Posted on Thursday, 17th July 2014
My recent weekend visit to Amsterdam saw me enjoying two days of glorious sunshine, a really pleasant stay at the Art’Otel Amsterdam and visits to a couple of Michelin Restaurants, one of which was &Samhoud Places, a two Michelin starred restaurant in Amsterdam headed by Israeli-born Executive Chef Moshik Roth. Roth’s career started from humble beginnings, as that of a pizzeria manager. But his career took a turn when he embarked on apprenticeships at De Librije and Zwethheul, both of which now hold three and two Michelin stars respectively. Today, Chef Roth is considered to be one of the leading molecular chefs in The Netherlands.
&Samhoud Places is a collaboration between Roth and entrepreneur Salem Samhoud, hence the name. The restaurant is located in Oosterdokseiland, the Eastern Dock Island which is located east of Amsterdam Central Railway Station. &Samhoud Places spans two floors, the first floor being where the Michelin restaurant is situated. The ground floor is a more casual eatery offering street food.
We decided to go on Roth’s full Michelin gastronomic journey, electing to take the nine-course degustation menu (€195.50). Being situated on the Eastern Docks, the restaurant offers views of the waterways. But should you get a bar seat surrounding the open plan kitchen like we did, then you will get a chance to watch the chefs beavering away at work.
The first of the amuse bouches was a North Sea crab baba with crab salad, langoustine foam, fennel jelly and a vadouvan mayonnaise. The crab baba had a light doughy texture with a delicately balanced crab flavour, and the lovely creamy lightness of the mayonnaise with its hint of Indian spicing gave this dish a magical touch. It was extraordinary the amount of elements and flavours in such a small plate of food, but this was a great sign of things to come.
Next of the amuse bouches was a bonbon of goose liver (on the spoon), a salmon millefeuille and a seafood vichyssoise (in the bowl). The bonbon had been coated with an algae powder and served with a sea urchin cream and a touch of coconut and Almafi lemon. It was an eclectic spoonful of food, but the combination of flavours was a little odd.
The salmon, served with a dash of bernaise sauce and sandwiched between layers of crispy potato millefeuille coated with black and white sesame, was in contrast light and pleasant. But it was the vichyssoise that won our taste buds over. In the bowl was the sweetest of diced seafood consisting of some heavenly Gillardeau oyster, blue fish, mackerel, anchovies, herring caviar, abalone as well as a seaweed meringue. The vichyoisse itself was creamy and contrasted beautifully with the other elements in the dish.
The first course was a green pea collection, which in itself was served as a ‘mini’ three-course taster. The ‘starter’ was a cornet with a cream of peas that was delectable with its rich pea flavour. It was then further elevated by some glorious foie gras and softened by the sweet acidity of a sliver of caramelised orange. It was a touch salty, but otherwise this was perfect.
The ‘main’ was gnocchi of green peas with red onion, sumac, a Ruinart Blanc de blanc crème and a cream of fontina cheese topped with bean sprouts. The gnocchi was well made, however this dish did little to excite the palate.
The ‘dessert’ was a sorbet of peas with pearls of yoghurt and olive oil and a topping of crumbs made from smoked duck breast crackling which was intensely flavoursome with a well-balanced sweetness. The crackling also added a wonderful texture to the sorbet.
By this point we had already tasted a wealth of flavours. Yet we still seven courses to go! Next was the ‘perfect egg’, which had been slow cooked at 62 degrees for one hour. Also on the plate was some sweet gambas rojas, parmesan ravioli, morels, some slightly pickled asparagus, a foam of morels and shavings of different types of parmesan. Everything came together to provide an interesting and harmonious contrast between sweet, salty and sour.
The egg was followed by an exquisite carpaccio of raw langoustine which had been marinated in a hint of citrus juices. On the left, the langoustine had been topped with crème fraiche and some sea herbs. On the right was a topping of vodka gel, tomato gel, tomato and celery to create a Bloody Mary taste sensation. Finally, some luscious Anna Gold Caviar lined the middle of the plate which married beautifully with the langoustine.
The essence of Japan was the theme of the next dish entitled ‘White Asparagus return to Sapporo’. In it some tender asparagus had been cooked in dashi and served with pomelo, ponzu foam and kombu. This was yet another wonderful plate of food which demonstrated a skillfully delicate touch.
Red mullet a la plancha was the height of simplicity. It was perfectly cooked with a sweet firm flesh and crispy skin. On the side were some mash potatoes placed over an olive tapenade. The mash was incredible and easily ranked as some of the best that I have ever eaten. A verbena vinaigrette and a piece of strawberry accompanied the fish. Apparently fruit and fish is a common pairing in the Netherlands and here it worked perfectly.
After the fish came some tasty poached blue lobster that embodied the flavours of Thailand with its use of lemongrass, a kaffir lime foam and some sweetly caramelised black garlic in a beautiful lobster reduction. Again fruit had been used, in this instance some rhubarb compote for a hit of acidity, and again it worked nicely with the lobster.
The meat course was yet another complex dish, being a lamb terrain consisting of two-thirds shoulder and one-third cheek for the optimal balance of succulence and fat. Accompaniments included an eggplant caviar, cream of kumquat, a fenugreek infusion and garnishes of nasturtium and radish. All the elements married together beautifully, with the terrain being tender and moist.
On a side plate was a spiced sponge cake with a cream of taleggio cheese, and a pita filled with a quail’s egg, green harissa and a fricassee of lamb’s kidney, sweatbreads, heart and brain. The sponge cake was a little dull, and it was difficult to see the connection with the lamb. The pita however was an interesting concoction and very tasty.
Dessert was a symphony of meringue and fruity flavours that titillated. There was some rhubarb sorbet, yoghurt meringue, coconut and raspberry ice cream, and some icy pearls of black olives, coconut and raspberries. It was an expertly judged plate of food that was neither too sweet nor acidic and it was a great way to finish the meal.
&Samhoud Place provided one of the most technical Michelin meals that I have ever tasted. There were countless ingredients, elements and techniques on show in almost every course, creating a multitude of taste sensations and experiences. But to Roth’s credit, everything came together in the most incredible demonstration of harmony, poise, elegance and balance. This was a real showcase in high end cooking. With such superlative cooking combined with the most delicious of ingredients, &Samhoud Place is truly worthy of its two Michelin stars. The service was also really good, professional without an ounce of stuffiness.
Food rating: 4.5/5
Service rating: 4/5
Three courses – €100 to €180.
Four course tasting menu – €129.50
Nine course tasting menu – €195.50
Excludes drinks and service.