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

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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

The Roast Chicken Bar & Egg Store

It is Mother’s Day and the family decide that they should take me to dinner to celebrate. It is a gorgeous 24 degree, sunny evening and many Haarlem families seem to have the same idea. Luck is on our side – as we find an available outside table at The Roast Chicken Bar on the Turfmarkt. From here we can enjoy the activities happening on the Spaarne River, with the background sounds of the girl duo performing at the restaurant.RCB

So to clear things up. During the day, this old garage venue is The Egg Store – specialising in egg dishes obviously. In the evenings the eggs disappear and the venue becomes The Roast Chicken Bar with grilled, half or whole, chickens served with a variety of side dishes. The Roast Chicken Bar also offers a very impressive variety of g&t menu, which I will be making return visits to rate!!

The venue is hipster, the servers are young, friendly and know how to make the customers happy, and the food smells delicious. For five people (including an 8yr old) – we devoured one whole grilled chicken (€19) with sides of fries, coleslaw, bread, corn and pineapple-mustard MENUcompote. We needed to ask for plates, as most of the customers where happy to just eat from the serving dishes. It is that kind of relaxed, almost picnic-in-a-restaurant, kind of place.   The chicken was tasty, the coleslaw pink from the beets, the fries moorish, and the bread a little hard.

Our total bill came to €45 – which included five non-alcoholic drinks.
Recommended as a fun eating place to go with a group of friends or the family. chicken

De Ark – Book your place.

Coming across a ridiculously cheap 3 course meal arrangement on SocialDeal for De Ark – I decided that it was time to try this inner-city institution loved by Haarlem’s inner city dwellers. The deal incorporated an unlimited choice from the extensive menu for only €16.75. Definitely too good to pass up.

The restaurant is situated in a tiny street close to the Frans Hals Museum. From outside it appears limited to the bar and a few tables, yet the restaurant spans three rooms over the top two floors of the building. It is old style – think lots of wood and large dubious paintings.de ark 3

FOOD:

Entrees:

Onion Soup – a thicker and sweeter version of this french classic served in small ceramic bowl.

Scampis – six prawns cooked in a garlic cream sauce, served with bread. Tasty and rich in flavour.

Mains: both main meals were served with salad, french fries and sauces.

de ark2Salmon Fillet served with rocket, pine nuts and slivers of parmesan cheese. Average.

Spare Ribs- a choice of plain or spicy. Three substantial racks marinated in a sambal sauce to produce a spicy, but tasty ping. Moorish – as ribs tend to be.

Desserts:

Tarte Tatin – served warm with vanilla ice-cream. Delicious mix of apple, cinnamon and melting ice-cream.

Cheese Plate: three Dutch cheeses on offer, served with fig bread, basilico sauce, and berry confit. Lovely way to end the meal.

Overall: “Gezellig”. Service was friendly and suitable for a relaxed neighbourhood restaurant. Food was satisfying and of an acceptable standard – so much so that we are planning to revisit with a larger group. Total cost: €33.50 for 2x 3 course meals + €19.95 for a bottle of Spanish temparillo + free drinking water.de ark

The Golden Bull: Grab it by the horns!

bullThe idea of going to a steak restaurant in the Netherlands is not something I would usually agree to. Although there are plenty of Dutch cows, the local cuisine does not comprehend ‘beef’ – in any format except as mince meat. So on Friday night (with an IENS restaurant voucher in hand), we set off for an evening at The Golden Bull http://www.thegoldenbull.nl/ with low expectations.
The restaurant was warm, sparsely decorated, and very full. Tables are typically close enough that if feels correct to greet the people of the tables next to you. The staff were polite, knowledgeable and offered a professional waiting service not seen in most Haarlem restaurants.

FOOD

Entrees:
Lobster Soup: rich, creamy bisque with generous morsels of lobster.
Caprese Salad: fleshy round balls of mozzarella, with basil and tomato – dressed in a very decent balsalmico dressing.
Mains:
Argentinian Rib Eye steak (approx 230g) served with salad, and side dish of wide fries and mayonnaise. Steak as ordered was medium rare, soft and succulent – and oozing enough of its own juices to be authentic and delicious.
Dessert:golden bull
Crème Brulee: An art piece, that the waiter caramelized at the table. A beautiful end to the meal.

OVERALL
The bill for two people came to €96 (€30 Iens 3 course meal + a glass of prosecco + merlot malbec, €49 Iens 3 course with wine arrangement, bottle of sparkling water).

The food, wine and service at The Golden Bull is of a standard above what is usually on offer in Haarlem. The wine menu offers an adequate selection to accompany the dishes on the menu. The wine was decantered at the table with a suitable explanation. The service was impeccable. The food was delicious. What a delightful surprise!!

(NB borrowed photos)

Back to Basics – should include good service.

Thursday evening and Back to Basics http://www.pizzeriabacktobasics.nl/ were so busy that they had back-to-back bookings. We were seated in between the toilet and the kitchen, after waiting for our table to be cleared of guests and then having a quartet of young, ill-mannered women make a break for the now-empty table, leaving behind the least desirable table in the restaurant, which we were then seated at. Not a good start, but someone has to get the dud table.antipasto
Okay moving on.   The restaurant interior is cozy and relaxed. The wood-fire pizza oven sits in the middle of the restaurant, oozing the lovely smell of pizza cooking. Staff were initially friendly, then inattentive and careful to avoid all eye contact with guests. Naturally this resulted in delays in ordering, delays in individual meals reaching shared tables; hassle in ordering drinks; and by the end of the evening, an total lack of enthusiasm for dessert.

FOOD:
Vegetarian Antipasto (€9): a beautiful display of individually crafted and delicious pieces. The stuffed pepper on a bed of polenta was very good.
Tagatielle with Mushrooms and Eggplant: the homemade pasta seemed overcooked, which gave the dish a sloppy feel – although the mushrooms were flavourful.
Pizza Carfiofi (€12.50) – simple pizza with artichokes and black olives
Pizza Pera E Pancetta (€12.95) – with pear slices, walnut pieces and rucola (rocket)
Both pizzas were acceptable – uncomplicated, with light sprinkling of toppings. We both felt that more pizza sauce was needed.
We chose an easy-drinking Pinot Grigio (€21) to accompany the meal.

pastaOverall: The service was a problem that might be solved by adding more experienced wait staff. The meal was fine, although not worthy of a return visit.

pizza

Wijn & Co – for a pleasant evening

Since my last visit to Wijn & Co http://www.wijnenko.nl/, this wine bar + restaurant has moved to the Turfmarkt and won the 2015 Wine Bar of the Year as voted by Grootspraak. Needless to say they have an impressive wine menu and on the night of our visit sommelier, Cathy, was moving between tables discussing the specifics of the selected wines.
Our choice of restaurants for the evening was based on an Iens restaurant arrangement for two three course meals for the price of one. In Dutch, “twee halen een betalen”.   salmon

FOOD:
Entrée:
Tandoori Salmon pieces served on a pappadum with leafy salad and beetroot. Beautifully presented plate. The tandoori flavour was delicate and a little overpowered by the taste of mayonnaise from the accompanying sauces.
Mains:
Sea bass fillets served with grilled asparagus, cheese croquettes, paprika salsa and grilled eggplant. Perfectly cooked fish, deliciously partnered by the vegetables and salsa.
Duck: perfectly cooked duck fillet slightly let down by an absence of accompaniments.
Dessert:
Cheese Plate consisting of three tiny slices of cheeses differing in type and taste intensity, served with fruit bread and crackers. Aesthetically pleasing but too little cheese to appreciate the individual flavours.

Overall: The location of new Wijn &amp makes for a perfect pre- or post- dinner walk along the Spaarne River. Staff are a little remiss at times, yet generally professional and friendly in giving service. My choice of a Gruner Veltliner may not have been the experts choice to accompany the dishes I ordered, yet proved to be a delicious drop. My partner went for the wine arrangement with three different wines, that he agreed were apt choices to compliment the dishes. Our total bill came to €58.51 (one gratis three course meal + 1 wine arrangement (3 glasses of wine) + 2 glasses of prosecco + 2 glasses of Gruner Veltliner (€5.75each).   A lovely evening of wining and dining!

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