Amsterdam Restaurants and other thoughts

Jul 11th, 2006, 05:37 AM
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Amsterdam Restaurants and other thoughts

My wife and I just returned from a trip that included our second visit to Amsterdam. In the interestest of adding to available info here, some restaurant reviews:
BALTHAZAR'S KEUKEN (Balthazar's Kitchen): From a tip here by universitylad, thank you. We checked into our hotel on Friday and inquired about this cafe. Oh, yes, very popular. Called for reservation. ONly open Wed, Thurs, and Fri; we lucked out. Walked there from our Herengracht location and had a delightful meal. Prix Fix with a couple of beers and a glass of wine: about 55 Euro. First course is a trey of appetizers over bread. We had tuna for the entree, best I've had. Check out universitylad's review, he is more eloquent than I.
SAMPURNA: Singel 498 in Bloemenmarkt. Rijtaffel 14 dishes. Not our style. First we've had. Loved the location for people watching. Dinner + couple beers: 68 Euro.
LUCIUS: Best dinner we had in Amsterdam this trip. Spuistraat 247. Fantastic lobster and tarbot. Sat next to a large and beautiful salt water aquarium with many active colorful tropical fish. With couple of beers: 80 Euro
HAESJE CLAES: very old building, Spuistraat 275. billed as 'traditional dutch cuisine". Had excellent salmon and veal steak. With some wine and beer: about 60 Euro.
All had extremely friendly service, and ready conversation with wait staff and other patrons. Loved all four, though we didn't take to the rijtaffel. Too spicey for our tastes.

Other thoughts: Since our first visit 5 years ago, we have wanted to back. Many people we talk to wonder why. Seems many folks are not partial to Amsterdam, and don't want to go back. We have wondered about that, and after our second visit, I have a theory.
Most tourists with TA prepared trips probably stay in the centraal area, or dam Square. On this visit, we found the dam square and surrounding area extremely touristy, and well, just sleazy. Visible drug deals in dam square in broad daylight, very noisy, crowded and junky shops. Cafes on Dam Square were not up to our expectations.
We stayed out on the canals both times. Herengracht Canal, Hotel Ambassade, to be exact. Very quiet, serene. Close to many restaurants, shops, walk to most all attractions. Trams easy to catch. Morning jog/walk was a real joy in this neighborhood.
We really enjoyed the "gentlemen's canal" area. Didn't react well to dam square and surrounds.
Advice: For stays in Amsterdam, consider plethora of canal-side hotels and B&B's instead of the usually recommended centraal area hotels.
Maybe it's just me, but there it is. Hope I didn't offend anyone. Don't mean to.
Rembrandthuis was outstanding. Riksmuseum well done. Get tickets to both from hotel or other source before you go. Go right to entrance and don't have to stand in long line to buy tickets.
The 30 minute line for AnnFrankhuis is well worth it. We did not have advance tickets. Canal boat ride always fun and interesting.
Thanks to all who help us with our trip planning. Hope this adds to collective effort.
BillJ is offline  
Jul 11th, 2006, 06:03 AM
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Interesting that a fair number of people are not overjoyed with Amsterdam.

I thought after Brugge's canals it's very difficult for any city. However, Amsterdam has a lot to offer.

We didn't eat at any of your choices but did quite well at Casa David and Spanjer etc etc.

Just thought I'd add one thing about trams. Not air conditioned and even though my tram map showed the #6 (it went just where I wanted to go), it doesn't exist anymore.
Myer is online now  
Jul 11th, 2006, 06:04 AM
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BillJ,

Thank you. Your restaurant recommendations will go right into the planning file for our October trip.

I'm sure we will want to take a canal tour. Do you have any particular company to recommend or are they all similar?

Did you take any day trips?

Any other information would be welcome.

Byrd
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Jul 11th, 2006, 08:55 AM
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BillJ, thanks for those recommendations. We're going to Amsterdam for the first time in September.

I have to ask though: are those typical prices for dinner for two or did you go all out for every meal? I can't imagine that every dinner would cost between 60 and 80 Euros for two!
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Jul 11th, 2006, 09:26 AM
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The inner core of inner Amsterdam can indeed be a bit much - touristy, overrun, noisy and such. Consider staying just on the other side of Leidseplein in the general area between Museumsplein and Vondelpark - broader streets, many hotels, no canals there, an entirely different feel and quieter, plenty of trams at most a block away, and shops and restaurants - and you're very quickly back in the "horseshoe" area of the canals.

WK
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Jul 11th, 2006, 10:00 AM
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BillJ,

Thanks for sharing this info. I too will be making my first trip in October and this will come in handy.

Tom
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Jul 11th, 2006, 01:14 PM
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Amsterdam is our 2nd favorite city, after Paris. We find it to be a beautiful city with visually interesting buildings, love the canals and Vondelpark...We almost always rent bikes for at least one day and just tool around aimlessly.
In May, we took a MacBike route south, along the Amstel River - very easy ride and so nice to see a bit of 'countryside'.
We always have a 'wine:30' break in Vondelpark next to one of the ponds - birdwatching and peoplewatching. Last time, I took my travel pillow and had a little nap on the grass. (the real kind!).
We like the Indonesian 'rice table' restaurants, and also look for good budget eats, like "Wok to Walk" stands. The movies are fun and you can have a beer while you watch.
Did anyone mention the art museums? The day trips to Delft, Utrecht, Zuiderzee, Haarlem..?
We almost never pass through Dam Square anymore.

Note: the area in front and behind the Centraal Station is under construction. This is due to a)renovation of the facade of the station, front and back and b)new metro line that will connect Amsterdam Noord with the main city. So please don't let your 'first glimpse' of Amsterdam (around the station) negate all the positive reasons it is a lovely city.
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Jul 11th, 2006, 04:44 PM
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To Travelnut: My point exactly. Dam Square, etc. is too much, but the city and surrounds have much, much to offer those that venture forth. Good for you on the bike thing. Excellent!
To Byrd: We generally end up with one of the boats at the canal by the Hotel de l'Europe, near the Muntplein. Just walk up and see when the next boat is going out. Usually every 15 min or so. There are other vendors, I'm sure. Some dinner cruises also. I don't think any need to pre book. Enjoy. For day trips, see Travelnut above and any good guidebook. We use Fodors and the DK guide. Plenty - flowers, though maybe not your time of year. Harlam is good. Delft. A'dam is a charming and beautiful city, away from the "madding crowds" as they might say. I personally like spending about 1-2 hours in the afternoon at the Liedesplein sipping beer, eating pancakes, and watching people. Then take a long nap before a 8 or 9 pm dinner (see below).
To pavfec: Now, I don't want this to come out wrong. Going "all out" for every meal is relative. We like good food prepared and presented well. It is one of our reasons for travel - find good restaurants serving food that we would not otherwise be exposed to. So you will note that we didn't order the chicken, pasta or steak entrees. I didn't even know what a Tarbot was. (It's a very tasty flat fish.) A fine "dining experience" at the end of a day of touring and sight seeing is a perfect way to cap the day off, so to speak. Always? No, but more often than not. It is a joy of ours. We also, however, love impromptu stops at sidewalk cafes for a sandwich, pancake and or beer as our mood may dictate. On this trip, we were fortunate to find 4 very nice restaurants. Doesn't happen that often.
Hope all this helps.
BillJ
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Jul 11th, 2006, 05:33 PM
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By all means-- don't forget the Van Gogh Museum!
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Jul 11th, 2006, 08:07 PM
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Billj

Thanks for the great trip report. Sounds like you really had a fullfilling vacation.

I will be going to Amsterdam for the 3rd time this fall. I love the Jordaan area. The little canals are so charming.

Dam square isnt for me either.

I do walk through the redlight district. As a woman I would never do this, yet I find the different culture interesting.

As everyone says the real beauty is on the little canals and at the world class museums. I cant wait to go to the Van Gogh museum again.

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Jul 12th, 2006, 04:43 AM
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Europa: Have you tried Balthazar's Keuken? In the Jordaan (I think ? depending on where you draw the line). Elandsgracht 108. Give it a try. We were thrilled.
http://www.balthazarskeuken.nl/
Yes, we also walk the red light district. It is definately interesting people watching, and I don't mean just the windows.
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Jul 12th, 2006, 07:51 AM
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Billj
No I havent tried that restaurant. Thanks for the recommendation. We will try it in Sept.

You are right, even watching the people that are watching the windows is alot of fun. I actually witnessed a transaction. A guy came up to the door exchanged words with the women, she drew him inside and pulled down the blinds. So business like.
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Jul 12th, 2006, 08:39 AM
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BillJ, thanks for the reply. Like you, my hubby and I like good food, but we go all out for one meal only.

I just wanted to know whether the meal prices you gave are typical prices for a dinner in Amsterdam or can you get a meal for 2 for 40 Euros or under.
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Jul 12th, 2006, 10:08 AM
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On my only trip to Amsterdam, we stayed in the Jordaan. I loved it! Neighborhood-y and a fun, arty vibe.

Just wanted to mention that in addition to all the great art museums, we really enjoyed the maritime museum. It's a great place if you're at all interested in maps and Dutch colonial history. They have a lot of artifacts from the Dutch East India company, and amazing maps and atlases beginning in the early 17th century.
http://www.scheepvaartmuseum.nl/

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Jul 12th, 2006, 04:36 PM
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pavfec: Sorry, didn't quite understand your first. Can't tell you much about typical. Maybe ours is, but don't know for sure. We tend not to eat much during the day, so my other cafe experiences are not relavent. I was disappointed in Dam Square at one of the nameless cafe's, where two cokes and two pathetic ham sandwiches were 20 some odd Euros. I think though that the cafe's around Liedesplein and an the end of Spuistraat are 10 - 15 Euro or so entrees in the evening. So I think it gets up to 40 pretty easily if you add beer or wine. Oh yeah, and don't forget those killer deserts most cafe's and restaurants specialize in. Uhmmm! Belgian chocolate. It's everywhere.
Maybe some one a little more traveled in Amsterdam dining circles can help. Sorry I can't be more specific. Hope you like Amsterdam. We do.
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Jul 12th, 2006, 06:43 PM
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Try smaller cafes a bit away from the center of Amsterdam.

Our dinners were typically in the 30-45 euro range with drinks throughout our Benelux trip (except for the night we splurged to try the RiceTable).

For example, at Cafe de Prins (Prinsengracht 24), we both had pre-dinner drinks, soup, and salad, and Mrs. Fly had a pasta dish and I beef steak in a cream pepper sauce, Freedom Fries, a beer with dinner for me and tea for her, plus desserts and coffee for a total of 42.90 euro. Didn't really need the desserts and coffee, but it looked so good. If we had left out either the dessert or coffee, we would have been well below 40.

Can't remember the name of another place we dined at not far from de Prins (on the Herengracht or the Keizersgracht), but it was quite pleasant and came in at 33.80 euro--we weren't quite as hungry that night so we skipped the dessert, but I did have two coffees with generous dollops of Gran Manier. That night was schnitzel "cordon" for me and some sort of mushroom casserole for Mrs. Fly--both came with a salad and mine came with various vegetables and baked potatoes. Can't remember what else her's came with.
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Jul 12th, 2006, 07:01 PM
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Should have noted that these places do not have extensive menus--maybe 8-12 main courses to choose from. But they have a little of everything--beef, fish, pasta, "big" salads, etc. And from our experience and what others told us, what they do, they do well.

We found the staff to be interesting as well. As likely as not your waiter will be a middle-aged guy wearing jeans and a t-shirt who sips an adult beverage while serving you and also works behind the bar. Or a college-age woman with bare midriff and belly button jewelry who will flirt shamelessly with the older male tourist customers. Mrs. Fly steered me towards the cafes with the guys in t-shirts.
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Jul 18th, 2006, 11:14 AM
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Thanks for that additional info BillJ and Mr. Fly! My hubby just brought some guidebooks on Amsterdam from the library today, so I'll be perusing them to get an idea of meal prices.
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Jul 24th, 2006, 03:39 PM
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I vote for Lucious too-went twice and loved the food and atmosphere.
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Jul 24th, 2006, 04:02 PM
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BillJ,
I so strongly agree with you!
I keep telling folks not to stay in the Dam Square area - myself, I'm in the Dam just to get to Centraal Station or shop at one of the department stores there - I would not pick the area for lodging.

Amsterdam is one city where it pays to get the best room you can afford - or else you'll end up someplace very mediocre. This isn't Paris, with loads of decent mid-range hotels - Amsterdam has real highs and lows with regards to lodgings.

I loved the Ambassade and am glad you did too! The location was excellent and felt very safe, even late at night. Have not eaten at your recommended places, but thanks for the suggestions - I'll keep them in mind for the next trip.
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