Taste the world in the Netherlands with Indonesian rijsttafel
The Netherlands is well-known for its rich history, beautiful canal-laced cities, tulip fields and windmills, but it’s rare that people travel to the country specifically for the food.
Which is why we were absolutely speechless when we tried the Dutch-Indonesian specialty known as rijsttafel. With a spice-infused combination of over 30 hot and cold small dishes in varying hues of sweet, salty, bitter and sweet – we experienced an entire palate of flavors, with just one meal.
Indonesia was a Dutch colony for over 300 years, only gaining independence rather recently (as far as countries go) in 1942. This lush Southeast Asian archipelago was better known as the Spice Islands in the 17th and 18th centuries – as it supplied most of the world with nutmeg, mace, clove, cinnamon and black pepper courtesy of the Dutch East India Company. Over a million Europeans worked the spice trade routes, so it didn’t take long for Dutch colonials to become smitten with the exotic palates of Indonesian cuisine.
The portions are small – think Spanish-style tapas, and accompanied by deliciously aromatic rice, but this is one feast you won’t soon forget.
There are several rijsttafel restaurants in the city – but go where the food critics have gone…and raved.
- Restaurant Kartika – The first place we tried rijsttafel continues to be our favorite. Down an unassuming street, with dated décor, and a small dining space – Kartika might be the ‘dive bar’ equivalent of rijsttafel restaurants. But it’s just this flavor of unpretentiousness that we loved. We did have to call to make reservations.
- Restaurant Blauw Amsterdam – Offering three tasting menus, each specializing in either fish, meat or vegetarian – diners can’t get enough of their tasting menus. A big plus is the ease of making reservations on their website. (There’s also a Utrecht location.)
- Blue Pepper Restaurant and Candlelight Cruise – For an upscale (and very romantic) version of rijsttafel, look no further than Blue Pepper. It’s a lavish Michelin-dining experience you won’t soon forget.
- MAX Amsterdam – Hailed frequently by diners as “the best meal I had in Amsterdam” the MAX offers incredible rijsttafel, with a delightful array of desserts. Coconut ice cream, mango sorbet, spice cake with forest berries, and a perfect slice of chocolate cake adds up to one very delicious dinner.
Nicknamed the “Gateway to Europe” and the “Gateway to the World” for its extensive distribution systems of rail, roads and waterways – it’s no surprise that the city offers an equally tasty array of Indonesian.
- Dewi Sri – Delicious spice-infusions and gorgeous place settings are a big hit with diners here.
- Warung Mini – Diners love the option of both dine-in service and take-away options.
As the Netherlands third largest city, The Hague offers a great blend of modern and historic architecture – and of course, rijsttafel.
- Keraton Damai – With over 96% of reviewers rating the Keraton as either ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ you might just find yourself eating dinner here two nights in a row.
Utrecht and Breda
For a less crowded and more off-the-beaten path Netherlands experience, both Utrecht and Breda are delightfully cozy stops worth a visit – and a dinner reservation.
- Selamat Makan – With a restaurant name that literally translates to “tasty food” it’s no surprise that they offer four tasting menus here.
- Bali James – At Bali, the restaurant is just as beautiful as the food. Intricately carved sculptures dot the well-appointed dining area, and ornate artifacts glimmer in beautifully lit display cases along the walls. Outstanding service makes this restaurant a big win for dinner.
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