18.10.2016 | Words by: Alise Akimova.
Lennart Ylstra (26, chef) and Thor Lunstroo (36, sous-chef) are the creative minds behind the kitchen of Restaurant DS. Those of us who were lucky to have already tried some of their culinary creations in the restaurant are aware that the menu always contains gastronomical adventures. The menu evolves every six to eight weeks due to the creative processes of both chefs. How the development of their exciting dishes comes about is an object of curiosity. On the terrace of the restaurant is where I met them for a coffee on a sunny September morning, to chat about their creative sources as chefs and how that manifests itself on the menu.
Both Lennart as Thor come from diverse backgrounds. Lennart worked for a while in Portugal, as well being a co-owner of a Michelin-star restaurant in Amsterdam. Thor worked for well-known Italian and Mexican restaurants in Amsterdam and during his chef apprenticeship in France and Spain. Their collaboration goes way back: they used to work together at a restaurant in Amsterdam a few years ago, but Lennart always had the idea in his mind that they would end up in a kitchen together somewhere. Then this opportunity to start Restaurant DS came along for Lennart: in Thor he found his partner in crime.
On starting the creative process of developing a dish
Lennart emphasizes, you have to work with the seasons and the seasonal produce. “It is necessary to keep it accessible for everyone; that fact is what you are bound to as a chef. If you want to stay accessible, you have to stay creative with vegetables. It is very easy to just put a spoon of caviar on something and it will naturally taste good, but using vegetables to create a spectacular dish that people are happily surprised about, is the real challenge.” Thor reminisces: “sweet potato that is well prepared does more to you then caviar on a plate, that simply is just good. A good example is one of our previous dishes: the Cévenne onion, consommé, cream of morels, roasted onion, spring onion and thai basil. It was something that was very well received, while it is a fully vegetarian dish.”
On creating an exciting dish from limited resources
“You have to put a lot of attention into in – I see it as a challenge. At the same time you have to keep going”, Thor adds, “and push each other to try new stuff. Re-inventing the wheel is difficult, but it brings a lot of fun with it if you succeed. It is always good to look back to what was successful, and at the same time, try to look forward. Especially if working with vegetables.” “I think we have a very special collaboration, me and Thor, and with the other guys in the kitchen. Our collaboration is special not only because our different backgrounds, but also by who we are. That also has a positive influence on the food – I think we sense each other quite well.”
On various influences
Not only sensing each other well, but maybe also complementing each other through their different backgrounds in the creation of new dishes is something that works quite well. There are a few elements on the current menu, retraceable to the lands of Mexico and the Japan.
Thor used to work for a Mexican restaurant and was able to go on a study trip to Mexico on expenses of the business. Together with a Mexican chef, they went all around restaurants in Mexico, including the best restaurant of South-America (Pujol).
Mole is a traditional sauce served in Mexico, of which you can find a tweaked version by our chefs on the menu. The base exists of bread, corn, nuts, seeds, spices, tomatoes, tortillas, bananas, carrots, onions, dried fruit and more. Everything is added in a different sequence. Traditionally it is served on a corn tortilla where they put the mole on, or even they roll chicken in it, some sesame seeds, coriander and maybe some fresh cheese.
“At first we were experimenting with tortilla-crumbs, and after seeing an online episode about a Mexican restaurant we got more inspired to work with mole. We do serve a more accessible version; if you have the Mexican one, it is more of an odd experience”, Thor explains. “The original one is too intense. In South-America they use ingredients we are not even used to, like palm oil which can very heavy on the stomach.” Thor elaborates: “We were sitting at one of the best restaurants of Mexico City, and my companion said: THIS IS ‘THE BEST MOLE OF THE WHOLE OF MEXICO!’ and the only thing I was thinking was: how can I get rid of this, as soon as possible?” “Yes they nearly put everything in it”, Lennart adds.
As holds for tikin xic: previously enjoyed by Thor in Mexico, now to be found on our menu. Tikin xic is a way of preparing fish from the peninsula of Yucatan. In case you never heard about it: it is a mixture prepared with orange juice and different chilies. In Mexico the fish is traditionally marinated in the tikin xic as a method to preserve the fish as well, used for ages by the indigenous inhabitants of the peninsula. “Originally it is a method for preservation, in our kitchen we use it on the freshest fish as seasoning.”
On Japanese elements
According to Lennart, the umami flavour that penetrates all parts of the Japanese cuisine, is what makes it so characteristic. “It gives a full, rich, fermented flavour without immediately tasting what it can be. Soy sauce, fish sauce, dashi: those kind of flavours, is what gives depth to certain dishes.”
Japanese mushrooms also made an appearance on the menu. “The first three dishes we have on the menu we try to have a vegetarian version, so we decided to use the shiitake mushroom as the centrepiece of a dish in a terrine. It’s a very fleshy mushroom in texture, so that’s when I thought this would be a good substitute for meat.”
On the future
How about the future? “We have red beets and cabbages coming this fall. It seems more like it nowadays, that there is a cold and warm season. After that we will be looking into the warm season again, and see what kind of nice things spring will bring us.” Thor as well is very enthusiastic for what the future holds and would like to keep experimenting and continue toying with special flavours. And almost overstated, “everyone is very welcome to come and try our dishes,” Lennart adds.
Restaurant DS is open Tue – Sat.