed seafood risotto

monterosso restaurant miky’s famous flamed seafood risotto

monterosso restaurant miky's famous flamed seafood risotto

monterosso restaurant miky’s famous flamed seafood risotto

we went back again on 20.4.2014, the evening before our departure to milan the following day, and ordered the same risotto. just could not have enough! 🙂

this inspired me so much i came back & recreated the seafood risotto dish, and served it to my buddies for my lake como, cinque terre, milan grand tour tasting menu on 2.7.2014. they all absolutely loved it, though of course it was no comparison with the real thing at miky! lol! 🙂

monterosso restaurant miky

monterosso restaurant miky

lobster, langoustine, prawns seafood platter

lobster, langoustine, prawns seafood platter

lobster, langoustine, prawns seafood platter

lobster, scampis, prawns seafood platter

the other excellent dish not to be missed was the 35euros lobster, scampis, prawns seafood platter. 🙂

the 1/2lobster was a large 1kg size not the usual 600g maine lobster in singapore, very sweet & tasty, but the scampis were even better. & the prawns were large & very good.

seafood platter

grilled seafood platter

lobster, langoustine, prawns seafood platter

grilled seafood platter

when we returned there on 20.4.2014, we decided to try the grilled seafood platter instead. this was good too with grilled scampi, prawn, razor clams, scallop & fish on a bed of mesclun salad. in a way it was kind of different dish to the cold seafood platter but really in terms of quantity, taste, value the cold platter was lots better. 🙂

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monterosso restaurant miky

they were truly unforgettable meals we had, 2 times in a space of just 3 days. 🙂

c.h.e.f andy

Romantic Villa del Balbainello Lake Como Italy on 17Apr2014

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villa balbainello

our next visit was to villa balbainello on 17.4.2014. it is a beautiful and romantic attractions at lenno on lake como, at the tip of a small wooded peninsula with beautiful terraced gardens. it was also the filming location for star wars episode 2 – attack of the clones (2002) & casino royale (2006). 🙂

we spent the morning taking the lake shuttle from villa carlotta to varenna, had lunch at alle darsene, strolls through villa melzi & did some fast shopping at bellagio (& earlier at varenna) before picking up our car at villa carlotta jetty, and drove 30mins to villa balbainello at lenno.

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route accès to villa balbainello

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route accès to villa balbainello

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river taxi to villa balbainello

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it was possible to trek/walk to villa balbainello, but it was late afternoon, so we decided to take the private river taxi. the round trip fare including access to the gardens was euro13pax. 🙂

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we strolled around the terraced gardens overlooking the lake.

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loggia at top of the hill

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loggia at top of the hill

the loggia with the famous sunset scene, the kiss (anekin & padme) & the secret marriange. 🙂

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a charming & romantic garden setting, perched on the hill & overlooking the lake. villa carlotta was also facing the lake & had a lot more trees, flowers & plants to admire while you strolled. here at villa balbainello the space were more expansive living space & you could sit in the lawn (as in 007 recuperating in casino royale), rest on the verandah etc.

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1619497_10152329569269494_2734882906825612184_non the return journey, the river taxi took us on a short cruise further south, and we had a good view of villa balbainello & another villa further south of the lake & also lenno from the craft.

it was past 5pm when we got back to our hotel la perla. we liked the panna cotta at pizza balognett so much that we stopped by & ta pao (take-out). la perla has a sprawling scenic terrace patio overlooking the lake. we had couple of macchiatos to go with the panna cotta while enjoying the great views. 🙂

c.h.e.f andy

 

The Enchanting Villa Carlotta on 16Apr2014

10252148_10152108866445662_1904424028743536863_n the enchanting villa carlotta is located in tremezzo just past the grand hotel tremezzo palace. there is an open carpark free parking area next to it, and the jetty for the lake shuttle for bellagio & varenna ia also located nearby. 🙂

we had sometime before dinner after returning from pigra cable car at argegno, & villa carlotta fits in the schedule well. 10308133_10152108866380662_250614155345170435_n1609925_10152108866295662_6784631393572576435_n

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the villa sat on hilly terrain at the lakefront. there was a massive gate & a beautiful fountain area with pruned hedges that were 6m tall! little bit like a maze. looked beautiful especially from the lake view balcony on level 3.

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the enchanting villa was built in the late 17th century, and bought in 1843 by Princess Marianne of Nassau, Albert’s of Prussia wife, who gave it as a present to her daughter Carlotta in occasion of her wedding with Georg II of Saxen-Meiningen. Hence the name Villa Carlotta. Georg II was fond of botany, & the fascinating romantic gardens were well known for its century old cedars and sequoias, rock garden, ferns valley and bamboos garden, and the many varieties of azeleas & rhododendrons. 🙂

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my wife & daughter felt that villa carlotta gardens were more attractive than keukenhof gardens. in the sense that there were 100 year old cedars & sequoias & bamboo patches spread over rolling knolls in an outdoor natural landscape setting extending over 7hectares, it did have its unique beauty.  keukenhof though was 4times in size about 32hactares. 🙂

we were looking forward to dinner, quite expecting a delightful evening at la darsena, the dinner recommendations by our b&b proprietress. 🙂

c.h.e.f andy

Pigra Cable Car at Argegno Lake Como on 16Apr2014

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after a wonderful lunch at pizza balognett, we took a short 15mins drive to argegno & managed to park right below the pigra cable car entrance on 16.4.2014. 🙂

pigra cable car, 1 of the steepest in europe, was opened in 1971. it took you from 200m to 850m in less than 5 minutes, or about 8km/hr.  it is actually capable of 5m/s or about 18km/hr. of course if you c/w taipei 101 just regards speed, that lift goes up at 60km/hr! 🙂

the adult return fare was 3.90euros. see the tariff & schedule here. 🙂

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the view at the top was awesome, such a beauty to behold. 🙂

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it was like a top-of-the-world feeling. you could see the small town of argegno populating the shoreline. 🙂10258768_10152327729449494_610356105448171779_n 10265614_10152327730844494_4234315811545095709_o 1484662_10152108856140662_5038915772151073548_n

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10312005_10152108856015662_8327047963765080833_na wonderful liberated feeling! 🙂

we did not have time to do the trails to belvedere. so we took the 4pm cable car down & drove back to tremezzo & made a short tour of villa carlotta before a nice dinner at la darsena. 🙂

c.h.e.f andy

 

Best Meal at Lake Como @ Alle Darsene on 17Apr2014

7 lake fishes done in different ways

7 lake fishes done in different ways – 15euros

had the best meal at lake como at alle darsene on 17.4.2014. 🙂

alle darsene is located next to villa melzi, but it is on the other side, so a rather long walk from the bellagio ferry jetty. we had a leisurely morning & visited varenna (& the shopping). we walked on the narrow road just bordering villa melzi to reach alle darsene. on the way back we decided to just pay 9euro each & walk through villa melzi. ok la..it was but a pleasant stroll through the gardens. 🙂

our first order was the lake fishes (top photo), since we were at lake como. it was excellent, better even than that at daserna. all the 7 fishes, cured or smoked or pickled, as well as the roe, were all excellent. 2 thumbs up! 🙂

grilled octopus on a very tasty broth

grilled octopus on a very tasty broth – 15euros

and the grilled octopus, that was the best i had during this trip, better even than miky at monterosso, cinque terre. the broth was really good! i would recreate this at home, that is if i can find the octopus. 🙂

beef tartar with burrata & truffle - 15euros

beef tartar with burrata & truffle – 15euros

& the beef carpaccio was again par excellence. so sweet & tasty. my daughter & i loved it(though my wife was a bit off beef tartare). i could have this again! 🙂

fillet of sole pan seared then baked with lentils & mussels - 20euros

fillet of sole pan seared then baked with lentils & mussels – 20euros

and the fillet of sole was so good. even the lentils (though i don’t like too much of it) was very tasty with the sweet, lovely mussels. such great dish this! 🙂 i not so successful with western fish dishes except for my quite excellent cod, but i might try to do this as well. 🙂

very good catavelli with octopus, clams & muscles, excellent seafood broth - 16euros

very good catavelli with octopus, clams & mussels, excellent seafood broth – 16euros

the catavelli pasta was likewise excellent, and the octopus, clams, mussels & the seafood broth. 🙂 this i would also try to recreate.

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my daughter ordered a chocolate – so pretty

every single dish was excellent. this a restaurant i would not miss if i come again. 🙂

because of the location, it is inconvenient though for dinner if not staying at bellagio as there is a ferry to catch! 😦 that was why we changed our prior booking from dinner to lunch.

c.h.e.f andy

Good Dinner Set @ la Darsena Tremezzo on 16Apr2014

45euros pax menu darsena #1 selection of 5 lake fishes done different ways

45euros pax menu darsena #1 selection of 5 lake fishes done different ways

la perla’s proprietress was very friendly & enthusiastic. she made 2 restaurant recommendations for dinner on 16.4.2014. we picked la darsena, restaurant at hotel la daserna located at the road junction entering the main road coming from la perla b&b, and she made a reservation for us. 🙂

we went to pigra cable car at argegno after lunch & still found time to wonder through the beautiful villa carlotta and got back to la perla 6-ish, so dinner at darsena at 8pm was ‘perfecto’. 🙂

the owner’s son waited on us. a very friendly & helpful guy. he recommended some of their signature dishes & as couple of them were already on the 45euros pax 4-course menu darsena, we ordered 2 sets plus 1 order of pasta to share among the 3 of us.

food was overall good, quite above average, just did not bowl us over.

#1 the selection of 5 lake fishes done different ways (top photo) was their signature dish & really good, though personally i felt the one at the alle darsene lunch the next day was even better. this a dish i would pick if ordering ala carte. this seemed to be a popular starter dish in restaurants here & also in cinque terre.

45euros pax menu darsena #2 crispy perch fillet risotto

45euros pax menu darsena #2 crispy perch fillet risotto

#2 the crispy perch fillet risotto though was below expectation. texture-wise risotto were always done very well al dente in all the restaurants including darsena. taste-wise though we were expecting a bit more. the perch tasted quite dry & flat & the risotto was quite plain. portions in italy were quite large & i ended up taking more than i should 😦 to make up the smaller quantities my wife & daughter took.

seafood pasta - ala carte

seafood pasta – ala carte

the seafood pasta, also 1 of their recommendations, looked good but also tasted average or just better. spaghetti was the thicker version & somewhat less al dente. the dish was ok just not as tasty as expected.

45euros pax menu darsena #3 lemon sorbet

45euros pax menu darsena #3 lemon sorbet

#3 this 1/2 eaten lemon sorbet was excellent. the owner’s son said he owned a gelato stall further down the road & he made these himself & brought them over to serve at darsena. 🙂

45euros pax menu darsena #4  fillet of pork

45euros pax menu darsena #4 fillet of pork

#4 the fillet of pork was good actually. unfortunate not sure what was the combination of factors, i had either tired from the driving or taken too much of the risotto & pasta, or the wine, i was feeling drowsy & also not comfortable. in the end i took only 1 quarter off my plate & my wife & daughter were also too full to take any. the portions were also truly huge in italy. 🙂

45euros pax menu darsena #5 trio of desserts

45euros pax menu darsena #5 trio of desserts

#5 the dessert combo of custard with some crumble inside, apple tart & chocolate mousse was excellent. 🙂

overall, except for the crispy perch, i think it was actually a very good set for the price 45euros. 🙂

c.h.e.f andy

 

Great Pizza Lunch @ Pizzeria Balognett Tremezzo Lake Como on 16.4.2014

frutti di mare pizza, beef carpaccio, grilled eggplants, toast

frutti di mare pizza, beef carpaccio, grilled eggplants, toast

we left amsterdam on an early easyjet flight & arrived at milan’s malpensa airport at 1020am on 16.4.2014, picked up our car from avis at our arrival terminal 2, and drove to our b&b la perla perched on a hill at tremezzo at lake como. 🙂

the journey was 85km & took about 1 hr 20mins. the drive was scary as the roads were very narrow, i was driving on the “wrong” side of the road (left wheel drive), and the cars including heavy vehicles were coming at you quite fast.

pizza balognett

pizza balognett

i had read about pizzeria balognett (some claimed the best pizzas in lake como!) & had made a prior reservations at 1pm. place was quite empty actually, there was only 1 other table of 2pax americans i think, i guessed the location was a bit inaccessible w/o a car. for us it was 3 minutes drive after checking in at la perla & b&b owner assured us it was an excellent choice for lunch. 🙂

we ordered beef carpaccio, frutti di mare pizza & grilled eggplant to share among 3pax, ending the lunch with a panacotta & macchiato. we were served a toast basket, nice! we were hun-gwee. 🙂

food, especially the pizza, was good. 2 thumbs up! 🙂

beef carpaccio

beef carpaccio

beef carpaccio was ok, ordinary.

pizza frutti di mare (fruits of the sea)

pizza frutti di mare (fruits of the sea)

pizza was excellent. i not much into pizza, would not normally order them. this though was very good. the texture of the dough was good, the ingredients (squid, octopus & especially the mussels) were good, but mostly the flavour of the pizza was outstanding, very tasty. 🙂

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& this grilled eggplant was very good!

lovely if inaccessible

lovely if inaccessible

plateful

plateful

beef carpaccio, grilled eggplants, toasts

beef carpaccio, grilled eggplants, toasts

very satisfying lunch, but we were not finished yet. 🙂

panacotta

panna cotta

normally my wife & i are not so hot on desserts, tiramisu & stuff (my daughter loves dessert of course). & i unlikely to order panna cotta in singapore. but we did here, and it was extremely delicious (for a panacotta). texture was excellent & it was very tasty. i guessed the best of not so many panna cotta i had tried! haha. 🙂

anyway we went back next day just to ta pao (takeout) the panna cotta & had it at la perla’s scenic terrace patio overlooking lake como with couple macchiatos. 🙂

c.h.e.f andy

 

Trip Planning, Airbnb, Holland Pass, Restaurants & Sights 13-15Apr2014

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haarlemmerplein at night

this my last post on amsterdam.

wife did good trip planning & reserved a haarlemmerdijk apartment via airbnb. it was a huge apartment with 1 bedroom, big hall, full kitchen (with great coffee maker & coffee & tea provided) & dining, great toilets & showers, and was located in amsterdam’s famous jordan district. its a diverse happening place, filled with fashion boutiques, interior decor shops, cheese, specialty food, dining, cafe & of course amsterdam’s famous coffeeshops, just a stroll from amsterdam central station along haarlemmerstraat linking into haarlemmerdijk. 🙂

we purchased the holland pass online, and i bought the 5 tickets pass for 49.50 euors (5% discounts online). it came with a free train connection from schipol airport to amsterdam central (4euros) & a free 24hr city bus ride (7euros). considering that i had used 2 gold tickets for keukenhof (15euros) & rijksmesuem (15euros), & 2 silvers for schipol-keukenhof return bus connection (9euros) & 100 highlights canal cruise (15.5euros), i would say it was well worth it.

we brought a huawei 3g/4g mifi with us (lent to us by my wife’s good friend) and bought a lebara 1gb sim card at schipol (it’s also available in shops around town). so we stayed connected throughout & my daughter became expert in google map guiding us to beulings & zazas (we took the trams) where we had made prior dinner reservations, and also during the waterland cycling trip. 🙂

we made some miscalculations & was not able to get the bikes at zaandan station to cycle at zaanse schans, but otherwise everything went smoothly. 🙂

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cheese - really excellent cheese here

cheese – really excellent cheese here

we were slightly early on checking in. fortunately haarlemmerdijk had many cafes around every corner. 🙂  cheese shops too.

the cruise terminal next to amsterdam central

the cruise terminal next to amsterdam central

multi-storey bicycle park next to amsterdam central

multi-storey bicycle park next to amsterdam central

beautiful amsterdam central station opened in 1889 & handles 250,000 passengers/day

beautiful amsterdam central station opened in 1889 & handles 250,000 passengers/day

after visiting zaanse schans windmill country on my first day arrival on 13.4.2014, we went to holland international terminal in front of beautiful amsterdam central train station, & queued 45mins for the 100 highlights cruise.

rihksmeseum - taken using my samsung s4 4x magnification from tram

rihksmeseum – taken using my samsung s4 4x magnification from tram

i amsterdam in front of rijksmeseum

i amsterdam in front of rijksmeseum

nightwatch

night watch

an old woman reading

an old woman reading

after seeing the dazzling keukenhof gardens on 14.4.2014, we went to rijksmeseum, saw rembrandt’s night watch & an old woman reading, such incredible details. 🙂

city trams - we got quite used to taking them

city trams – we got quite used to taking them

we used the trams a lot to get from our apartment to amsterdam central & to get to the restaurants beulings & zazas, so made full use of the 24hr pass. 🙂

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herons scavenging in the streets – on our way to zazas

we saw herons scavenging on the streets on our way to zazas on our second evening on 14.4.2014. flea market or something in the day?

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dam square – on the left is madame tussaud’s

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dam square

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dam square

after 1/2 day cycling to waterland on 15.4.2014, we had some time to spare before dinner. wife & daughter went to madame tussaud’s at dam square to use up the last 2 holland pass tickets.

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down the road from dam square toward de wallen, the red light district

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canal along oudezijds voorburgwal where de wallen is located

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canal along oudezijds voorburgwal where de wallen is located

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canal along oudezijds voorburgwal where de wallen is located

hashish & marijuana meseum

hashish & marijuana meseum

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sex shops in de wallen

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sex shops in de wallen

i took a stroll down towards the canal to see amsterdam famous de wallen red light district ( i was last here in 1980 after my final exams when studying in england). it was late afternoon so no activity only sex shops & weed museum…haha. 🙂

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back to dam square

walked back to dam square. was walking across the road & tripped & fall mid way.  had a cut at the brow & bled, broke the frame of  my new specs (fortunately i brought spares), and had 2 balukus (swellings) on my chin & below the eye. fortunately it was just a shallow cut and only thing that was badly bruised was my ego. passersby were very helpful & a shopkeeper gave me tissues & let me cleaned up in his toilet. getting clumsy too soon. sigh!

c.h.e.f andy

Cycling the Waterland Route in Amsterdam on 15Apr2014

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wife was keen with cycling in amsterdam so she did a bit of research.

the waterland cycling route looked quite exciting, covering about 51km return starting out from amsterdam, going along the dike by  kinselmeer to marken & back by holysloot & ransdorp. and we were even thinking of taking the ferry to volendam….there is a very good guide in holland-cycling (marken cycle route) here.

regrettably in the end we did not manage that.  the temperature was sub 10 degC & with windchill factor was colder than what we had planned for, and 1 of us repacked the bags & forgot & left out the gloves. we were quite ok though with the cold after cycling for a while, but the wind was too strong on the dike route (uitdammerdijk along kinselmeer) & it was substantial effort & slow progress & not really so fun for the 3 of us who were infrequent cyclist (like few times a year!). i knew i would get to enjoy this more in due course now that i finally got down to buying a dahon mu n360 foldable bike just before this trip. :-).

the cycling started quite well. we got our bikes from macbikes which was located on the eastern end of amsterdam central station, & the guy walked us through the double locks – one to lock the wheels, the other to chain the bicycle to a immovable object. 🙂 shortly we were on the bikes cycling to the ferry point to take the free ferry (for vehicles, bikes & passengers) to cross over to ij.

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amsterdam is very flat country and quite easy to cycle. there were mostly dedicated cycle paths so very safe. we were confused with the signs on several stretch of roads. they showed a mo-ped & a bike with a diagonal bar cutting across them. a no-bike sign?? some dutch guy stopped to give us some help. he explained that paths w/o the sign was for bikes only, and the sign only meant that the road was used by bikes & other vehicles (& not for bikes only). 🙂

he commented it was a cold day & though unspoken obviously kind of thought we were rather ambitious when we mentioned that we were planning to go to marken & volendam! …so he knew better. haha. 🙂

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the initial cold was manageable. but as we passed durgerdam & rode on to the dike on uitdammerdijk alongside kinselmeer, the wind was just too strong and the progress was so slow & of course it was very cold & over a very long stretch. it was very tiring and taking the fun out of a casual ride & enjoying the meadows & countryside. we decided to turn back on reaching 79 (see the holland-cycling marken cycle route map), and rode in the direction of holysloot to 78, and then towards 44, ransdorp.

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without the wind impeding our progress, the ride was very pleasant & enjoyable past meadows & farms & windmills. 🙂

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initially we thought of stopping at ij-kanteen for lunch (ij-kanteen is supposed to be a casual, modern, cheerful brasserie on a spacious ground previously a canteen for the shipyard…sounded hip & cool but not strictly a must for us..). but once we got back to the area, we wanted to have a quick bite so we stopped at a nice cosy cafe rather than to go looking for directions to ij-kanteen. guess we were just hungry. it was still cold outside so we chained our bikes to the railings and sat inside the cafe. we must be hungry as the burger tasted really good & the carrot coconut soup was super tasty. this soup was even better than the carrot soup at zazas & the movies restaurant (we must be real, really hungry! haha..), and perhaps not better but a different touch (more robust) c/w beulings. (i plan to do this at home after sourcing some internet recipes). 🙂

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we were back to ij jetty to catch the ferry to cross back to amsterdam central. we decided to take a quick look at the Eye. a huge cruise ship passed by. it was quite a sight 10 storeys high.

we took the ferry & returned the bikes to macbike. i estimated we cycled 25km or more & we took just over 3 hrs in total so we had to pay the 24hr hire rates. with 10% discount from holland pass, macbikes 24hr rental include insurance for 3pax was 48euros. hmmm.. very expensive!

c.h.e.f andy

The Dazzling Keukenhof Gardens on 14Apr2014

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2 things wife wanted to do was to cycle in amsterdam & see the tulips at keukenhof gardens, hence the “detour” from the initial vacation plan of lake como & cinque terre. 🙂

we had the holland pass so we used the gold pass for entry to keukenhof gardens (cost 15euros). we used a silver pass for the bus return from schipol airport to keukenhof (cost 9euros). for the journey from amsterdam central to schipol we had to pay 4euros as it was not covered by the holland pass. if you do not have holland pass, you can get a combi ticket here including return from amsterdam central & entry to keukenhof for 28euros.

keukenhof is located in lisse and used to be the part of the the estate of teylingen castle.  games were hunted & food collected for the kitchens of the castle, hence keukenhof or kitchen courtyard in dutch. in 1857 the same architect who designed vondelpark, redesigned the castle gardens in english landscape style, the basis for keukenhof today. there is wifi throughout the gardens & you can download the map here.

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tulips galore! 🙂

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flowers were mostly in full bloom and it was a wonderful stroll through the garden. very pleasant indeed. 🙂

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floral art. 🙂

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sakuras. quite pretty these, but of course nothing could compare with seeing sakuras in kyoto or tokyo. 🙂

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there was an animal pen.

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fun time for the children, and adults too!

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such beauty! 🙂

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keukenhof was really beautiful. a very enjoyable day. we visited villa carlotta later when we visited tremezzo in lake como, and that was extremely beautiful too, and villa carlotta gardens was in a landscaped natural terrain setting, not garden plots, so it had added attraction. 🙂

c.h.e.f andy

Zaanse Schans Windmill Country on 13Apr2014

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when i think of netherland 2 things came to mind – tulips & windmills! maybe milkmaids?

zaanse schans is the beautiful windmill country. the train station at koog-zaandijk is just 4 stops 17minutes from amsterdam central, & then a 15mins walk to zaanse schans village.

the zaan region used to be 1 of western europe’s oldest industrial area and boasted some 600 active windmills & factories powered by wind in the heydays in 18th & 19th century. it was also the centre of shipbuilding in the 17th century during the dutch golden age.

now there are some 10 working windmills in zaanse schans. though the windmills were relocated here piece by piece, today zaanse schans is a living & working community, with clog- and cheese-making, shops, boutiques, stunning buildings & meadow landscape.

read more about zaanse schans here.

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we had planned to cycle at zaanse schans. there is what appears to be a good cycling guide and cycle routes/map. it indicated that one could rent a bicycle at zaandam station. i arrived amsterdam on a sunday & we took the train from amsterdam central to zaandam but was unable to locate the bike rental. we asked around in the station & some staff said the rental shop was closed on sunday, which was odd since it should really be catering to the tourist crowd so why closed on sunday?

anyhow we did not have much time as we had only 2 more days in amsterdam & we had purchased the holland pass & would be using the pass for keukenhoff gardens & the museums & canal cruise & also planning to cycle to waterland. so we decided to just take a bus from zaandam station to zaanse schans & skip the cycling.

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zaanse schans village was idyllic as described in the guides & the windmills along the river were magnificent. we had a very pleasant stroll & if we had more time & were able to locate the bike rentals it would be quite fun to cycle in the surrounding meadows.

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we wondered into a cheese shop & factory & the cheese were just fantastic. every cheese we tried were really nice & we bought 3 including a goat cheese. 🙂

we came by the train route (the bus we took from zaandam stopped at near the koog-zaandijk train station as the one that stopped nearer was a 1 hr wait). on the return trip, we took bus 391 which stopped right across the bridge on the other side of the river from the village. it was a 40mins ride back to amsterdam central.

though regrettably we did not get to cycle, it was still quite a wonderful day & we were also looking forward to dinner at beulings (& indeed we had the most wonderful dinner) which we had made prior reservations before the trip. 🙂

c.h.e.f andy

 

Very Good Dinner @ Zazas Amsterdam on 14Apr2014

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amuse bouche

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focaccia bread

had a good dinner at zazas on my second night in amsterdam on 14.4.2014. 🙂 like beulings, we planned & booked the restaurant before the trip.

could not recall the amuse bouche but it was good tasting.

the focaccia was good, the usual.

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carpaccio – euro10.50

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smoked duck mille feuille euro 10.50

we ordered 5 appetisers including the oysters & soup. 🙂

#1 the beef carpaccio was good, sweet & came with foie gras terrine.

#2 the smoked duck mille feuille was good too. smoked duck was good & the pastry too, overall a good dish. taste wise it was not as exciting as it looked. the duck & pastry were competent, good, not special.

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cheese ravioli 1/2 portion euro 8.80

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carrot soup 1/2portion euro2.80

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3 de claire oysters euro 7.50

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creamy & sweet de claire oyster

#3 the ravioli was good. couldn’t remember what was in it, I imagine cheese? but this was better than the green pea risotto we had at the movies restaurant the next day. 🙂

#4 the carrot soup (we had 3 servings of 1/2 portion) had some cream at the bottom & was again very good, and also better than the one at the movies restaurant.

#5 the oysters were excellent, very creamy and sweet. we ordered a second helping of 3 oysters. 🙂

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black cod euro20.50

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guinea fowl euro 20.50

we ordered 2 mains to share.

#6 the cod was competent, but somehow the meat were firmer (& less oily??) than the texture i generally liked, as in my own nobu miso cod or teriyaki cod.

#7 the guinea fowl i guess was competent, just was not a dish that we particularly liked, and by comparison, the duck confit at the movies restaurant was much more enjoyable.

the service was very good – professional & friendly. there was 2 taiwanese ladies on our next table. 1 ordered a lamb but didn’t like it. she was requested to order a different main from the menu. the server took back the lamb & later explained politely & cheerfully that the chef tasted the lamb & it was fine however they would replace it with another main anyway. the lady said sorry when paying the bill & the server said they were sorry that she did not like it. all very nice & pleasant. 🙂

overall the dinner came to euro104 including 2 coffees & a glass of wine, quite good price. it was not really much more expensive than the movies restaurant. the appetisers were great but the mains were not as enjoyable for us c/w the movies restaurant.  i would come back again when in amsterdam.

c.h.e.f andy

 

Far Surpassing Expectations @ The Movies Restaurant Amsterdam on 15Apr2014

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venison with herb cream & beetroots

my very good dutch friend, hugo, knowing that we were in amsterdam, took a train from rotterdam where he was living to have dinner with the 3 of us on 15.4.2014. 🙂

he met us at our haarlemmerdijke apartment and took us across the street, about 30m, to the movies restuarant. that suited us fine as we were taking the first flight the next day to milan on way to lake como at leaving at 6am.

we had walked past the movie theatre several times to go to haarlemmerplein to take the trams and did not notice from across the road that it had a restaurant.

it had a pub like pleasant cosy atmosphere & we could be forgiven to think the food would be like average. how pleasantly wrong we were! 🙂 i realised that it was quite a place to go to for art house movies afterwards.

the service was also excellent, very warm, friendly & helpful! not sure they could smell the baron-ness in my aristocratic looking friend. lol. 🙂

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green pea risotto

we ordered 4 appetisers & 3 mains.

#1 we did not try hugo’s venison (top photo) but it sure looked good!

#2 the green pea risotto was competent, the risotto done just right, al dente. nothing much to criticise, taste-wise i guess it was good (as could be good for a plain no ingredient risotto), nothing exceptional.

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carrot soup with croutons

#3 my carrot soup was good, well above average. it was though not as good as the carrot & coconut soup we had at a cafeteria  during  a cycle stop earlier in the day (that soup was truly excellent & i intend to try out myself at home).

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tuna rillette salad

#4 the tuna rillette was quite ok.salad was good.

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duck confit & slow braised belly port

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duck confit & slow braised belly port

#5 the duck confit & the slow braised belly pork were excellent, flavourful, moist (not dry & very sinewy like some were) and tender. duck confit not my favourite but this was 1 duck confit i would be quite happy to have, though the helping was too large & i would still prefer to share than to have one all by myself.

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EXCELLENT slow braised lamb loin

#6 hugo’s slow braised lamb turned out to be the best dish, superbly tender & without the very strong gamey taste (the “hiang”=reason many could not take lamb) despite retaining lots of fat. there were 2 large pieces. once hugo started sharing, we ate so fast & polished off 1 of his 2 pieces in a blink! 🙂 i am working on how i can reproduce this dish or with variation, likely using miso marinade or vegetable ratatouille. 🙂

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grilled skate wings

#7 the skate wing my wife had was probably the poorer of the dishes. i guess it was still an ok dish, but this method of preparation would probably render a bland tasteless fish, unlike singapore’s intense chilli bbq preparation which brings out the flavours of the fish with great texture lots of edible cartilage. even the very chinese style of frying with black beans would enhance the flavour a lot more.

overall, i guess this was not quite at the level of zazas though i would rate both mains as better than what we had at zazas. i guess that actually says a lot!

i did not know the total price, but the lamb i think was like euro 22 or euro24 & the duck was like euro18, so it was excellent value by comparison. this would be a very top comfort food restuarant i would be quite happy to return to in amsterdam if i am not specifically trying out other restaurants hoping to find another beulings.

c.h.e.f andy

Beautiful Dinner @ Beulings Amsterdam on 13Apr2014

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arctic char ?? ceviche with salad

had a beautiful dinner at beulings in amsterdam on 13.4.2014. most pleasant start to my amsterdam/como/cinque terre/milan vacationing 13-24apr2014. 🙂

this was the best meal i had during the trip, and that’s when i had several other really great meals at amsterdam, como, cinque terre. not too bad at milan too.

was deciding among beulings, bussia & bridges in amsterdam. bridges (1 michelin star at sofitel the grand), bussia & beulings all had raving tripadvisor reviews. bussia is modern fine italian & we were spending 8 subsequent days in italy, bridges is a bit more high brow, so we decided on the more casual, family-run beulings (husband & wife team i think, bas bont & lisja hu). and the food was simply outstanding! 🙂

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nibble platter

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cheese balls

we had a complimentary nibble platter plus some cheese balls. platter had anchovies (very similar to good ikan bilis!), chorizo (nice) & caviar on something, cannot recall. all very nice. 🙂

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very flavourful brioche

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love the bread

the bread was great too. we ate up everything! 🙂

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the amuse bouche was a carrot soup. it was excellent soup, very smooth, with the sour cream?? taking off the sharp taste of carrots. 🙂

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arctic char ?? ceviche with salad

#1 the fish (arctic char??) ceviche was delicious, very pretty artisan presentation & very sweet like a good sashimi. the salad & lady fingers added nice texture & taste. 🙂

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budels organic beer

my daughter took lisja’s recommendations – budels beer, an organic beer from south of amsterdam. it was light & fragrant, very good beer for euro3.50. we asked but could not find it in other cafes so perhaps its more boutique than popular brew. 🙂

sous vide quail

sous vide quail

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sous vide quail

#2 we were served an excellent quail. i told lisja it was much like the sous vide bresse pigeon at jaan, my favourite restaurant in singapore. this was quite exquisite, very tender juicy breast & the leg too was not dry & sinewy. 🙂

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pasta with bacon & oyster

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pasta with bacon & oyster

#3 the pasta was super! the large fleshy oyster was excellent. the pasta was not quite al dente & yet quite perfect in texture & the slight pickled mildly sour vegetables combined wonderfully. 🙂 my wife & daughter loved this dish!

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pan seared halibut

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pan seared halibut

#4 the halibut?? was great, tasty. all the helpings including this one were quite good size. 🙂

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nicely done rare beef steak

#5 my daughter & i had the beef. it was done perfectly, rare & sweet, and the potato & pumpkin mash were great! 🙂

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petit four

the petit four were pretty standard. macaron was too sweet i thought, chocolates usual, the madeleines & cakes were nice.

it was a small place with maybe 10 tables, one 2pax table was not occupied. place was cosy, service was attentive, friendly, efficient, casual. there was only lisja & 1 other server, but the chefs in the kitchen including bas all served the tables. lisja was busy but not rushed when serving the table & chatted quite a bit with the diners.  the others too. 🙂

the price came to euro178. we had two 5-course at euro55 & one 4-course at euro45 plus water (euro9.75-kind of ex but maybe it was like cover charge or service), 2 glasses of wine & a beer. anyway we rounded it to euro200.

it was an very pleasant, relaxed & throughly enjoyable dinner for us, definitely a place i will come next time i am in amsterdam.

c.h.e.f andy