XIXO Gastrobar Vietnamees

Reviewing a restaurant in its first week of opening is setting the stakes very high, but discovering a new Vietnamese restaurant in Haarlem was an eating experience I didn’t want to delay. Friday night and two of my children happily joined me at XIXO Gastrobar Vietnamees on Kleine Houtstraat.viet1

As the first diners of the evening we were made very welcome by our capable and friendly waitress. The décor in the restaurant is simply stylish. The menu has all the Vietnamese favourite dishes and the smells from the kitchen definitely brought back memories of our times in Vietnam.

FOOD
Beef Pho – I have tried many versions of this classic Vietnamese noodle soup dish in the Netherlands and am usually disappointed. This pho dish had the correctly combined soup flavours, succulent thinly sliced beef, and expected accompaniments (noodles, herbs, bean sprouts, lime, chilli). I’m not a beef ball fan, yet acknowledge that the balls are included in many restaurants in Vietnam. Due to my spicy palate, I asked and was given the sauces I needed to make the soup exactly what I wanted. I would like to have more fresh herbs available to add to the soup.
BBQ Beef & Noodles – Very delicious slices of barbecued beef served on a bed of nut and rice noodles, with a salad and separate bowl of fish sauce based dressing.
BBQ Pork & Noodles – The pork had been marinated and minced and barbecued on a skewer. The pork skewer was served with the same accompaniments as the previous dish – and included a sliced spring roll. Aromatic, fresh and tasty.

SUMMARY: We were also treated to a plate of barbecue spare ribs by the restaurant. Total bill included one glass of wine, a bottle of water, a bottle of lemonade = €44.50
We will be returning to XIXO and hope that in the months to come they continue in their mission to serve authentic Vietnamese food to Haarlemers.

Facebook link only: XIXO Gastrobar Vietnamees

Cups and Leafs – Tea for Two

logo_websiteLunch on a rainy summer Monday was a good reason to visit Cups and Leafs – located on the corner of Zijlstraat and Gedempte Oude Gracht in Haarlem’s main central shopping area. For myself and my lunch partner, this was our first time to Cups and Leafs, which opened for about six months.

The tea house/café interior is well-light, spacious and tastefully decorated with tea memorabilia of an Asian influence – credited to joint owner and tea expert Xiao who originates from China and a strong culture of tea drinkers. I arrived a few minutes early and was welcomed by Xiao with a tiny cup of tea. Unfortunately my lunch partner missed this lovely welcome ritual as she arrived at the same moment that a small group of new customers entered the café.

FOOD: The menu is expansive offering breakfast, wraps, salads, sandwiches, cheese-tea combinations, dim sum items (mainly dumplings), muffins, cakes, coffees and a plethora of black, white/yellow, oolong, green, herbal, flowered, flavoured, iced, frothed – and traditional teas seeped to strict guidelines that enhance the individual characteristics of each tea.Cups and Leafs

I chose a fresh lemon and ginger tea, more of a warm drink without actually tea, which was refreshing and matched the weather perfectly. I opted for the Japanese bbq beef wrap with beef, mixed salad, coriander, red peppers, black sesame seeds and a sauce. Although it didn’t remind me of any Japanese flavours, it was fresh and tasty.

My adventurous friend decided to try the blended chocolate black tea, presented to look like a chocolate sundae complete with whipped cream. To eat, she enjoyed a chicken bacon avocado multigrain roll – minus the bacon as it was unavailable at the time of ordering, and a side order of dim sum dumplings. She reported being happy with her choices and that she enjoyed her lunch.

SUMMARY: Great space, friendly but somewhat slow service, a wide menu of fresh foods with an Asian slant making Cups and Leafs a special venue to enjoy breakfast, lunch or a pick up cup of exotic tea with something sweet, dimsum morsels or cheese. Total bill: €26.

The Gin Sum Club

g&tAfter much anticipation, The Gin Sum Club(TGSC) opened its impressive doors eight weeks ago. Located on the corner of Zijlstraat and Gedempte Oude Gracht, evidence of the previous tenants, Rabobank, adds charm to this otherwise totally morphed building. New to Haarlem, the interior of GSMC is perhaps something you could expect to find in London, NY or Berlin. Slick, upmarket and urban.
Having made a reservation for Saturday, our party of four were seated at a table adjacent to the open kitchen – a comfortable, but very noisy position. The staff are well-versed in selling the restaurant vision and describing the menu. The blurb about a vision of sharing meals instead of traditional one plate-one customer dining – is a growing restaurant trend in Haarlem – and something that often (in my humble opinion) results in a very expensive evening with the need for a snack on the way home.

FOOD:
We ordered five plates from the dim sum menu: Veggie Gyoza (€7.50) with truffles and gsc4mini mushrooms; Crispy Chicken Gyoza (€5.25); Thod Man Pla Dumpling with lemongrass and ponzu (€6.75); Spring Rolls with duck, shallots and hoisin sauce (€8.25); and Fried Wontons filled with smoked eel and duck liver (€9.00). All dishes provided four pieces, were delicious and made on site. Accompanying sauces were correctly matched to the ingredients. Presentation was beautiful.

From the sharing menu, we enjoyed a Japanese style salad of yellowfin, dashi, cucumber, and citrus flavours (€13); Rendang gsc2Steak Tartare with ginger and Asian vegetables (€13); and Pork Belly with prawns and kimchi (€13). Again – all three dishes were delectable and aesthetically pleasing – yet being the size of an average entrée only provided each member of our group with small spoon size portion to taste.

DRINKS:
The gin menu is the focus of TGSM with 40+ types of gin (ranging from €5.50-€11.50 per serve) and 18 types of tonic (€3.25-€4.75) and a plethora of garnishes to match the whims of every guest. All gin drinks are served in a tall glass with a stirrer holding a small piece of dry ice – that fizzes and emits a cloud of smoke when the tonic is added. This is a magical effect!
TGSM also offers a menu of cocktails, beers, wines and non-alcoholic drinks.

OVERALL: Our total bill came to €168. This included a bottle of sparkling water, 8 g&ts, 5 dim sums and 3 entrée-size share dishes. Yes – everything was delicious, the service was very good, and the venue was amazing …. yet we were all felt a little underwhelmed. On reflection, the reason being that we had expected a restaurant experience – and although TGSC has a restaurant, it is more bar/club than restaurant. The leather chairs that furnish the ‘lounging section’ are perfect for comfortable conversation while sipping on a fancy g&t and nibbling on dumplings. Next time, we will eat first and come later to enjoy and indulge what TGSC offers.

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photo:  www.iens.nl