Two weeks ago I was forced into the role of the Restaurant Finder. In Amsterdam. I haven’t even lived in Amsterdam since 1989. Also, we lived at the Weesperplein, which is outside the horseshoe-shaped grachtenring and far away from the stretch of the Singel between the Dam and the central station, where my party was waiting in a hotel for my expert guidance. I should have asked my friend where I had spent the night for help, I should have refused, I, ah well.
If you live in a big city, you will likely pick your restaurants according to one of the following principles: either you say something like “I’ve gone by that new Indian place at the Utrechtsestraat, it actually looks neat, shall we go there and try it?” (we did, and I found a five-inch nail in my curry). Or you say: “I’m too lazy to cook, let’s roll down the stairs and eat Chinese.” Or you are already in the middle of a city stroll when you walk past a promising restaurant; suddenly you feel hungry; you enter. The one thing that probably doesn’t happen too often is that you start walking in order to look for someplace to eat.
So there I was, walking a small group of elderly people through the center of Amsterdam in an area where I, even 19 years ago, wouldn’t have had a clue where to eat anything decent (especially not where to “maybe eat something Indonesian” as my dad suggested). Before we even came close to the Eastern restaurants in the old city, people had walked too far and were beginning to get hungry. Perhaps they also mistook me for a Restaurant Rejecter (see my previous article), which I am not, and got nervous.
So we collectively decided to do the only thing I knew one should not do: we entered one of the restaurants along the Damrak, the tourist mile between the central station and the royal palace, and ordered schnitzels, lamb chops and omelet.
The food was bewilderingly inconsistent. The schnitzels were too small and yellow for their price. No idea which chemical plant answers for the crust. The bit of pork inside the crust, on the other hand, was indestructible. Good stuff for pavements and thresholds. From where I sat I couldn’t see the omelet so I won’t say anything about it. Witnesses say that it was “…good.” My lamb chops were plentiful according to Swedish standards: four rather thick chops for sixteen Euro. They were juicy, nice and fresh everywhere except where they were charred. They were mostly charred. The French fries were as boring as at any fast-food restaurant and the salad was nothing to speak of, either in volume or content. Just don’t eat any food in the royal mile of Amsterdam (and beware of pickpockets).
Well filled with charcoal and oh-so-dead pork we walked on and, within ten minutes, we had walked past at least four large Eastern restaurants. Just not my day.