There is no menu at Restaurant Beulings, a French/Italian restaurant tucked away on a side street off Amsterdam's Singel canal, just a choice of two dishes per course - and lots of freebies.
Chef Bas Bont’s culinary style is defined by his use of fresh, seasonal ingredients. This explains why the menu is limited to just eight dishes – two starters, mains and desserts, with an optional intermediate course.
It doesn’t explain why the menu isn’t written down anywhere but reeled off by the waitress. With the different components of each dish, sauces and toppings, we had to ask for the options to be repeated three times before being able to order.
While we waited for our food to arrive, we were served a plate of sliced salami, olives and cheese biscuits. Italian-style crudités followed. This was accompanied by a tiny red oven dish filled with a dip made out of milk, anchovies and lots of garlic. We also received a bowl filled with slices of both sweet and savoury breads (made on the premises), butter, olive oil and a herby baba ganoush, also home-made.
I started with sliced scallops on pureed Romanesco and toast blackened with squid ink. Slicked across the plate was sea urchin sauce that had such an intense ocean flavour it was like swallowing sea water. The initial novelty quickly faded, and I was left with an overwhelming taste of salt in my mouth and an intense urge to drink.
An intermediate course of polenta in butter sauce with a mound of Dutch shrimp followed. Unlike the spunky starter, all the elements of this course were bland, with nothing to make them pop. It was the least successful dish and - given all the freebies we’d already chomped our way through - I could have done without it.
A main of fried cod with creamy mashed potatoes and sauerkraut, topped with caviar and - the dish’s highlight - a white smoked sausage stuffed with fish, was a wonderful combination of strong and delicate flavours.
When we told the waitress we were going to share Restaurant Beulings' dessert of French and Italian cheeses, she thoughtfully divided each cheese into two portions before serving it. She also demonstrated her training (or memory – evidently much better than mine, which went into meltdown when presented with eight menu items) by giving us a detailed explanation of the region from which each cheese came and the milk from which it was made.
We had gone out to eat on a whim and had chosen Restaurant Beulings more or less at random. My job as a reviewer is to explore so you don't have to, but this scattergun approach to restaurant selection can be disappointing as often as it is rewarding (it's not all glamour, you know). Beulings was certainly one of the latter, making the jump into the unkown all the sweeter.
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