November 19, 2017

Nacarat Amsterdam

By John Dunkelgrün.

As you have probably experienced, there is no shortage of restaurants in The Netherlands, especially in Amsterdam. New ones are being opened all the time, often trying to distinguish themselves by the most outlandish and inappropriate combinations of ingredients. It is rare that you’ll find a restaurant that offers a truly WOW experience with its food, its ambiance and the location.

We entered through the new Hudsons Bay department store which is decorated in all brightly lit white, the design chic rather than clinical. Taking the lift up to the fifth floor, you come in a totally different world. Colour comes at you from all sides, literally. Even the floor is decorated with an intricate pattern of brightly coloured shiny marble. We were welcomed in the most charming way by two young ladies. One of them took us to our table which was at the far end of the restaurant, allowing us to take in the scene. We were awed like a couple of country bumpkins.

The restaurant is a long rectangle with a vaulted ceiling, somewhat reminding us of a traditional railway station. Down the middle is a long eating bar, which is also partly kitchen. The arches are sprinkled with lightbulbs so even on a cloudy night this rooftop restaurant lets you dine under the stars. Through the windows, the view of Amsterdam by night is fabulous. It is like you’re hovering above the city in a Google Earth sort of way.

Nacarat Amsterdam.

When we were there, at dinner you could not eat á la carte, but had to take the full Monty: six dips, six meses, a main course and deserts. This has since been changed, as it was so much, we couldn’t even look at the deserts.

The food is Eastern Mediterranean, with heavy emphasis on Lebanese and Israeli cooking. You’ll find lots of chick peas, pomegranate, eggplant and tajini among the ingredients. We were enjoying ourselves so much that I forgot to take notes and the tasting menu consisted of so many dishes, it isn’t possible to describe them all. This may be a good thing, so there will be some surprises left for you.

There were some Middle East perennials such as humus and baba ganoush, which were just a little bit different. The humus was served tepid with some whole chick peas in it, the baba ganoush the best I have ever tasted. Our favourite was the roasted eggplant with saffron yogurt, basil and pomegranate. Even the ubiquitous tzatziki was special. It was not watery as it so often is, but firm like Turkish yoghurt and delicately flavoured. You should just go and let yourselves be surprised.

The wine list too is original. It is a good list and not too extensive to confuse you. It offers many wines from “new” wine areas and is moderately priced. We had the “Vergelegen” Shiraz from South Africa, which was superb. The service, while still a bit uncertain, was exceptionally friendly. The maitre’d went from table to table not just with the obligatory “Everyting fine?” but asking specific questions about which foods we liked best and really listening.

We have eaten several times at Ottolenghi in London, recently in some of the best restaurants in Israel, as well as in various simple specialised humus places on three continents and have found that the food at Nacarat compares very well.

Every restaurant has its minuses, especially in the beginning. The service was still a bit uncertain, but Nacarat is still very new and the large crew still had to become a real team. The whole menu was simply way too much food, too much in volume and too overwhelming in its rich variety of flavours and scents. There are two disadvantages to the premises. The toilets are two floors down and if you have to leave after Hudsons Bay closes, it is a bit of a cold shower. You are escorted in the elevator to the ground floor where you exit in an darkish alley off the Rokin. There is security there so you don’t need to be worried, but one way or another this should be changed.

All in all, we came away with a wonderful feeling and will be back soon. You should really try to experience the magic of Nacarat.

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Nacarat nacarat.nl 020-7900320 Rokin 49, Amsterdam

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