After reading this post on Lauren’s blog back in July, little did I know that less than two months later, I’d be visiting the city of Amsterdam and dining at the beautiful Ron Gastrobar! The weather wasn’t the best on Monday, when we had booked in for lunch – despite how serene and pretty VondelPark looked – and while I’d have loved to sit outside on the rattan furniture, surrounded by brightly coloured flowers, it just wasn’t an option. The interior was lovely though and we found ourselves among businessmen, locals and even other tourists – young and old. Ron Gastrobar attracts everyone! Upon arrival, our coats were taken to the cloakroom and we were shown to our table in the middle of the restaurant – in prime view of the serving hatch, so we could see every dish created. I could not help but stare in awe.
Our waitress explained the concept of the menu to us; it’s unique in that all the dishes are the same price and of similar size. It’s almost like tapas, whereby you use a number of dishes per person; the difference is, we didn’t share! At 15€ per plate, our waitress recommended between two and four dishes each (for lunch), beginning with two and ordering more as necessary. While we pondered the menu, we were brought a paper bag of freshly baked bread, a pot of the most delicious caramelised butter (I found the Dutch love it!) with bacon bits (like diced pork scratchings) and a jar of pickles. I could have easily filled up on that alone, it was all so delicious. I do have a bit of an obsession with pickles though!
Each dish was served as a course, rather than it all arriving at once and the first dish I chose was the mackerel sashimi with sesame, ginger and yuzu. I absolutely love sushi and for me, this dish was spot on. The wasabi mayo it was served with wasn’t too overpowering, but certainly added another dimension; the salmon caviar topped it off though. The mackerel itself was excellent quality and there was lots of it – the texture puts some people off, but I love it – and the crunchy topping was divine. If only I knew what it was. Executed beautifully, it tasted even better than it looked!
Jake’s first dish was the wagyu steak, topped with egg and served with beetroot crisps and sorrel cream. It was one of the dishes I would have picked, had I chosen more than two savoury plates. I did try a bit of the steak though and it was amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever had wagyu before but I’ve had my fair share of very good steaks.
After reading Lauren’s post, I always knew I’d be having the soft shell crab, after all, it is one of my favourites. This time, it was served with a chicken liver dumpling, which I have to admit, was a little rich for me. The flavour of it was transformed by the crab and Chinese cabbage though. The crab itself was the nicest I’ve ever had and I could have really eaten three or four of those. The dressing too, was beautiful and the crab dust (definitely not the technical term, or probably flavour?) was amazing and reminded me of the seafood dish I’d had the night before! Again, doesn’t it look beautiful?!
Jake chose the boneless ribs (of course!), following the recommendation of our waitress – they’re apparently the restaurant’s most popular dish. The ribs were piled high and there were lots of them. The meat was so tender and the sauce both sweet and sticky. The tomato chutney it was served with was extra hot though!
We decided to share a portion of fries, which came with a pot of tarragon mayonnaise. The chips were to die for and were exactly how chips should be: super crisp on the outside, then fluffy and soft in the middle. I have to admit the tarragon mayo had an acquired taste and to me, it tasted like pistachio and was quite sweet. I think I’d have much rather had a traditional mayo or even aioli. The portion size was well worth the money (5€) and we couldn’t eat them all – although we did save room for dessert!
Despite looking at the menu, there was only one option: the Gastrobar Ron Surprise Egg! And it was a surprise too; even when it arrived at the table, the waitress was giving nothing away. All I could decipher was that it contained white chocolate. All the components were edible though, including the nest and while it looked spectacular, it looked even better once cracked open! The egg itself was very realistic, even complete with a runny yolk. A perfectly quenelled scoop of frozen yogurt on a bed of crushed hazelnuts finished the presentation off nicely – and the flower garnish was just so beautiful too. I do think I ate it far too quickly though, after taking numerous photos, of course – and I won’t be spoiling the surprise; you’ll have to find out for yourself!
Just as we were ready to get the bill, we were given a mini ice cream cone, which was a lovely touch. Freshly whipped raspberry froyo was topped with mini meringue and despite being tiny, it was impossible to eat the cones elegantly. I ended up wolfing mine down!
Everything about the meal was excellent: the flavours, the textures, the presentation and the service. The surroundings were so comfortable and I immediately felt relaxed – it’s definitely a place suited to a leisurely dining experience, rather than in and out as soon as possible. While the decor is quite sophisticated, with the monochrome and plush furnishings, there is a casual vibe and even the menus are printed to look like newspapers (a bit of fun, if you can read Dutch!). Even though it’s fine dining, where precision is key, I wouldn’t say it was full-on formal; there’s not a dress code and it certainly isn’t stuffy. The staff were friendly and so helpful, even giving us recommendations and talking us through the dishes. Talking of which, there are so many more I want to try – I’ll definitely be returning to Ron Gastrobar.
Love, Lucy xx