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

Cantina 023 – la comida is fantástica (really delicious!)

Last Saturday night, we visited Cantina 023, Haarlem’s newest tex-mex restaurant on Kleine Houtstraat, number 13. Due to the disastrous visit to Popocatepetl a few months previously, my expectations of a tasty Mexican feast were running low.
Saturday at 8pm and Cantina 023 was overflowing with clients. The décor is modern, upmarket Mexican – rather than the usual tourist-fodder that decorates many Mexican restaurants. Dimmed lighting with lots of wood and funky wall decorations.  As with many of the restaurants along this Haarlem strip, tables are a little too close together – making it difficult for waiting staff to serve meals to all customers. Noise levels made conversations at usual volume almost impossible.

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FOOD
Naturally the evening started with a round of margaritas. Authentic, strong flavors served in the smallest glasses I have ever imbibed this popular drink from. Yes the taste was absolutely right, but serving a classic margarita (€6.50) in a martini glass and then in a tiny tumbler – made it more of a large shot rather than a cocktail
Al Pastor House Tacos (€16.50): three small flour tacos filled with slices of pork, mexican coleslaw, pineapple salsa, white cheese, salsa verde, pink pickled onion and chipotle crema. Guacamole, grated cheese, salad, sour cream, chilli dips served on the side. Super fresh ingredients and flavors. The marinate on the pork had a more Asian than South American taste – but nicely complemented the dish. Beautifully presented.
Barbacoa Burrito (€16.50) : Large wrapped burrito encapsulating chipolte marinated shredded beef, black beans, onions, salad, coriander-lime rice, cheese, sour cream, roasted peppers, pico de gallo (salsa fresca). Delicious and satisfying. Condiments on the side as above.

OVERALL: Cantina 023 has only been opened for a short time and seems to be still experiencing some teething problems. The service on the night of our visit was terrible. The smiling waitresses weren’t too concered about drink orders taking 30minutes to arrive, second drink orders being forgotten, and mixing up meal orders. BUT – the food was fantastic! Definitely worth a visit.

UPDATE:  Return visit made to Cantina 023 on 20 January 2016.  While the food remained fantastic, the service on this Wednesday evening was terrible.  We waited for two hours for our meals (without the complimentary corn chips being offered).  The restaurant was not busy.  Disappointing return visit.

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The Green Papaya

I love Thai food – and have visited the other three Thai restaurants in Central Haarlem regularly over the past few years. For some reason, Green Papaya never made it onto this list.   This will now be rectified.
So Thursday evening we visited the Green Papaya without a reservation. The restaurant, well-lit and decorated with Thai holiday memorabilia, was less than half full when we arrived at 8pm. It filled with regulars a little later in the evening.
Staff were friendly, polite and appropriately attentive.

FOOD
Entrée
Grilled spareribs (6) served with sweet chilli sauce and cucumber. Simple and tasty without being oily. Could have used more salad decorations.

Mains
Stuffed tofu in a green curry sauce with bamboo and basil – Delicious, rich flavour, although adding more coriander would have given the dish added colour.
Prawn and squid stirfry with chilli, onion, stringbeans – fresh, great combination of flavours and heat.

Overall: Reminiscent of eating in a local restaurant in Phuket. For two people including two Singha beers and a bottle of white wine, one entrée and two main meals with steamed rice, bill came to €56. Fine thai home-cooking in a relaxed setting. http://www.greenpapaya.nl/

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ML – the taste of Art.

This weekend included a ‘date night’, which would sound scary if it wasn’t for the fact that our combined ages is getting very close to 100. My husband, never a great bargain hunter, announced that he had found an amazing deal at a Michelin star restaurant in Haarlem Centrum – and that we would be dining way above our usual comfort zone.

ML restaurant is indeed a beautiful restaurant. Lushly decorated, spacious, with correct consideration given to both lighting and sound. The staff wear crisp white shirts, grey jackets, dark jeans and slick hairstyles. They are professional, knowledgeable – without being intrusive.

The deal was a five course tasting menu with matching wines. Unfortunately I am unable to detail the food served on perhaps ten plates (per person). Each plate was edged with beautiful food decorations – all aesthetically delightful, yet too delicate and small to satisfy the tastebuds.  For example one of the tasting plates exhibited tiny cucumber pieces, artfully cut in different shapes. Simple and still providing the regular taste of cucumber. The wines matched the food – an easy task due to the lack of strong flavours.

Although I appreciate fine dining, I still want to walk away with “delicious” being foremost on the list of words I use to describe the experience. Especially at €220 (tip included) for two people. Many people will disagree with this review. Yet I stand by my opinion that the most spectacular art belongs in galleries, luscious food in restaurants, and good service in both.

Overall, the meal was more an exhibition than a gustatory experience.  http://www.restaurant-ml.nl/index.php/en/

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