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.
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.
Saturday evening and Olive Tree House was fully booked. Simply decorated with large photos of old olive trees decorating the walls, the restaurant has a warm ambiance that is enhanced by the delicious aromas coming from the open kitchen. The staff were delightful – attentive, friendly and easily managing the needs of the guests.
After sitting, we were brought a carafe of mint/lemon water and a selection of bread with a dipping bowl of olive oil/balsamic vinegar. Entrees:
Grilled Scallops (€14.50) – perfectly cooked scallops served on a marinated salad of carrot, mushroom and zucchini and decorated with truffle (grated and oil). All entrée descriptions looked delicious, but for us this was the winner. Beautifully presented and delectable. Mains:
Fresh Fried Calamaris (€18.50) – in a delicate batter and combined with marinated grilled peppers. This delicious mix of octopus and peppers was dressed in a basil pesto and served on a potato cake. Wonderful combination and the best calamari I have tasted ever.
Roasted Lamb (€21.50) – succulent pieces of lamb, accompanied by artichoke hearts and mixed in a sauce of lemon juice, greek yogurt and herbs. Desserts:
Bougatsa(€7.50) – this traditional greek pastry decorated with cream and cinnamon. Light and moreish.
Greek Yogurt (€8.00)and Figs cooked in brandy – delicious combination of flavours and a wonderful end to a meal.
SUMMARY: An amazing dining experience with delicious food and great service. Our total bill with a beer9€3), a glass of wine(€4), a bottle of Mancura (house) wine (€20) and a AH voucher for a free 3-course meal came to €72.50 (without voucher: €105.50).
A Saturday night arranged by friends who had discovered a coupon for Parels (€25 for 3 courses)– found us eating in a busy restaurant situation along the Oude Groenmarkt. Parels has an outdoor terrace, small bar and narrow inside section – and at a guess, is able to seat 100 guests. Service is provided by young staff with flipping ponytails and too much attitude.
Tuna sashimi: beautifully presented, with a sesame-dressed seaweed salad. Soya dipping sauce. Wasabi was missed – albeit needed to compliment this plate.
Carpaccio: this dutch restaurant standard was up to par.
Smoked Salmon Tartaar: Aesthetically pleasing, yet lacking in real flavour.
Prawn kebab: one kebab with eight marinated and grilled prawns. Served with salad (same as entrée salad decoration with extra leaves added) and fries. Delicious prawns.
Beef steak: with high expectations, this steak again proved that Dutch restaurants are poor competitors in the beef world!
Sole: served with salad and fries.
New York Cheesecake: served with red berries sauce and yogurt ice-cream.
Lemongrass and Coconut Parfait: looked beautiful but tasted like a cup of cream.
Scroppino: dessert drink – again missing flavour.
Overall: Very average dining experience. Staff a little sloppy. Male toilet unacceptably dirty. Food – nothing amazing. One bowl of fries as the stated accompaniment for three main meals was tight; salad re-hashed for mains was disappointing; steak substandard; desserts boring. Although the total experience was parallel to dining experiences offered at other restaurants along this busy strip, – and good value at €160 (including wine) for four people, Parels can not be recommended for anyone seeking looking for a gustatory treat. http://www.parelshaarlem.nl/