Amsterdam has a rich history of cultural exchange that has left its mark on the culinary landscape of the city. Early on, colonialism introduced the Dutch to the smells and tastes of Asia. Today, Chinese, Thai, Surinamese, Indonesian, and Turkish food are a common presence in the city. It’s something Amsterdammers have incorporated into their tastes and daily routines. During Amsterdam’s race to become a serious metropolis in recent years, its cuisine has matured. With new eateries popping up every day, the city’s new culinary frontier embodies the very best of multicultural Amsterdam. A fusion between old and new, tweaked, re-invented, and presented in a contemporary setting.
smart magazine recently launched the Local Secrets series — a travel guide in which the urban innovation magazine shows inspiring cities through the eyes of local experts. Blogger and foodie Susam “Sam” Pang jumped on board a new smart BRABUS electric drive to take us on a tour of Amsterdam’s contemporary food landscape.
Born and raised in the rural east of the Netherlands, Sam discovered a new world of food when she settled in Amsterdam. She is a big fan of good ol’ fries — a common (midnight) snack for most Dutch people. “But there’s so much more to discover in terms of taste,” she says. “The new Dutch cuisine is definitely trending. There are a few fine dining places giving the local classics a new twist, like herring or Dutch beef. Of course, the Netherlands have always had a connection to the world and therefore, you can find all of the world’s tastes and cuisines in Amsterdam. The minds and makers of the Amsterdam food scene are a mix of experienced professionals and total newcomers — sometimes with long journeys or completely different backgrounds.”
One of Sam’s favorite spots to be productive is Bluespoon, “a restaurant and bar on the bottom floor of Andaz Hotel on Prinsengracht. The overall vibe is like a relaxed lounge. Bluespoon just started this work community for bloggers and freelancers, so it is where you can be productive and be in an environment of like-minded people, which I love. The interior design is done by renowned Dutch designer Marcel Wanders. Try one of Bluespoon’s signature cookies.”
2. Shanghai Bistro
Two other newcomers are the bao bun and the xiao long bao, which you can find at Shanghai Bistro, a place that is ultimately trendy in terms of design. At Shanghai Bistro, traditional Chinese cuisine is re-defined by the two owners. Sam: “The slogan is ‘Not made in China’. Both owners interpret classic Chinese food their way.” Francis, one of the guys running Shanghai Bistro is from the Dominican Republic, which explains the Caribbean flavors found in the food. Francis also runs a taco stand in a new upscale food court, called Foodhallen, where smart recently stopped with events and networking during their smart electric base tour.
3. Lot Sixty One
Around the corner from the Foodhallen is Lot Sixty One, located in the rapidly gentrifying Kinkerbuurt neighborhood. Here, Sam likes to drink her morning coffee. Run by two Australians, it’s a popular spot for expats and young local urbanites that enjoy the place’s low-key vibe while they watch the staff roast it right next to the bar. “I usually just have a cup of coffee and watch people,” Sam says.
4. Pure Markt
Sam also shows us a Pure Markt, a local farmers market that takes place in East Amsterdam’s Frankendael Park in summer. “Here you can find clothing and handcrafted accessories as well as locally farmed produce and freshly prepared food from a wide variety of vendors. You come here to indulge in special delicacies, like Chilean-style empanadas. They turn out to be a favorite of our Dutch Queen Máxima, who is originally from Argentina.”
Sam’s favorite dinner spot is located in a historically significant building in Amsterdam. “The big room upstairs is where Napoleon received his keys to the city in 1811. A huge painting of the French emperor hangs above the fireplace. Now, in the afternoon, the light is amazing in there.” She continues: “Last month, I co-organized the Foodblog Awards. Jacobsz won in two categories, including best new restaurant. The food is fine dining but the team at Jacobsz doesn’t cook by the rules. The first time I ate here, I had grilled green cabbage straight from the barbecue served with salty almonds and meringue of turmeric and basil. Even if you only have a few days in Amsterdam, this is the place you shouldn’t miss out on!”
Amsterdam’s food scene has always been vibrant and diverse. Sam has shown us the re-invented side of the city’s culinary landscape that is international, young, and trendy. However, local classics like Dun Yong represent a longer standing tradition of multiculturalism that has defined Amsterdam cuisine. It’s just that it now also comes in a new flavor that combines authenticity with modern interiors and global crowds. Want to see more of this? Be sure to check out the other articles in smart magazine’s Local Secrets series to get a unique glimpse of the lives of local tastemakers in vibrant cities like Marseille, Oslo, and Madrid.