“I got Jamie Oliver’s pans.” I said.
“What?” He said.
“I got Jamie Oliver’s pans.” I said.
“Pans? OH! I thought you said you got Jamie Oliver’s pants!” He said.
And so it goes. I’ve had a fan girl style crush on Jamie Oliver for years. I have his pans, well, the pans he hawked for Tfal. I have a shelf dedicated like a shrine to his cookbooks. I even have a motley collection of UK region specific DVDs of past shows that didn’t really air in the US. When we talked about places to go and in our research Z realized/remembered that he had an outpost of his foundational training restaurants in Amsterdam. Called Fifteen for the number of trainees given a shot at a career in food. I immediately found the Amsterdam version of Open Table and booked a table for dinner. It was fun and terrifying to see the email confirmation come back in Dutch.
The restaurant is a bit removed from the main tourist district. To be fair, not easy access if you aren’t serious and it’s a cold winded pre-spring evening. We hit the tram service from our hotel and it got us about three quarters of the way. The balance of the walk was made in gusty wind blowing off the wide canal at the water edge of the city. I didn’t know cold wind could do that. A girl could lose the will to go on! Trailing behind Z by hundreds of feet but doing my short legged best to lean into the jet stream in my face. As I handed my jacket to the hostess she said, “oh, you’re wearing a summer coat,” with obvious confusion and something like pity. We figured for three days en route to the tail end of South Africa summer we could make it work.
It was our second experience with a virtually empty restaurant in Amsterdam. At this point we know we are the weirdo American early birds. Only a couple other big parties, likely after work office groups, fill any tables. It’s decor is industrial and urban graffiti but with chandeliers. We are handed menus that are in themselves fairly refined, edited. There are starters, small plates and mains. I decided I no longer know what to do with that. Do we share a small plate and each get mains? Share a starter and eat a small plate? Is a small plate a few lovingly crafted bites or is it potentially a full dinner? Throwing all caution to the wind we each ordered a small plate and a main. Potentially too much but who even cares? A small plate of a light brown bread and a huge fresh disk of Dutch butter quickly arrived. I was surprised that there wasn’t much of a cocktail program. Maybe, with the Amsterdam outpost at ten years old that is a newer concept? Not really sure but strange.
The first course arrived. I ordered
What I expected? Maybe one or two ravioli with a fairly restrained butter sauce and a few walnuts and a sprinkle of gingerbread.
What I got? A full dinner amount of ravioli, sauce and no restraint spared. I was actually somewhat surprised. It was tasty mix of flavors but actually a bit muddled for the sheer amount of sauce and walnuts. I missed the flavor of the gingerbread. Now that I reflect on that it may not have made it on the plate.
Z had the largest gnocchi I’ve seen-fairly well dumpling sized and soft and comforting. The cheese was a soft tangy Dutch cheese that cut the richness of the pork ragu. I finished his plate. No shame.
And this was the small plates. A bit nervous about that. Then the mains arrived. I ordered something called kataifi and it is ridiculously craveable. Finely shredded pastry (think baklava) wrapped around caramelised salsify panfried in what must have been butter with roasted cauliflower and tangy cheese. I could have licked that plate clean. I want it right now. Gah!
Z had a more standard steak with interesting accompaniments such as apple compote and chicory tarte tatin. We were not familiar with chicory being used this way. It had a not unpleasant bitter taste and an unexpected softly roasted white color.
Overall I felt the mains were more successful than the small plates. They felt natural and delicious. I would seek out that kataifi any day. I am excited to try to reproduce something like this out of my own kitchen.
The concept of giving training to someone who wants it and might otherwise not get it? Worth it again and again. Am I sure this has Jamie Oliver’s fingerprints on it? At the core yes but I’m not sure about the far reach of the years. Am I still a fan girl and would I brave the jet stream again for it? Yes.