Restaurant ‘La Vallade’ Amsterdam:
In 2017 I’ll have lived in Amsterdam for 20 years, 20 years! And in the last couple I’ve noticed a pattern developing in my preferences for eating out. I’ve been going back more and more often to the restaurants I discovered in my first years here.
Maybe it should worry me that I don’t feel the need to jump on every new eaterie that opens its doors, maybe I should be concerned I’m not the first to get out my smart phone and start snapping shots of it to plaster over social media, but, if I’m honest, that really isn’t my style. After all there’s plenty of people talking (if only briefly) about the latest flash in the pan trendy place where style (and sometimes not even that) takes preference over substance, or the newest most tasteless must eat of the moment. When it comes to food I prefer places that have earned their stripes. Restaurants who do what they do well, cooks who care and understand good food and good eating. And that’s probably why I go back to the same places again and again. I go for quality and I want to enjoy my food. This doesn’t mean that I have to go fine dining, in fact I’d rather not, I much prefer a more informal setting.
La Vallade epitomizes ‘my’ type of restaurant. As the name suggests, the style is French, I’d say bistro, and it has a fixed menu. When you walk in you could be forgiven for thinking that the cosy little place has been plucked straight out of a French village with its quirky décor and warm atmosphere. The 5 course menu costs 35,50 Euro and is prepared from fresh seasonal ingredients. The chefs work on a rota, each day or two it’s somebody else’s turn, but they cook the same menu and I can honestly say of all the times I’ve been here, I’ve never had a bad experience, or even a mediocre one, it has been consistently very good. Every Monday the menu is vegetarian, which as a meat eater I can confirm is just as delicious for a carnivore as a vegetarian.
I know a fixed menu isn’t for everyone, but I really love leaving the food choice to the chef. You see, when people know you cook they tend to either stop inviting you to dinner or they get so stressed cooking for you that nobody enjoys the evening. I wish they would just make something they love to eat and not get all tied up in new recipes with complicated techniques and unfamiliar ingredients, I don’t think I’m a food snob and enjoy nothing more than being cooked for. Anyway, that’s one of the reasons I love La Vallade, I don’t need to decide on what to eat, I don’t need to decide on what to cook and I don’t even need to choose from a menu, so there’s no dilemma’s about what I might enjoy more or regrets when I see a fellow diner’s plate.
The menu changes regularly and with the season, but on my last visit this is how it went.
Squid with Black Squid Ink Risotto and Seafood Bisque Sauce: This was technically perfect. The risotto was oozy and the squid was tender, the sauce sublime, everything seasoned exactly right.
Seasonal Salad: A simple fresh salad with a light vinaigrette is exactly what you need to prepare you for the main event. Sorry I don’t have a photo, but I got a bit greedy and ate it before I remembered to take a shot.
Roast Guinea Fowl with Dauphinoise Potatoes, Wild Spinach and Port Sauce: The bird was tender and succulent, the potatoes creamy but light, the spinach gave freshness and the sauce gave a deep background note which brought the whole dish together. I can’t tell you how impressed I was with this chef’s ability to bring out flavour.
The Cheese Course: This has to be what I love the most about a French restaurant. The always serve cheese. No matter how simple the place is, no matter the price range, there will always be cheese, how civilised is that? What was it Brillat de Savarin said? ‘A meal without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye’. This cheese board was simple, with a couple of Dutch cheeses and a couple of French. It didn’t follow the standard pattern (white, red, blue bacteria, goat/sheep and hard cheese) but the combination worked really well and it was served at room temperature (in my opinion the mark of a bad restaurant is to serve chilled cheese) and the brie was perfectly ripe.
Madeline with Rhubarb compote, Vanilla Mascarpone and Toffee Sauce: The elements of this dessert were made very well, but the toffee sauce clashed a bit with the rest of the flavours. I wouldn’t say it was bad by any means, in fact, I’m probably being very picky because I’d been so spoilt by the previous courses.
1097 AB Amsterdam
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