It goes without saying &samhoud places is a thoroughly modern restaurant, with big glass walls overlooking part of Amsterdam’s harbour. The staff are swift and professional and informative, friendly too. I should probably have stopped to find out whether the sommelier made a genuine mistake in bringing us the 100 Euro bottle of Chablis instead of the 69 Euro bottle I asked for, but since my wallet had already been thoroughly vaccuumed by the meal I didn’t want to spoil a pleasant evening with a fracas.We chose the blow-out 8 course tasting menu for 170 Euros, rather than the 130 Euro for 5 courses. At that money we were anticipating gastronomic wizardry exceeding even our favourites like L’Enclume and Casamia. Especially given the hyperbole of the little “message from the chef” that we were given along with our first pre-starter. “For me, nothing is as spectacular as reaching a point where I realise there’s something bigger than myself. That may sound incomprehensible. But at &samhoud places, you can taste it.”
I tell you what, with my pretentious-bullsh*t-o-meter going into the red zone, chef really needed to pull something special out of the bag!
The hot Thai-spiced infusion that cleansed our palate was a good start, light and bright with basil and lemongrass. Then came three amuse bouches, tasty bites of flavour and texture but none of them visually awesome enough to stick in my mind a couple of days later. Next, a golden eggshellfilled with soft yolk and a punchy anchovy hit. Two more starters followed. Langoustine tartare with a dashi goop and a spoonful of Anna Gold caviar was a wonderfully silk and velvet texture but surprisingly subtle on flavour. Autumn vegetables “inspired by Damien Hirst” was some nicely arranged discs of root vegetables. Mainly I tasted beetroot. This dish needed some oomph from somewhere. “With the help of my bright flavours, I hope to be able to move you” the cheesy memo had said – I was unmoved.
Almost dish of the day: the cod, a beautifully cooked piece, which I never expected to go so well with apricot and Jerusalem artichoke. Followed by duff dish of the day: braised cabbage, parmesan and nutmeg with a lemony broth. The sturdy cabbage leaves used to structure the dish just overwhelmed the rest. Followed by actual dish of the day: wonderful hay-smoked sweetbread in a light broth with a dollop of perfect confit lemon chutney to make it sing. The oddly gooey veg accompaniment didn’t add much. Wine note: the sommelier provided a wicked glass of barn-flavoured gamay that went perfectly with this dish.The first pud was a plate scattered with various chocolate things, all very tasty but nothing outstanding enough to stick in the mind for longer than it took to eat it. The second pud was much better, a towering millefeuille with pina colada elements of pineapple and coconut cream sandwiched among the leaves. Beautifully crisp pastry with nut-brown butter flavour, very good.
And so we did have a lovely meal, with scarcely a missed step or bum note, and a couple of decidedly splendid dishes. But I need to be more blown away for an eye-watering price like 170 Euros before drinks. The wine list didn’t deign to stoop below about 60 Euros either, so two people aren’t going to keep the bill under £300 even if they go for the 5 courses.