Restaurant Review: W36, in Amsterdam

It's all about lighting, folks
It’s all about lighting, folks. At W36, they got it right.

When I’m on tour, I almost always seek out food and drink specialties of the region, leaning on locals for advice.  My Dutch friend Annemieke poured cold water on my wishes in Amsterdam when she said in her cute little Dutch accent, “Most of our specialties you don’t want to eat in a restaurant…they’re things you only want my mother to cook for you: mashed potatoes, roasted meats, foods to warm you up.” Since the invitation to Mum’s house never came, I did a little research online, and found a gem of a restaurant that opened just last week.

Called W36 (short for the street address, Warmoesstraat 36H), the restaurant (www.W36.nl) sits on a curving, cobblestone street mere blocks from the main train station, and is billed as a “BBQ Grill,” though it not what anyone who has been to an American BBQ restaurant would envision. Still, meat is art here, as evidenced by the meat hooks lying on one of three artfully lit chopping blocks behind glass, in full view of guests as they are guided into the beautiful dining room.  Seafood is also on the menu.

After sampling it, I’m convinced that the House-Cured Arctic Char with beach shore greens salad, caviar, paper-thin crystallized lime slices, and a lemon dressing was designed specifically for the Laurent Perrier Brut Champagne I drank with it. Wow! The acidity of the lemon, the delicate taste and surprising crunch of the fresh sea greens, and tender fleshiness of the fish all worked together so well, but one sip of the Champagne with the dish made me simply glad to be alive!

As a Sommelier, I’m always tempted to figure out my own wine and food pairings at a restaurant, but I usually sit back, and let the house Somm do his or her thing. At W36, I decided to following the Somm’s lead with the Ned Pinot Noir*, from New Zealand, which was delicious on its own, but was a bit flat with the course he’d chosen it for, Smoked Duck Breast with foie gras cream and beet terrine.  This dish, at €15, was simply ridiculous! It could have been half the size, and I would have been happy, or maybe even happier, because I had a rib-eye steak to save room for!!  I did what I could, and I’ve never had duck so perfectly smoked and salted on the outside. The mild foie gras cream, and sweet beets that accompanied were perfect counterpoints, and the dish was sublime.

*The wine list description of the Ned Pinot Noir states: “Like the perfect man, it will make you scream “Yes!!”  Isn’t that hilarious?

At W36, Steak is King, with several options as to cut, size, preparation, sauces and sides. I went with Dry-Aged Rib-eye char-grilled, with two sauces on the side—bone marrow, and truffle–all deftly prepared, and cleverly presented. Pure decadence, though only €28 and enough to feed two of me.

On the home page of the W36, they make a claim that clearly resonated with me as I dined: “Mixing Flavours like Music.”  This was even with the absence that night of the live dj that spins most nights.

Service was great—friendly, attentive, informative, non-cloying, and efficient—and the food and wines were great on their own, and very decently paired.

If your plans find you in Amsterdam, go to W36.

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