on March 14, 2013
In de Waag looks like a castle with fairy-tale turrets but it isn’t. It is however very old and dates back to 1425 when it was built as one of the Amsterdam city gates or it dates back to 1488 when it was the city’s ‘weigh house’. Both can’t be true but both stories are presented on different parts of the restaurant’s website. Who knows which is correct? I can’t help thinking they should pick one and stick to it. If you want to find a combination of ‘old’ and ‘not falling down’ in Amsterdam it’s not so easy but this is one of the buildings that manages to pull that off. I don’t know who built it but you can tell they built it to last.Whilst its past might be rather less glamorous than a castle, once you get inside they’re going all out on the ‘medieval banqueting hall’ look with giant wheel-like candle holders floating above the room. Apparently they have more than 300 candles on the go at any time which is atmospheric but must make a bit of a mess. By contrast to the olde-worlde look of the main restaurant, the bar is much more modern and funky with a high display of moodily lit bottles and glasses. Along one wall they have a fancy wine dispenser system with bottles in a temperature controlled cabinet with some kind of tap arrangement to dispense the win.Two of us rolled in at 7.20, losing our colleague who had dropped us off for another half hour as she drove round in circles looking for somewhere to park. We’d booked for nine in total and bit by bit they all turned up, taking another half hour until everyone was seated. The restaurant staff were remarkably patient with all our messing around, offering drinks as each group arrived and ignoring the fact we were horribly late. We did notice throughout the evening that the staff could only deal with one thing at a time – everything was done in series and nothing in parallel. If someone asked ‘Could I get…?’ the waitress would have shot off before they could say ‘Oh, and can you bring…..too?’I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if they’d taken their revenge by offering typically snail-like Amsterdam service but luckily they didn’t give in to that temptation. Once we were up to eight people they brought the menus and left us to decide what we wanted, returning just as the ninth was popping through the door. I asked the waitress for another two to three minutes and she disappeared just as a colleague called for more drinks. Like I said, one thing at a time. However, aside from being rather too fast to disappear, I couldn’t really have faulted the staff throughout the evening.The menu is presented on what looks like a place mat. There were six starters, six mains, and five puddings as well as two side orders (chips or salad) and a children’s menu with either a burger and chips or lasagne with chocolate fondue to follow. It’s not a big choice and even someone like me who appreciates a small menu was thinking that this might be a bit TOO small. However, it’s undoubtedly a factor in the restaurant’s ability to serve large numbers of people without too much trouble which is an important thing when you’ve got space for 180 people at a time. After placing our orders we were given a couple of plates of brown bread, carefully counted to ensure a portion per person which seemed a bit mean. The bread was served with very green, very tasty olive oil.Starters ranged from €8 for a soup – Jerusalem artichoke and celeriac, no thank you – up to €14.50 for a mixed charcuterie plate. Vegetarians had a choice of the soup or ‘smoked red and yellow beet’ with lentils and potatoes. Beets turn my stomach almost as much as Jerusalem artichokes so I had a choice of two fishy options – slow roasted cod fish with potato salad or salad with smoked salad. The meat eaters had the option of a beef carpaccio. I went for the smoked salmon salad.For mains there was a fish ‘special’ of cod with ‘potato mousse’ (mash to you or me) and courgette and the alternative fish was bouillabaisse, a chunky fish and potato soup. I went for the bouillabaisse along with two other people, a couple went for the cod, my Spanish colleague opted for quiche and I believe a mushroom tagliatelle was ordered somewhere down the other end of the table. I was sadly surrounded by meat eaters who went for the entrecote of beef.The starter was excellent and bordering on the ‘much too big’ although I polished it all off. I’d asked to have the salad without dressing which probably helped keep it more manageable. The fish was allegedly salmon but was a large fillet and looked rather more like trout than a salmon – maybe they bought baby salmons. The fish was quite thick and delicately flavoured and presented on top of what seemed like a crispbread. The salad was mostly lettuce and cherry tomatoes with a few rings of onion, several asparagus spears, the odd green olive and just the one black olive. Nobody else got an olive with a stone in so I guess I won the lucky olive. To one side of the fish was what I initially assumed was a big blob of sour cream or something of that type. Only when I prodded it with my knife did I remember that the dish came with a poached egg. See what I mean about it being a really big starter. I enjoyed it very much.The plates were cleared and the mains arrived about ten to fifteen minutes later. In contrast to the enormous starter, my main was a tad on the mean side. The bowl contained the fish and potatoes and a jug of soup was brought to pour around them. In total I had just two or three quite small pieces of fish, a single scallop and perhaps two small boiled potatoes. The soup was a very typical smokey French style fish soup which I knew as soon as I smelled it wouldn’t be entirely to my taste. It’s just a bit too strong for me. On one side was a small pot of rouille (the traditional French garlic mayonnaise-like accompaniment for fish soupe) and several very thinly sliced and toasted pieces of bread. I avoided the rouille but ate the toasts as there wasn’t really too much in the bouillabaisse. In comparison with the lovely starter which cost only half what the bouillabaisse did, I thought the portion was a bit mean though I wouldn’t really have wanted too much more. To one side of me my boss left most of her cod and mashed potato and though she wouldn’t directly admit it, saying only that she wasn’t very hungry, I think she was disappointed by it. The two steak eaters got a massive piece of meat with a bowl of salad and a bowl of chips and it was noticeable that one had a big gristly bit and the other a big piece of fat. I’m no expert on meat but it didn’t look great to me. Most of the evening I drank water and had just one Diet Coke. The others ordered a bottle of red wine and some beer and I was quite impressed that when the waitress accidentally ‘slopped’ some of the wine on the table, she sent a waiter to bring an additional glass in compensation.I didn’t spot the amount on the final bill but I believe it was around €400-€450 for the nine of us. My starter was €11 which was good value but the main at €22 was a bit overpriced. We all skipped puddings and coffees. From the first arrivals through the the time we all left was around two hours. By Dutch standards that’s practically fast food and I was impressed. We’ve been in restaurants where it took over an hour to get our first courses so In de Waag was very acceptable. If you’re looking for a decent restaurant located in an historic building, nothing too intimate but with efficient service, In de Waag could be a good option. However due to the tiny menu, I would suggest to check online before you go to make sure there’s something that you fancy. I’d also suggest that if you don’t fancy the main courses, try asking for two starters as they seem to be pretty substantial. Prices were pretty much in line with most average Amsterdam restaurants.
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