Food at Balthazar's Keuken, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Balthazar's Keuken

For incredible food and a cozy atmosphere, Balthazar’s Keuken cannot be beat. The charming restaurant, housed in a former blacksmith workshop, features an open kitchen and rotating 3-course menu that changes according to the chef’s whimsy (with a choice of fish or meat entrée). The dining room can be occasionally crowded, but it further enhances the “dining at home” experience. There is alfresco seating in the summer months.

Café de Jaren

This bright, multilevel café-restaurant with beautiful canal views is a perennial favorite and buzzes all day. In the morning (De Jaren opens at 10 A.M.), you’ll find locals who come every day and linger over one of the many papers that are set out on a large central table, as in a library. At lunchtime, there’s always a race to secure one of the tables by the floor-to-ceiling windows. Later in the afternoon, you can recharge with a piece of one of the homemade cakes and a cup of strong coffee. To dine in a special setting during the summer months, make a reservation on the first-floor terrace, which overlooks the canals. The menu may not be the most inspired—although some of the appetizers are wonderful and there’s a selection of vegetarian dishes, not always a given in this meat-happy city—but the venue cannot be beat, and the crowd—hip, fun and welcoming—simply puts you in a good mood.

amsterdam cafe tsmalle

Café t’ Smalle

Amsterdam is famous for its “brown” cafés, traditional café-pubs. The Café t’ Smalle, in the Jordaan neighborhood, is one of the oldest and most authentic, with a polished dark-wood interior and stained-glass windows. During the warm months, tables spill onto the sidewalk beside the canal. There’s a small menu of sandwiches, salads and soups, but mostly you come for a beer or cocktail and to experience the old-world ambiance.

Dinning Area at De Kas, Amsterdam, Netherlands - Photo by Jet van Fastenhout

De Kas

If you have one only night in Amsterdam and want to celebrate with a delicious tasting menu in a special setting, take a taxi to De Kas, in south-eastern Amsterdam. The restaurant is in a soaring glass conservatory, making it a particularly romantic spot for lunch or dinner during the warm summer months. For dinner, the menu is prix fixe only, consisting of five surprise courses that change often and include vegetarian choices.

The chef champions local ingredients, either plucked from the adjoining hothouse, where diners can see the produce for their dinners growing, or trucked from nearby farms. There’s nothing rustic or simple, however, about the presentation and the flavors. During a recent visit, the appetizer consisted of small portions of three dishes: a light scallop-and-grapefruit salad drizzled with lobster vinaigrette, chicory wrapped in tender Ibèrico ham and two types of Arat potatoes served with a gooey soft-boiled egg and chopped walnuts. The main course, a perfectly prepared slice of duck with crispy skin, came on a spiced pumpkin pie, and dessert was a trio of bay-leaf-infused pound cake, a poached pear and bittersweet chocolate-mocha ice cream.

Although it has been in operation since 2001, De Kas remains a spot to see and be seen, but the staff is congenial and down-to-earth. Reservations are necessary. For special occasions, you can book the chef’s table, in the kitchen, or the private pavilion, in the garden. Tip: if you come for dinner, stop at the InterContinental Amstel for a drink before journeying on to De Kas, about a thirty-minute drive from the canal belt.

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