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BAK restaurant in Amsterdam

Rating: 89.
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BAK is a pop-up turned brick-and-mortar restaurant located on the 3rd floor of the 'Het Veem' theatre, a former warehouse sitting on the banks of the river IJ in Amsterdam's 'Westelijk Havengebied' area. The restaurant is owned by three friends, Benny Blisto (chef), Alessandro da Fies (restaurant manager/sommelier) and Piet Sanders, and they have been operating from this permanent base since 2013. As mentioned, BAK initially started out as a pop-up restaurant, taking up temporary residence (usually for 1-2 nights) in empty properties across Amsterdam. Also worth mentioning is that chef Benny Blisto's name is not his real one, but a stage name given to him by his mates from Dutch indie band Go Back To The Zoo, who even named their first studio album after him.

(courtesy of BAK)

BAK is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Sunday. At lunchtime the restaurant offers a set lunch menu (3 courses €27, 5 courses €40), and for dinner there's also a set menu (5 courses €45, 7 courses €60). I had lunch with my husband at BAK on Saturday 13 February 2016 and we both ordered the 5-course lunch menu and an extra cheese course to share.

The first course was a blue cheese crème served with some nicely caramelised, roasted pear, ribbons of fresh pear, sweet pickled pumpkin, pumpkin seed pesto, pumpkin puree, some toasted pumpkin seeds, and garnished with some purslane. A pleasing dish with wonderful textures, especially the pumpkin puree, which had a lovely peanut butter-like texture. But lovely flavours too. The blue cheese used here was Lady's Blue, a Dutch raw milk goat's cheese. Lovely salty sharpness coming from the blue cheese, the pumpkin and pear adding a sweet contrast and balance, and the pesto bringing everything together. 

Next up was parsley root cooked in buttermilk whey, parsnip puree, pieces of raw cauliflower coated with roasted cauliflower oil, a thin slice of celeriac, the outer skin dusted with coffee, a nice and creamy buttermilk whey sauce, a few sprigs of fresh dill, and a tarragon oil. A very good looking plate of food with a lovely combination of earthy-sweet flavours, and coating raw cauliflower with a roasted caulilfower oil is a clever touch, because it takes away any raw edges. The parsley root was lovely and tender, with a hint of nuttiness, and the buttermilk whey sauce delivered just the right touch of comfort.

Even better was a roe deer stew and bone marrow "terrine", accompanied by charred kale, a delicious walnut mayonnaise, pickled onion petals, thinly sliced radish, and toasted buckwheat. Tender and soft roe deer, but still firm enough to hold in a terrine, and the addition of bone marrow worked really well. A dish full of flavour and character, its richness perfectly balanced by the pickled onions and the mild bitters of the kale, and the buckwheat brought a lovely crunch to the plate.

Fourth course was beef (old dairy cow), topped with crunchy beef greaves, and complemented by a wonderful Hollandaise, made with beef fat. Also on the plate was some very flavoursome onion and kelp confit, salsify, and a dusting of seaweed powder. A lovely and creative dish with nice accompaniments, that were full-bodied and elegant in equal measure.

Dessert was parsnip ice cream, chocolate crumbs, chocolate crèmeux, sea buckthorn puree, and a parsnip crisp. A well-executed dessert with lovely, but predominantly savoury-sweet flavours, which worked together, but could have gained from some extra freshness/sharpness.

If you go to a restaurant whose chef goes through life using the stage name Benny Blisto, the food is obviously not going to be boring. If he worked in London, someone would probably name a burger after him. But on a more serious note: today's menu featured well-designed, imaginative dishes with understandable flavours. Very attractive food cooked by a talented chef. But what I liked best is that they offer serious food and serious wine, in a very laid-back and no-nonsense atmosphere. BAK has been on the Amsterdam food scene since 2012; however it took me 4 years to get my well-fed arse over there. The restaurant had been on my radar for quite some time, but I just never got around to it. My loss, because BAK offers one of the best value for money deals in Amsterdam. 

BAK restaurant
Van Diemenstraat 408

Posted 02-04-2016


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