31 May 2009

ONDER DE LINDE, Noordwijk, The Netherlands

It is often said that apart from harengs, cheeses, good bread and some broths that the locals eat proudly, the Dutch cuisine does not exist and that the culinary traditions of this huge maritime nation is a mixture made of the influences and the ingredients brought from all over the world, i.e., South America, Caribbean, Asia, Africa...)

However, in the same way every rule has an exception, The Netherlands has 'Onder de Linde', led by the cook Herman van Manen, a former student at the prestigious 'Hotelschool Ter Duinen' (promotion of 1987) in Koksijde, Belgium.

Born on the ashes of a former restaurant 8 years ago, 'Onder de Linde' is a cosy, romantic, and contemporary place with a wide range of well executed dishes and an excellent cuisine.

Once you get into the place, do not rush to the table.

Instead, I advise you to take some time to have a look to the menu while seating at the fireplace with a glass of champagne. You will realise the quietness of the place, the simplicity and the elegance of the lights, the flowers everywhere, and the painted walls depicting characteristic scenes of Noordwijk at the beginning of the XXth century.

It is while waiting at the fireplace where you have more chances not only to understand the place and to be offered a couple of excellent starters ('bisque de homard' - balanced, tasty, excellent texture - and a 'mousse of serrano ham' - innovative, different, surprising, light), but also to guess that you have not mistaken the address.

Once at the table, we advise you to go for the three course menu (there is also a 4 and a 5 course menu) with the wine arrangements per dish. We did not regret it at all!. All the wines perfectly matched our food choices.

Starter: "Tartar of salmon with herbs, 'tsarine' potatoes, and home-marinated salmon with a honey mustard dressing" (accompanied with the French white wine 'Clos de la Vierge, Jurançon, 2006').

Mains: "Gratin cod with persil butter and brandade of cooked mackerel with a crispy fish croquette and Noilly Prat sauce" (accompanied with the Australian white wine 'Oxford Landing', Chardonnay 2007') and "Guinea fowl filet on a truffle risotto with wild spinachs and sauted greens and mushrooms" (accompanied with the Chilean red wine 'Botalcura, Carmenère/Merlot 2006').

We could have ordered a coffee instead of the dessert and stop the experience there, but we went for the mild and excellent "Lukewarm Vacherin Mont d'Or served on a home-made brioche and decorated with hints of blackcurrant - balsamic syrup" (accompanied with a Graham's fine ruby port, 2007)... I am sure it will take a lot of time before I can forget that dessert...

No doubt about it, "Onder de Linde" (and the cook Herman van Manen and his excellent team of attentive and extremely kind people in the dining room) deserve to be and remain in the Bib's Michelin Guide for many many years!

Rating: 7.8/10

17 May 2009

KUZINA, Athens, Greece

It is quite unavoidable to identify Greek cuisine with fresh and seasonal products such as, among others, red tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplants, lamb, feta cheese, olive oil, olives, fish, octopus, chicken, lentils, white beans, and garlic, peppers, lemon and herbs to season. By the way, Greeks are the world’s largest consumers of olive oil, around 30 litres per capita annually, and those who eat more cheese too!

With such a basis, it is not strange that the country gave birth to dishes such as ‘souvlakis’, ‘moussaka’ and ‘stiphado’.

In addition to this, the cradle of the Western civilisation is a crossroads between continental Europe, the Mediterranean and Minor Asia, and has influences from all these places, even if it has successfully managed to keep its own Greek style.

Bearing this in mind, I wondered whether it would be possible to find a real Greek fusion restaurant that combined the best of the Mediterranean creativity while keeping it genuinely Greek and the answer was ‘Kuzina’, a restaurant that opened its doors in 2006 in a pedestrian zone in Thissio, a colourful and lively neighbourhood with views over the Acropolis and the Hephaestus temple, near Monastiraki, in Athens, Greece.

‘Kuzina’, chef’s Aris Tsanaklidis awarded restaurant, takes the pillars of the Greek cuisine and transform them into something provocative and unexpected but tasty, as the ‘calamari with ginger, sesame oil and chili’, the ‘yellowfin tuna with thyme and Mediterranean herbs crust’, ‘the sikomaida fig tart marinated in anise seeds and ouzo, wrapped with walnuts leaves’, ‘the salad of watermelon with feta cheese, rocket greens and balsamic vinegar sauce’ and other treats.

At ‘Kuzina’, the athmosphere is contemporary, and the decoration combines modern and traditional elements with a predominant white on the walls and wooden furniture. The multi-shelved bar is quite impressing, the staff is kind and helpful, and there is a terrace for private events (‘Tarazza’) and an art gallery (‘Porta’).

There is another ‘Kuzina’ in the Cycladic island of Mykonos.

Rating: 7/10

10 May 2009

NIKOLAS, Fira, Santorini, Greece

Do not expect a sophisticated cuisine in this traditional place with a blue painted door and white walls, just as any other house of the Cyclades Islands, at the heart of Fira, Santorini's most populated town with around 2,000 citizens.

Unlike many restaurants in the island, Nikolas has not a view over the 'caldera', the breathtaking hole that the local volcano left in form of cliffs when it erupted around 1650 years BC, and that is indeed used by many as a tourist hook to overprice the final check.

Instead of this, Nikolas, a long-established restaurant where both locals and visitors like to go (and queue!) has no pretentions but offers an excellent traditional Greek cuisine such as rice stuffed zucchini, excellent home-made moussaka, fava (a tasty small yellow bean from the island which is served boiled and smashed), meatballs, some good fish, i.e., cuttlefish in wine, and fried saganaki cheese.

This family owned business is run by Nikolas himself, who is not especially extroverted at first sight but who becomes progressively confident and even ends up explaining you the menu in other languages than Greek...

Rating 7.2/10

01 May 2009


On 20th April, ‘Restaurant’ magazine published the ‘San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list.

As in 2002, 2006, 2007 and 2008, ‘El Bulli’ (Ferran Adrià, Spain) was considered the best restaurant in the world followed by ‘The Fat Duck’ (Heston Blumenthal, UK).

‘Noma’ (Rene Redzepi, Denmark, who had trained in Adrià’s ‘El Bulli’), was awarded as the third best restaurant worldwide.

The ranking of the ‘San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ is the following one:

1. ‘El Bulli’
Ferran Adrià, Roses, Catalonia, Spain

2. ‘The Fat Duck’
Heston Blumenthal, Berkshire, South East England, UK

3. ‘Noma'
Rene Redzepi, Copenhaguen, Denmark (up 7)

4. ‘Mugaritz’
Andoni Luis Aduriz, Renteria, Basque Country, Spain

5. ‘El Celler de Can Roca’
Joan Roca, Girona, Catalonia, Spain (up 21)

6. ‘Per Se’
Thomas Keller, New York, USA

7. ‘Bras’
Michel & Sébastian Bras, Laguiole, Aveyron, France

8. ‘Arzak’
Juan Maria Arzak, San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain

9. ‘Pierre Gagnaire’
Pierre Gagnaire, Paris, France (down 6)

10. ‘Alinea’
Grant Achatz, Chicago, Illinois, USA (up 11)

11. ‘L’Astrance’
Pascal Barbot & Christophe Rohat, Paris, France

12. ‘The French Laundry’
Thomas Keller, Yountville, California, USA (down 7)

13. ‘Osteria Francescana’
Massimo Bottura, Modena, Emilia Romagna, Italy (new entry!)

14. ‘St. John’
Fergus Henderson & Trevor Gulliver, London, UK (up 2)

15. ‘Le Bernardin’
Maguy Le Coze & Eric Ripert, New York, USA (up 5)

16. ‘L’Hôtel de Ville’ – Philippe Rochat’
Philippe Rochat, Crissier, Vaud, Switzerland (up 11)

17. ‘Tetsuya’s’
Tetsuya Wakuda, Sydney, Australia (down 8)

18. ‘L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon’
Joël Robuchon, Paris, France (down 4)

19. ‘Jean Georges’
Jean Georges Vongerichten, New York, USA (down 2)

20. ‘Les Créations de Narisawa’
Noshihiro Narisawa, Tokyo, Japan (new entry!)

21. ‘Chez Dominique’
Hans Välimäki, Helsinki, Finland (up 18)

22. ‘Ristorante Cracco’
Carlo Cracco, Milano, Lombardy, Italy (up 21)

23. ‘Die Schwarzwaldtube’
Harald Wohlfahrt, Baiersbronn, Baden-Württemberg, Germany (up 12)

24. ‘D.O.M’
Alex Atala, São Paulo, Brazil (up 16)

25. ‘Vendôme’
Joachim Wissler, Bergisch Gladbach, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany (up 9)

26. ‘Hof van cleve’
Peter Goossens, Kruishoutem, East Flanders, Belgium (up 2)

27. ‘Masa’
Philip Aviles, Boston, Massachusetts, USA (re-entry!)

28. ‘Gambero Rosso’
Fulvio Pierangelini, San Vincenzo, Tuscany, Italy (down 16)

29. ‘Oud Sluis’
Sergio Herman , Sluis, Zeeland, The Netherlands (up 13)

30. ‘Steirereck’
Heinz Reitbauer, Vienna, Austria (new entry!)

31. ‘Momofuku Ssäm Bar’
Thien Ho, New York, USA (new entry!)

32. ‘Oaxen Skärgardskrog’
Magnus Ek, Oaxen Island, Sweden (up 16)

33. ‘Martin Bersategui’
Martin Berasategui, Lasarte / Oria, Basque Country, Spain (down 4)

34. ‘Nobu London’
Nobu Matsuisa, London, UK (down 4)

35. ‘Mirazur’
Mauro Colagreco, Menton, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France (new entry!)

36. ‘Hakkasan’
Alan Yau, London, UK (down 17)

37. ‘Le quartier français’
Margot Janse, Franschhoek, South Africa (up 13)

38. ‘La Colombe’
Luke Dale-Roberts, Cape Town, South Africa (re-entry!)

39. ‘Asador Etxebarri’
Victor Arguinz Oniz, Axpe-Marzana, Atxondo, Basque Country, Spain (up 5)

40. ‘Le Châteaubriand’
Iñaki Aizpitarte, Paris, France (new entry!)

41. ‘Daniel’
Daniel Boulud, New York, USA

42. ‘Combal.Zero’
Davide Scabin, Rivoli, Piemonte, Italy (re-entry!)

43. ‘Le Louis XV’
Frank Cerutti, Monaco (down 28)

44. ‘Tantris’
Hans Haas, Munich, Bavaria, Germany (up 3)

45. ‘Iggy’s’
Ignatius Chan, Singapore (new entry!)

46. ‘Quay’
Peter Gilmore, The Rocks, Sydney, Australia (new entry!)

47. ‘Les Ambassadeurs’
Jean-François Piège, Paris, France (down 2)

48. ‘Dal pescatore’
Nadia Santini, Canneto sull’Oglio, Mantova, Lombardy, Italy (down 25)

49. ‘La Calandre’
Massimiliano Alajmo, Sarmeola di Rubano, Veneto, Italy (down 13)

50. ‘Mathias Dahlgren’
Mathias Dahlgren, Stockholm, Sweden (new entry!)

Classification by country:

1. USA, 8
2. France, 7
3. Spain & Italy, 6
4. UK, 4
5. Germany, 3
6. South Africa, Australia & Sweden, 2
7. Denmark, Switzerland, Singapore, Monaco, The Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Japan, Brazil & Austria, 1