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De Librije, three Michelin stars in Zwolle, the Netherlands

Rating: 99.
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This month Jonnie Boer, executive chef and owner of De Librije restaurant in Zwolle, the Netherlands, celebrated his silver jubilee at De Librije. Jonnie Boer started working at De Librije in 1986. In 1990 he was joined by his wife Thérèse, who has been the sommelier and Maître d' at the restaurant since. Jonnie and Thérèse Boer's journey at De Librije is a true Dutch success story. The couple took over the restaurant in 1992 and the next year the restaurant was awarded its first Michelin star. The second star followed in 1999 and in 2004 the ultimate accolade followed, making it the second restaurant only in the Netherlands ever to be awarded a third Michelin star at the time. But the couple has not been resting on its laurels. Zwolle has become a real foodie destination. Apart from De Librije, there now is a Librije Hotel which also houses the one Michelin starred "Librije's Zusje" restaurant. Furthermore there is the Librije cookery school and wine academy and a Librije food and wine shop. Last year witnessed the birth of JT Magazine. All ventures of this enterprising couple show an unrelenting commitment to delivering the highest quality and to giving their guests the full "De Librije" experience.


De Librije restaurant is open for dinner Tuesday till Saturday and for lunch Wednesday till Saturday. They have only started serving Saturday lunch very recently; in fact my Saturday lunch there was their second one and I'm hoping lots of other restaurants in the Netherlands will follow this example. For lunch and dinner De Librije serves a 4 (€ 142), 6 (€165) or 10 (€177) course menu, a 10 course vegetarian menu and an a la carte menu. My husband and I had the 10-course menu.

We started off with the so-called 'Mondvermaakjes'. 'Crisp' peanut with pickles - Potato puff 'light' (1) - Cod tongue with cripsy chicken skin (2) - Puffed pig's skin with linseed and horseradish (3) - Banana, coffee and cauliflower (fantastic coffee flavour) (4), Eggyolk cooked at -20º C with a crème of apricot kernel oil (a beautiful crème with a hint of lemon) (5) - Caviar 'on the fist' (Oscietra caviar served on your hand with a crème of green tea and lemon). Overall exciting and delicious.




The first course was Foie gras, Northsea crab, black olives and fermented red cabbage juice, wood sorrel and hazelnut. Fantastic foie gras prepared with some Macvin du Jura, which went gloriously with the crab and fermented red cabbage juice. The amazing cabbage juice was pure and clean and steered well clear of  tasting raw or green. Lovely sliced hazelnut provided texture, wonderful fresh touch from the wood sorrel. An unusual but brilliant dish. The cabbage juice and the crab made this a very elegant and light foie gras dish with wonderful elliptical flavours. An amazing dish and beautifully presented.

Second course, Langoustines (seared on one side), roasted hemp seed, quinoa, remoulade sauce, curry cream, runner bean juice, tapioca cracker. Wonderful tasty and juicy langoustines. The one-side searing gave them a beautiful taste but still left them ever-so-slightly raw and meltingly soft. Great texture from the quinoa salad. Lovely tapioca cracker and a wonderful hint of curry but then the runner bean juice. This juice was simply divine. I had no idea pure runner bean juice could taste like this and in fact it took my breath away. It was the kind of dish that makes you think: of course, langoustines and runner bean juice, why didn't anyone think of that before?

On to the the third course, Mackerel belly, white beans, tomato essence, beetroot, cinnamon. Perfectly cooked delicious mackerel served with a lovely white bean puree and a fantastic clear tomato essence and pickled tomatoes. Absolutely beautiful warmth and spicyness from the cinnamon that perfumed the dish. Cinnamon and mackerel is a great combination and the amount of cinnamon was perfectly judged. A complex but very well balanced dish where every component had its place.

The fourth course was Scallops, black garlic caviar, barbecued celeriac jus, chestnut. Right, where to start? Terrific raw scallops served with the most sublime jus of barbecued celeriac. The pure and clear jus had wonderful concentrated and smoky celeriac flavours. Loved the black garlic caviar. It was so good that I wanted to lick my plate, which I didn't do but I did use my little finger. Making a brilliant dish like this from just a few ingredients is a stroke of genius.

Next up, the fifth course, Red perch, goat's yoghurt, sake, puffed apple, fennel leaf chlorophyll and shallot jus. A fantastic piece of perch with a wonderfully rich shallot jus and a lovely 'green' notes and colour from the chlorophyll. Lovely acidity from the goat's yoghurt. Definitely a dish that turned up the volume.

Sixth and main course, Pigeon, lightly lacquered with star anise, Creme of foie gras and goat's cheese, white pepper foam, turnip juice, hazelnut. A well balanced but rich dish. The bleu pigeon was perfectly cooked and had a lovely hint of star anise. Intense and rich flavours from the foie gras. The turnip juice was again lovely and pure and had a beautiful depth of flavour. The hazelnut provided a lovely crunch.

Seventh trough ninth courses, the desserts:
- Thérèse's Kiss. A lovely refreshing and fun dessert that contains Thérèse Boer's favourite ingredients/flavours of the season.
The kiss had a wonderful creamy filling which went great with the salted coconut and raspberry flavours in the dish.
- Weerribben blackberries, water mint sorbet and Pandan rice. Beautiful water mint sortbet and lovely comforting notes from the rice.
- Passion fruit, ginger beer sorbet, chicory and mixed spice. A wonderful dessert with a fantastic interplay of textures and savoury and sweet flavours. Loved the warmth of the mixed spice.


The last and tenth course, well it wasn't actually a course, it was an edible joint, served in a porcelain clog. Very tongue-in-cheek. The joint was made from water mint, hemp seed oil, chocolate and lemon.

This was my fourth visit to De Librije since 2007; my last visit had been in 2010. Judging from this tasting menu, I believe Jonnie Boer has begun yet another chapter in the already impressive book of his culinairy repertoire. He clearly remains true to his own personality, philosophy and style, but amazingly he seems to have reinvented his menu almost completely when I compare it with the food I enjoyed here only a year ago. Yes, his signature dishes are still on the menu and rightfully so, but this tasting menu showed me new and original dishes for which he employs inventive techniques that allow him to get closer to the essence of his cuisine. Once again less proves to be more; fewer tricks and gimmicks than last year and no more multi-layered plates. Masterful food like this reaches the stage of seeming effortlessness.

De Librije restaurant also showed me that it is always on top of their game both in the kitchen and in front of house. To give the diner a set of pocket sized cards with the descriptions of the dishes in a neat little envelope is the most recent example. Hospitality at the highest level only an hour's drive from Amsterdam.

More De Librije:

Slideshow of lunch at De Librije in July 2012

2013 review

Posted 26-09-2011


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