restaurant bak.

UPDATE: OK, here's what everything really looked like.


Last night some kind person bought me dinner. OK it was in exchange for some services rendered, but still in no way was it obligatory and after a couple postponements the fact that it actually happened and that it was very enjoyable was a pleasant affirmation of some goodness in the universe (though certainly fleeting, Mr. Schopenhauer, I haven't forgotten about you).

We ate at Bak, housed in Het Veem just northeast of Westerpark. As you know, we don't do restaurant reviews around here, but since I found my meal peppered with things I wouldn't ordinarily do in the kitchen, I'll briefly run it down for you so you could also go enjoy something like my meal if you wanted.

We all four of us decided to go for the 4-course menu for €33.50, and basically they have a laundry list of ingredients that they're going to use each week but you have no idea in what configuration they're going to end up on your plate. They ask you at the beginning if there's anything you don't like, one of us was anti-mushroom for example, so she got something a little different for that course.

The first thing set in front of us was an amuse of baby beet in some kind of buttermilk reduction with an uncommon herb whose name escapes me at the moment. I liked it and will be trying this in my kitchen.

Next was my favorite thing of the night, an array of carrots. There's a lemon creme fraiche underneath. There are little al dente bits of either spelt grains or wheat berries scattered everywhere, there's some tarragon in there, and as it was served our waitron grated a roasted coffee bean over the plate. Sounds pretentious as hell, I know, but it really worked.

That surprise was followed by the least-successful dish of the night, and you can almost tell by looking at it in comparison to everything else that it just seems a bit...unfinished. Maybe they ran out of something. What you're looking at is too-lightly pickled cauliflower; pleasant enough halved potatoes, a green I should know but don't; a gigantic poached duck egg, and the tastiest thing on the plate is that white smear under the egg, it's some kind of thickened cauliflower puree.

We all agreed that something was missing, my personal fix would have been a healthy shave of parmigiano and a crack of black pepper, and maybe a tiny sprinkle of smoked salt. Or my old standby pangrattato. Anyway, we couldn't fix it, no salt and pepper on the table. Swing and a miss, this one (though I cleaned my plate).

Vegetarians avert your eyes. Our "main" was pheasant with sauerkraut, potato (?) puree (possibly another root vegetetable), and a super-nice saute of fancy mushrooms. Maybe this was my favorite thing of the night. I felt bad for the non-mushroom eater at our table b/c the mushrooms and sauerkraut together were dreamy. Yes that is a foot at the end of that leg. My war on birds continues unabated.

And then dessert, sweet sweet dessert. I really have no idea if this was any good or not objectively speaking because as of last night I hadn't had any sugar in about a week. And my first bite of this was like setting the controls for the heart of Serotoninland. My eyes may have spun in their sockets. I think it's some kind of very-carefully spiced fennel seed ice cream with a flourless chocolate cake and a swirl of unrememberable berry. And a few wonderful nuggets of caramel popcorn tucked here and there. I could easily have had another plate or two of this.

And that was it. Thoughtful, well-executed food in a gezellig room (lit more dimly than my pics suggest) that was only marred by the two giant tables of reuniting ex-fraternity boys (literally, like singing their fraternity song at one point) who were seated behind us halfway through the meal. But then moments later, in the most aggressively proactive customer service moment I've ever experienced in Amsterdam, our waiter asked us if we would like to move to a table farther away. I almost said to him "Get the fuck out of here" in disbelief. We didn't up and move, but yeah, mind: blown. Maybe things are changing, service was great all around, unobtrusive and likeable.

So, yes, go to Bak.


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