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Image 1: Amsterdam may not have any 3-star restaurants, but it has plenty of high-quality establishments. And the one that’s generally considered to be the best of them is the Ciel Bleu (Blue Sky) restaurant, situated on the 23rd floor of the Hotel Okura. And, as I happened to be staying at the Okura for a business conference, what could be more natural than to check it out for myself? So, here I am.
Image 2: A quick ride to the rooftop ended in this elegant, but slightly dark and mysterious, entrance – a big contrast to the rest of the hotel.
Image 3: I was led by a receptionist to the lounge area, where they served an amuse bouche.
Image 4: I couldn’t deny that the view was spectacular!
Image 5: I sat and enjoyed nibbles in the stylish lounge area with its panoramic view of the city. It reminded me of Geranium, a 3-star restaurant in Copenhagen, which has a similar setup.
Image 6: The waiter arrived with a heavy metallic menu and an elaborate set of…
Image 7: … amuse bouche. This exotic-looking collection consisted of (front) a dish with polenta plus corn, radish and lovage, plus (rear) artichoke and ras el hanout (a mix North African spices).
Image 8: On the slightly dangerous-looking spiky white serviceware was a cone filled with tuna and shitake jelly, while on a piece of paper printed with the restaurant name was…
Image 10: The dining room turned out to be similar to Geranium, too – well-lit by windows along one side and with the kitchen on the other side. The service here is very professional - every guest is treated like a VIP. In fact, they’re so careful when serving that they put on white gloves even when handling the menu! As I was clearly dining alone, my waitress asked if I would like a magazine or book to keep me company. Very thoughtful!
Image 11: There was even a discreet reminder that guests should avoid talking on their phones, as it can disturb other guests. Very considerate. I like it!
Image 12: First up was poached oyster from David Hervé’s famous oyster farm in France, wearing thin slices of chorizo iberico, hazelnut and radish. I loved the fatty and creamy oyster, even though it was a bit weak on flavour. Surprisingly, even the chorizo was very mild – though maybe I’m being a bit over-picky here.
Image 13: The second course was visually unique, as both the plate and the food were black and white. A circular crispy roll had been filled with king crab and a bit of preserved lemon, then covered in beurre blanc ice cream and topped with Baeri caviar. Finally it had been garnished with gold foil. A great dish to look at, for sure - but I wasn’t too keen on the unusual combination of sweet crunchy shell, fruity lemon, savoury king crab, buttery cream and salty caviar. Stylish course, yes, but not one for me, I’m afraid.
Image 14: Warm bread came with olive oil and salted butter.
Image 15: This vivid dish of langoustine with tamarillo tomato sauce and cream of chimichurri on a bed of flora jelly. The langoustine had a superbly moist and creamy texture, though I found the flavour a bit weak. Still, it was an enjoyable and refreshing plate – I particularly enjoyed the acidity of the tomato.
Image 16: Now onto warm seafood - a mixture of sea bass and cockle in a broth of pointed cabbage, finished with drops of parsley oil. The perfectly-cooked fish was moist and flaky with a beautifully crispy skin, while the cockle carried the deep and rich flavour of the sea. The tiny, crunchy pieces of samphire added a wonderful burst of freshness. Amazing!
Image 17: Another fish plate, consisting of a small piece of sole covered in an even smaller piece of eel and hop shoots. Again ,the fish was expertly cooked. The sauce had a nice sweetness from amontillado, which worked well with the intense eel flavours, while the crunchy hop shoots provided an excellent textural contrast. Another high quality course!
Image 18: A beautiful-looking main course was Roe deer fillet with small black olive dumplings, walnut gnocchi, and juniper berries. And if you like your food gamey, you’d like this, because it was gamey in the extreme. Much too much, in fact, for my taste. I tried, but the smell was so unpleasant and overpowering that I gave up after three bites. In the end, I left the food almost untouched, and politely explained why to the waiter. He said he understood, and removed the plate. Then, to my surprise…
Image 19: …a short time later, a plate of A5 Wagyu from Kagoshima arrived as a replacement for the venison. According to the menu, it was an extra €45 for the Wagyu option, and it was an excellent touch to offer it to me without charge. Well, I could hardly complain now! After all, this was proper Japanese Wagyu – which is always a winner.
Image 20: The even marbling of meat and fat resulted in a melt-in-the-mouth sensation, coupled with a burst of rich beef flavours. I just closed my eyes and gave myself up to enjoying every bite of this extraordinary meat! Perfectly seasoned too!
Image 21: After such a superb main course, I didn’t expect to be even more impressed with the next dish – but I was! This highly creative pre-dessert had been made with goose liver, coffee, rhubarb jelly, cocoa, and hazelnut. Using foie gras as pre-dessert is pretty brave, but it worked here - in particular, the lovely aroma of coffee bounding all elements together. A sophisticated, yet beautifully-balanced, mix of flavours.
Image 22: A genuinely incredible bite! Creamy, nutty, aromatic, delicate, rich, sweet. . . what else could you want to pamper your palate?
Image 23: First dessert - a thin strip of icing sugar printed with the course and restaurant name! Not overly sweet, as you might expect – in fact, it was very palatable. A nice mix of textures, from nougat, cranberry, citrus, almond, and pistachio.
Image 24: And now the last course of the evening - a complex dessert of banana, peanut, brown rum, vanilla, and Gianduja chocolate. You can probably tell that it had a great texture, from the different layers topped with honey crisp.
Image 25: Once again, I was glad the dessert wasn’t overly sweet, the main sweetness coming from banana.
Image 26: Before I left, I was invited to take a tour of the kitchen area.