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06.02.2019 | Words by: Alise Akimova

On a Tuesday in January, the installation by Children of the Light in Restaurant DS circulates calmly yet drone-like above our heads, as a shot from a science-fiction movie. A beacon of light, as well as rustling sounds of pots and pans, resonate from the open kitchen across the high-ceilinged, high-windowed restaurant area. In this setting at Restaurant DS, you can eat a set surprise menu of three, five or seven courses, all based on local produce and seasonal products. As we comfortably nestle ourselves at a table right in the middle of the restaurant, we have a chat with Restaurant DS sommelier Nina about the winter and its bulbs, kales and turnips, and as there is something actively shady in the concept of asparaguses for sale mid-January at local Dutch supermarkets. As Restaurant DS embraces seasonal and local produce, it will appear to be also a manifestation of the diversity of nice local products that the Netherlands has to offer.

That local vegetables and seasonal produce is used as much as possible, will be apparent pretty soon, as various forms of the gloriously earthy Dutch roots will be embraced. First, we try a dish of Dutch ricotta with pearl barley, celeriac purée, kale and seaweed served with a light and sour sauce of apple and kale. Sparkling with freshness of the sour and umami notes, yet comfortable due to the creaminess of the cheeses and the purée it makes a winning starter, even more as the dish is elevated by the complementing beer pairing. When eating seven courses, it is also nice to try some other beverages then seven different glasses of wine, right? A light golden biological yellow beer, in saison-style with forgotten Dutch herbs, from the eastern Dutch town of Nijmegen is served with the starter. Historically, a saison is a golden beer that was brewed in winter season and contained extra hops in order to preserve it for longer periods after winter. The hoppiness of the saison nicely complements the pearled barley bits and the tanginess of the Dutch ricotta. Furthermore, this beer has been fermented through exposure to the air by wild fermentation.

Wild fermentation occurs when microbes naturally found in foods or in the air are used to initiate the fermentation process. The rotting, therefore, is not controlled but occurs by all the microbes and yeasts that fly through the air. A beer from the east of the Netherlands tastes essentially different than a wildly fermented beer brewed in St. Petersburg. This is one of the essentials of food pairing that is most intriguing: in this case, ricotta in the Netherlands is produced by a fermentation process that occurs as the milk curdles and acidifies. Essentially the same microbes and yeasts that are circulating in the air in the Netherlands that ferment the ricotta, also contribute to the fermentation of the beer. It is always nice to become aware of the fact that flavours can not only pair on a subjectively or personal level, but also on a microbial, more cellular level which speaks to the inner corners of the soul.

From the Netherlands in January we descend a bit further to the North African spheres. In an ideal world, a dish is innovative enough that everyone likes it, but not so avantgardistic that it deters people. This comforting dish appears to be that: the velouté of onion is sweet and savoury, with a puree of Jerusalem artichoke, enveloping over a smoked date, spiced lentils, nasturtium and a crumble of fried onion are full-flavoured, sweet and comfortable.

Followed by a plate of ceviche of scallop (fish marinated in an acid), served with a granité of green apple is like a happy scallop is taking a walk in an icy mountain in Japan, gloriously fiery with slices of green jalapeño. The intriguing and mysterious shiso leaf also makes an appearance in this dish - a lot can be said about this little green Japanese herb, however, the best is to taste it yourself. The fresh dish reveals a warm yet fresh flavour due to the shiso leaf that is not only citrussy in its flavour but also tastes like warm spices. Subsequently a codfish – a pre-eminently seasonal fish – is served with roasted leeks, Dutch shrimps, eggplant cream, beurre blanc, soybeans – a fish that is firm yet seductively falls apart when gently sliced with a knife.

Happily, for vegetarians, the options are not too shabby either. The vegetarian dish consists of a stuffed taco of cabbage made from a cabbage intriguingly called Bloemendaalse gele – meaning that the cabbage originates from a small Dutch seaside town of Bloemendaal. Apparently, this town is not only known for its beach bars in summer, but also for its flourishing cultivation of its original varieties of savoy cabbage in winter, traditionally farmed in sandy soil behind the dunes. It is served with a cream of pumpkin, powder of black trompette de la mort mushroom and a sauce of mole. Mole is a quintessential Mexican sauce and consists of a broad spectrum of ingredients. Many variaties exist of this sauce, and as every abuela from Oaxaca claims she makes the original version, the ingredients could include bread, corn, nuts, seeds, tomatoes, tortillas, bananas, carrots, onions, dried fruit, chocolate, avocado leaves and more. 

Last, desserts (yes, plural!) is a sorbet of blood orange, in season from December through March, is fresh and light, finished by crumbly shortbread and a lovely torched meringue. The other dessert is always a surprise but it surely is rich and chocolatey, as well as a real treat.

These comforting dishes at Restaurant DS definitely sooth the winter's cold grip on the city for me.

Restaurant DS is opened Tuesday – Saturday. Reservations can be made online or over phone
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