VEGAN FINE DINING I always am excited to hear of opportunities for vegan fine dining so jumped at the chance of a five-course meal in a design studio/concept restaurant – De Culinaire Werkplaats. The meal was themed as a “tour of Amsterdam” which seemed perfect for us as visitors. We enjoyed a version of the Netherlands famous ox blood sausage (from aubergine and potato) with black lentil-studded focaccia as an appetizer. The first course represented Museumplein – spinach “grass” with a yellow “sunflower” (like the Van Gogh) that was in fact gently curry-spiced melt-in-the-mouth potato surrounding a picked onion (representing Amsterdam’s Jewish community and tradition) with sunflower seeds, salsify and edible petals illustrating the plate. It was beautiful and quite possibly my favourite course with such subtle, creative and complimentary flavours. Next we were taken to the canals (a green pea hummus foam) with thin slices of bright pink deep fried tomato and beetroot as the boats. The next course “Chinatown” vied for the spot as my favourite with black bean, water chestnut and tarragon-filled wontons, satisfyingly crunchy, on a bed of creamy chewy black rice, next to the “red light district” (a tomato and red pepper sauce) dotted with sea fennel. The flavours and textures were both surprising and harmonious and the plating and narrative of the dishes creation and symbolism showed such love for
the food and the city. Courses 4 and 5 were a strange mixture of dessert and savoury. We had a cinema experience of Jerusalem artichoke crisps, a “Fanta” of foamy carrot-orange juice that was neither savoury nor sweet, playing tricks with my expectations, and an “ice cream” of orange and pear jelly covered in chocolate. The final course was a humourous nod to the cities famed liberalism around narcotics! We had strawberry and beet (agar) jelly “pills”, a line of cappuccino powder “cocaine” and squares of dark chocolate “hash” and we were instructed to eat all three parts together to create a sweet, bitter and creamy mouthful as the sophisticated flavours combined and, yes, induced a wonderful high to end the meal on. It’s also worth noting that they were able to serve us natural wines (unfiltered and unrefined and so guaranteed vegan). I had a wonderful conversation with the chef about his mission to encourage a greater appreciation of the vegetable. An inspiring night and such a treat to be able to have such a gourmet vegan meal. The final surprise was that although you are billed for the wine, they invite you to pay as much for the food as you deem appropriate!
Photos by: Marjolein Wintjes, de culinaire werkplaats
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