50 Before 50
I turned 44 this year. Not a monumental year by any means. It’s not one that most people pay attention to. It was rather uneventful for me. A week after my birthday, however, I found myself in Amsterdam.
(Well, I suppose “found myself” isn’t the right way to phrase it. I didn’t just wake up one morning and unknowingly woke up in a different country. That would be astonishing. And a little troubling. No, I planned this trip and expected to be in Amsterdam and was delighted to be there. Anyway.)
In continuing my adventures of going to as many fine dining establishments as I could, I managed to book reservations for three Michelin-starred restaurants:
- Librije’s Zusje ★★,
- Ciel Bleu ★★, and
- Yamazato ★
I was blown away. From the moment we arrived at the front door of the Waldorf Astoria, the experience was amazing. They walked us from the door to our seat and knew us by name.
Zusje ranked high when it comes to experience. Everybody was very welcoming and helpful throughout the meal. They invited us to the garden at the halfway point. Even a trip to the toilet was fun as they directed me down a long hallway of quirky statues.
A flower placed under a glass hood at the table provided a bit of theatrics throughout the meal. Kitt and I were left curious about what it was. At one point during the meal, the waiter placed a green liquid on the white flower. Later on, the flower is taken away. It then comes back presented as an ingredient in one of the desserts. It turns out that it’s a Chinese mushroom. A bit rubbery but tasted okay with the sorbet presented on a crumble.
I should’ve taken more notes on the food when I was there but I can recall, the food was fantastic. I’d definitely recommend going here if you can.
Ziel Bleu was… interesting. It’s aesthetic felt like a throwback to the 80s. The view, however, is amazing. Sitting atop the Okura hotel, it has a fantastic view of Amsterdam. Pretty much every seat in the restaurant is configured to enjoy the view.
The food was also delicious and our waiter cracked us up.
Andy Budd joined us for dinner this evening and it is here where things get interesting.
The food itself was fine. Honestly, nothing special. Nothing blew me away or left me with those Ratatouille moments. The experience felt contrived, trying to create a Japanese environment somewhere that was decidedly not Japanese. (Although Japan and the Netherlands have an interesting history together.)
The interesting part was a discussion that Andy and I had about going to all these restaurants. He told me about Restaurant magazine’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Which leads us to…
He mentioned the idea of trying to go to all 50 restaurants before he turned 50. I decided to join him on this quest. The rules are pretty simple: we have to go to fifty of the restaurants on the list from between 2017 and 2022. Some restaurants will close and some will get added to the list. From the 2017 and 2018 lists, there are 58 possible restaurants.
We allowed ourselves any restaurants that we had recently been to. That meant that our trip to Saison could be included. But Librije’s Zusje, a sort of sister restaurant of De Librije, didn’t count because it wasn’t the restaurant that was nominated.
My previous open-ended goal of going to random Michelin-starred restaurants has now been superseded with a finite goal of fifty very particular restaurants. What commonalities would emerge? What sets one restaurant apart from another? I guess I’ll find out. (And hopefully beat Andy to the end.)
I’ll attempt to have more detailed reviews of each of the restaurants going forward!
I’d be remiss to mention a lovely little restaurant we went to. It doesn’t have any stars but the food was fantastic. We went for lunch and were offered a choice of 3, 4, or 5 courses. We chose 4, which got us two vegetarian dishes, a fish dish, and dessert. Every dish was spectacular and the service was wonderful.
We hadn’t been able to check into our AirBnb yet, so they were gracious enough to let us store our luggage while we dined. Looking around, this seemed like a place people would come to for work meetings.