Envy is at once a chic, yet unpretentious cozy little restaurant in Amsterdam. Focusing on small plates, it’s the perfect hip place to discover new flavors on your own, have an intimate date or fun gathering of friends. I was very happy to be hosted to experience it! The restaurant has been awarded the Michelin “bib gourmand” award, but dress is casual. Like many other restaurants in Amsterdam, there’s no music in the background.
Envy is on Prinsengracht (“Prince’s Canal”), down the street from the Anne Frank house. The restaurant is low lit with copper lamps, in a long, narrow fish hook shape. If you desire after dinner drinks, you head to hook part and are allowed to smell and hold the whiskey you order, just like being a guest in someone’s home. Diners can sit at long, high tables on stools or in booths. Dark woods abound. Not only is there an open kitchen, there’s an open fridge! The glass door refrigerator lines one side of the restaurant: it’s filled with wines, little fresh garden and farm produce.
Their young but intensely knowledgeable and well-trained server recommended as an aperitif granita gin and Prosecco with tonic. It’s served with a citrus muddler that you use yourself and garnished with lemon. The refreshing drink is sweet and citrus-y in the drink, not heavy on juniper.
The restaurant was developed after Italian meat shops that offer samples and little dishes of the products they sell, though there’s no retail. However, they do serve luscious Dutch sausages in a wide variety of seasonings. On a charcuterie plate, the Dutch sausage — in black pepper flavor — has some chew in the meat and casing. It isn’t overpowered with black pepper. Rather, the Dutch sausage has a subtle, deep pepper flavor that comes out. It’s a drier yet fatty sausage. Here’s a little bit more information about them: “Brandt & Levie is run by three former chefs from different top restaurants. They traveled around Italy for half a year looking for the secrets of the best butchers. Now they make their own sausages just outside Amsterdam. For their sausages they use Dutch pigs and the finest herbs.” If these were available at home in the US, I’d sit around with a plate and a sharp knife during tv time and just go to town.
The other charcuterie on the plate like rich Iberico ham and fatty, tender Mortadella provide texture contrast.
For the bread course, there were several types: thick rye, dark wheat with pumpkin seeds, a crunchy white. The breads were served in thick slabs with large salt crystals to sprinkle on — the classic ancient sign of hospitality.
A starter plate on the chef’s tasting menu included a little timbale of Angus steak tartare with purple sesho micro leaf, spring onion, mustard and thin pumpernickle crouton. I was unfamiliar with sesho: it’s a cinnamon flavored cress. It was oniony with a hint of spice and pepper. The sesho adds an interesting flavor dimension.
Also on the plate was a bit of house-smoked salmon wrapped in shaved cucumber. It was lightly smoked and the clean salmon flavor came through. There was another timbale with shrimp, zucchini, sweet lemon meringue, ruby red tomato cube, basil micro leaf, gelee’, baby dill with stem. The shrimp was poached with an Asian savory flavor. The creation was an inventive mix of super sweet and sea/umami notes. Also, the combinations of textures was nothing short of art.
Additionally, the plate featured a hot shot of pumpkin soup. It was salty, savory and rich, not seasoned in the ho-hum predictable pie seasonings that chefs in the US would do.
I also tried a Dutch raw oyster, Zeeuwse Platte. They’re fairly large and very, very meaty!
Drinking various wines from around the world with each course, I noticed that they have particularly elegant glassware, with extra long stems. They bring to mind the Dutch favorite flower, tulips.
The next course was sea bream served with beurre blanc foam, caviar, cauliflower, pureed potato, chives and minced cucumbers. The fish was beautifully cooked: crispy skin, moist inside. Sea bream is a thinner fish filet. It was fresh and sweet. I have relatives who always order fish and some who never order it. This was so tasty, I’d highly suggest that even if you aren’t particularly a “fish” person, give it a go. Order the fish!
The next course was surely composed in the heavens: foie gras two ways. One was baked cooked and the other smoked. I never had smoked foie gras before! The dish was served with Jerusalem artichoke cream, green apple batonnets and gelee’. It was sweet, salty and smoky all at once, with the salt highlighting the sweet. The smoky aspect is like a campfire, not like artificial smoked hickory seasoning. The dish goes well with sweet moscato, which I was drinking.
The next course was Angus beef tenderloin presented with beet carpaccio, beet powder, parsley and port. With this dish, you want to drink a smoky, sweeter, stronger red wine. This would be perfect for Valentine’s Day. The beef is served medium rare. It was tender, “beefy” beef, beautifully seasoned.
There were no weak or throwaway courses in the chef’s tasting menu.
For the cheese course, Envy served Fontina Val D’Aosta, blue cheese from Langue D’Oc and a Dutch white cheese with micro holes and a bit of spice. It might have been a sheep’s milk cheese. The cheese was presented apple syrup and raisin bread.
For dessert, I had a dish that combined Seckel pears, cinnamon caramel, poached pears, ginger bread, chilled gelee’, crisp wheels of cinnamon bread, pear gelato and a spicy cinnamon mint leaf. I personally have always loved that combination. If you’d like to try it at home, order the cinnamon pear caramel topping from Sanders and try it with fruit, cake and ice cream.
Their coffee presentation is lovely: little dishes of white and raw sugar crystals, dark chocolate covered peanuts laced with white chocolate.
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