Restaurant Anna is located in the oldest part of Amsterdam -- dating back to the Middle Ages -- which now happens to be part of the infamous "red light district". In fact, cars and taxicabs can't quite approach the restaurant on its ancient, narrow streets.
The restaurant spans two buildings, with the older, cozy section being wildly popular. The picture windows look out to a section of the city built in 1525. In back, there are light, wooden plank floors, cement gray stucco walls and copper lamps. Lighting was a mid-level, subdued but not furtive.
I was very glad to be hosted to be able to experience it! It's a casual yet special place to eat; lots of friends were eating in groups. Dress seemed to be divided between chic and folks wearing nice sweaters. There's no music at the restaurant, but rather, lots of lively conversations.
They sent out several rounds of prettily arranged amuse bouches. One plate had a mini tomato cupcake with basil frosting. The cupcake reminded me of a Civil War dessert recipe I tried once, with hints of cinnamon and cardamon. It was the perfect amuse size and had a brilliance of flavors: it was unusual, with sweet/salty/savory notes. The cupcake was presented alongside little tiny cheese twigs and dip. It was a very creamy, mild dip with hints of a savory flavor like anchovy or fish roe. Also on the plate were very smoky, roasted and salted almonds.
Restaurant Anna filters its own water, so you can get still or sparkling water for free. I was told that Holland is known for having some of the best water in Europe to begin with.
The house aperitif is a sparkling Chardonnay/Pinot Noir/Sauvignon Blanc from Chile: it had a yeasty, toasty flavor that goes well with savory foods.
For the bread course, there was a choice of three breads, one of which was housemade. I tried that one, of course! It was nutty, with pumpkin seeds. Breads at Restaurant Anna are served with artisan butter, crushed and crunchy salt, olive oil and pepper.
The menu is very inventive, with a mix of fish, game birds, red meat, offal. There's even a tongue in cheek aspect with some of the dishes, such as old-school, 70's style steak with ketchup! My grandmother and Richard Nixon would have heartily approved.
Another amuse bouche was sent! It was a deep fried goat cheese ball with micro onion leaf and onion puree'. I've always loved the combination of cheese and onion, usually getting it in a potato chip or pierogi. This amuse was made with a mild goat cheese . . .it was fun, like a fried mozzarella stick, but with more flavor and softer texture.
And then, another amuse was sent! Hamachi sashimi with micro greens, yellow and red beets, caviar had powerful Asian flavors, but a cleanness to it, too.
Restaurant Anna absolutely has fine dining level of service in a casual setting. Also, presentation is well thought: even minimal elements are done with precision.
I then tried the truffle risotto served with sautéed veal cheek, poached egg and foam of forest mushrooms. The poached egg -- like many of the eggs I tried in Amsterdam -- had a deep orange yolk. There were bits of grilled and toasted onion, adding sharper counterpoints to the rich, fattier flavors. There was lots of veal in the dish, so it wasn't a super starchy starter.
For my entree', I ordered the grilled veal fillet with crispy fried sweetbreads served with an open ravioli filled with ‘rookworst’, confit of artichoke and fried cauliflower and a foam of Parmesan cheese. The 'rookworst' was a smoked sausage, which added that smoky contrast to the other meats. The ravioli underneath was a tender disk of pasta. The mix of flavors, from mild to smoked, along with mix of textures from meaty to foam, made for a beautifully balanced dish. It was served in a deep, round plate. The veal was lovely: served rare and tender, with good marbling and a nice cut. The roasted artichokes with snipped parsley added interesting grassy notes to the dish. The sweetbreads -- a generous portion -- were thick, crispy outside and tender inside.
After this rich dinner, I was served a refresher of gin and tonic granita with a mini tarragon panna cotta. The potent tarragon panna cotta reminded me of the famous tarragon chicken salad that was served at the American Cafe' . . . remember the Georgetown/takeover of Towson's Schaefer's/Baltimore's Inner Harbor institution? The granita was cool, icy and definitely refreshed the palate.
For dessert, I ordered the New York cheesecake with marinated figs, pear mousse, compote of apple and hazelnut ice cream. Oh, I know what you're thinking . . . all the way in Amsterdam and ordering New York cheesecake? Can we agree that New York used to be New Amsterdam? At any rate, I'm really glad I ordered this dessert. I originally ordered the dessert because of the apple. I was near the end of my stay in Amsterdam and I realized I really hadn't sampled much in the way of the famous Dutch apple flavor! The dessert is large enough to share, by the way. The figs were potently flavorful, with manly seasonings. The ice cream was rich and full of flavor. As I was eating this sensual dessert, it reminded me that I was in the red light district!
There was a post-dessert, too . . . petit candies! One was a nut fudge, one a nougat with candied fruits, a chocolate ganache filled with dark chocolate mousse.
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