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&samhound places, Amsterdam (**)

I recently got called up to fly into Norway for work, and a layover in Amsterdam gave me the opportunity to try some of what Amsterdam’s fine dining scene had to offer. I began doing my research and narrowed down my choices to 2 restaurants both of which were closed for the summer holidays. I eventually ran down my options until I decided on &samhound places, I knew nothing about the food but they had, but I tend to trust the Michelin guide as one of the more reliable guides(at least in Europe anyway). A reservation was made online and in the confirmation email that was sent, they had a nice short youtube clip of the chef introducing his philosophy of the food. A nice ‘amuse bouche’ if you will.

I was the first diner to arrive at the restaurant and I was dining alone, so I requested to be seated at the “kitchen table” which is basically a counter type seating where you can look into the kitchen, the only barrier is a piece of plastic so the heat doesnt hit you in the face. After looking through the seasonal degustation menu and deciding it was what I would go with, I enquired about the signature dishes(I had seen a picture of a foie dish online), the server explained that all signatures were not in the degustation menu and had to be ordered as an add on. This is very annoying to me, I would be pretty mad if I sent to the french laundry or Per Se and was told that I had to ‘add on’ oysters and pearls. Fine dining restaurants should understand that most of them are “once in a lifetime” experiences for a lot of diners and it is a real shame if you only had one chance to showcase what you could do with food but didn’t give the diner an opportunity to try what you are really famous for. But enough about that, how often am I in Amsterdam anyway? So I ordered the foie dish as well.

The server then proceeded to ask me if I would like something to read, I have never been asked this question before, so it didn’t register with me right away. “What do you mean?” “You know… would you like… a magazine to read?” It was in that moment that a lightbulb went on in my head and I realised, OHHHH, because Im alone! It was nice gesture and a pretty funny incident, nice that they actually offered, but I was mainly here for the food. And the food came, very quickly.

Goose liver Bonbon / Black olive/ yoghurt / pineapple

Saffron Madeleine / coquillage(scallop I think) / zucchini / tamarind

The goose liver bonbon didnt do much for me, it was a pretty big ball of liver and overpowered most of everything that came with it. Okay

‘Madeleiline’ is a bit of a misnomer because it didn’t have the crust that most madeleines have, it was more of a savory saffron cake in the shape of the madeleine. This was my favorite amuse, the sweet scallop flesh against a savory cake was a nice combination, I only wish I could’ve tasted more of the tamarind. Good

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Coconut millefeuille / Sea urchin / coffee / Kombu

This was another really good amuse, the coconut millefeuille had a pretty authentic texture, basically like a coconut crisp. It worked nicely with the sea urchin was was very fun to eat, but the sea urchin was very overpowering and I couldnt really taste the coffee element in the dish. This is also the second time I’ve seen coffee and urchin paired together(Modernist cuisine paired them together as well), note to self, experiment with the combination. Good

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Cocktail / Mangostan / Cachaca / Lime

This was surprisingly strong, I think the alcohol was gin. The mangostine element came a sorbet and I think they foamed the alcohol with a bit of egg white. Kind of a tropical alcoholic aperitif with the combination of mangostine, sugarcane and lime. I’m not really an alcoholic person so I’m not the best person to comment on this, I didn’t particularly like the way it was presented. Okay

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Gillardeau oyster / orange / pomelo / yuzu

I felt that the amount of citrus was too overpowering and the oyster lacked the… salinity to balance the dish, it needed more of that sea flavor because the oyster was completely lost in the puddle of citrus, not very keen on how it was presented either. Bad

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Quail egg / Gorgonzola Dolce / Mango / Kiwi / Celery / Star anise

This sounds like a cluster of flavors that I never thought I would see together, I really wondered how everything would come together before the dish arrived. Of all the unconventional flavor pairings that featured in the meal, this was easily the most balanced and enjoyable. The fruity sweetness of the mango, the aniseed flavors, the gorgonzola I initially tasted too weak but ended up having quite a thick texture that meant it was the last flavor on your tongue after eating the dish, and the egg had a nice firm bite as you popped the yolk in your mouth, which can be sometimes hard to get with sous vide eggs because everything is so soft. It was a complex dish whose flavors evolved as you ate it. This was very enjoyable and a bright start to the meal. Very good

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Corn collection:

Corn / Tomato / Chili / Avocado

It was explained to me that the chef picks one vegetable to highlight every season and it just so happened to be corn on this menu. I love corn so yay for me. This was basically a corn tuille piped with guacamole and salsa. Very mexican inspired and very very delicious. The corn tuille has the most perfect texture and a very intense corn flavor, remiscent of the ‘corn paper’ I had at El bulli. The sweet corn flavor just worked beautifully with the creamy, slightly acidic avocado and tomato. Very good

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Corn pappardelle / Jalapeno / Cumquat / Coriander / Tequila

The corn pasta with Jalapenos were delicious, they added freeze dried corn as well which is such an intelligent way to add crunch to the dish, kind of like eating intense corn crouton with slippery smooth corn pasta. The cumquat(kumquat) jam on the side was… it was a struggle for me. I couldnt decide if I liked it or not. The orange flavor was bright, maybe a bit too bright for the corn, but it was the bitter aftertaste in the jam that I had trouble dealing with. Strange, yet interesting at the same time. Okay-good

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Beef tartar / corn / sour cream

The quenelle of corn ice cream was one of the best ice creams I have ever had- strong, intense flavor. It was, of course, delicious with the beef tartar, and it would have been a much better dish if there wasn’t so much sour cream on the plate, it was a bit hard to finish given that the creaminess of the sour cream with not enough beef or corn to cut it with. The porportion of components was a bit out of balance but the flavors were beautiful. Good-Very good

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Waldorf

Langoustine / Horseradish / Radish / Oxalis

Grape / Apple / Double cream / Walnut / Celery

That strange green thing on the left of the plate is a seaweed meringue, I’m quite sure this was made with food colouring beause it looks like it would glow in the dark if you switched off the lights. But it had the most surprising and intense seaweed flavor, quite amazing. The oyster leaf was a nice way of having an oyster/langoustine taste in your mouth without actually using oysters. The strange part about this dish is that the left side had great seafood-y flavors that went really well with the langoustine, and the right side was… absolutely terrible. Everything on the right didn’t seem to support the langoustine and the langoustine ended up tasting very bland, it might have been that the flavors on the left were more intense and I ate them in the wrong order, but this should’ve been mentioned when I was served. Okay

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Salvador dali Lips (Add on)

Foie gras coated in raspberry and rose gel, yoghurt pearls, almond / lychee

This is one of the chefs signature dishes. Very beautiful I must say, but once you start eating, the flaws start to show themselves. The foie itself had 1-2 small lumps, and 1 piece had a vein in it. Its not a big deal for me really, but it is quite shocking for a 2* restaurant, passing the foie through a fine tamis should be a standard practice for a restaurant like this. It worked nicely with the raspberry gel, but if you ate it together with the rest of the components on the place, it became far too fruity and acidic. Kind of disappointing for a signature but I do like the way it is presented, quirky and fun. Okay

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Etappe tomato

Green tomato / Apple / Angelica

Wild Yellow Tomato / Passion fruit / Apricot / Mango / Peach / Yoghurt / Marrowfat pea flower

Gnocchi red tomato /  Basil /  Burrata

The green apple fluid gel(?) was far too acidic for the tomato sorbet and completely overpowered it. Okay

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This was a really bad dish as well, halfway through eating it, I started to realise that the tomatoes were just lacking in flavor, and lacking in individual seasoning, so much so that the fruits, which had a much more vibrant flavor, were starting to take the lead role in the dish. Which is obviously not the intention because this is supposed to be a three part tomato course. It didn’t make the tomato taste better, it just took away from the tomato completely. Bad

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This was best of the 3 courses. The tomato water was light and refreshing, the spherified tomato juices should never be called ‘gnocchi’, but they were actually very nicely made, very nice shape and a good bite(if you’ve spherified things before you’ll know that its not as easy as it seems). The tomato seeds were a nice touch. The burrata is quite a classic combination that works, but the burrata itself had a grainy texture that was very unpleasant because the 2 other liquid components really made the grainy-ness very evident on the tongue. Okay-Good

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Sea bass back to jaffo

Sea bass / Chamomile oil / Sweet sour cucumber / Hendricks gin / Raspberry

This dish sums up &samhound places for me. The seabass in confit in oil and has the most beautiful, fork tender texture. The gin is incorporated into a hollandaise and has a lovely subtle aroma, the hollandaise is also foamed so it retains a lightness which was needed at this stage of the meal. The chamomile oil was delicate, but strong enough that you could smell the pleasant flowery notes. Everything was delicious, until you reach the raspberry puree, there is no other way to describe it but to say that it just tasted vulgar with the rest of the components. No matter how I tried to eat it, it was so out of place on the plate, too strong, too acidic, too fruity for the dish. 75% of the dish was good but the raspberry ruined it for me. Bad-okay

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European lobster / carrot / mascarpone / elderberry blossom / coconut rice / orange

I was starting to get a little bit disappointed at this stage and I honestly wasn’t expecting much from the rest of the meal. This was a bouillabaise inspired dish that wasn’t bad, but neither was it particularly good. The broth was nice but the flavors just ended up being a little bit too muddled. Okay

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Anjou pigeon / Beetroot / Verbena / Groittes (Cherry tart) / Balsamic

I was honestly prepared to hate this dish when the server explained that the pigeon breast is served with a cherry tart, but this turned out to be one of the better dishes of the night. The tart was had more of a cake like texture and the jellied cherry on top wasn’t overpowering, and allowed the flavor of the pigeon to work with the earthiness of the pigeon. Good

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It was served with a bread with pulled pigeon thigh meat, quite delicious

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Dessert

I didn’t write down the components in the dessert but I think you’d be able to guess by now that fruits were involved. This was quite pleasant but again, there was one component in it that I really couldn’t handle, wish I rememember what it was. Okay

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&Samhound places ended up being one of the most frustrating meals I have ever had. The menu reads like a chef who is very interested in flavor pairings. In his credit, some things worked, but when they didn’t, they were really bad and ruined the dish for me. As a home cook, I love using fruits in savory cooking, its a nice way to add freshness and brighten things up, but all things, even good things, should be used in moderation. Fruits featured far too much on the menu for me, mainly because they were misused. Eric Riperts mantra is that everything you put on the plate should support the fish, and while I think you can go against that logic and still create something delicious, maybe the meal would have been better off with a ‘less is more’ consideration when the dishes were being made.

On the positive note, the area outside samhound is a nice area to reflect about how much money you just spent on the meal

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3 thoughts on “&samhound places, Amsterdam (**)

  1. Hi! I should have known you were coming to Amsterdam, because we could have met up & I could have warned you not to go to &Samhoud. I had a similar bad experience there. You are lucky you don’t drink wine, because the bad wine pairings made it even more disappointing for me (and also more expensive).

    1. Dammit I should’ve remembered you were in Amsterdam! I was looking for people to eat with, but I haven’t been on wordpress for such a long time. I ended up going to De Kas(overpriced) and Ron’s gastrobar as well

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