Note: Vak Zuid was taken over by new management in 2013, closed down, and re-opened as stylish restaurant and cocktail bar “The Oyster Club”.
Yesterday I was treated to a real delight – a personal 7 course chef’s menu at Vak Zuid. I know Ard, one of the two chefs of Vak Zuid. And when we arrived for dinner on a relatively quiet Monday night he pulled out all the stops and prepared an unforgettable, personal 7 course menu that took us through all the great food on the menu of Vak Zuid.
Vak Zuid is somewhat hidden inside the Amsterdam Olympic stadium, in the former south spectator section (hence the name Vak Zuid, or section south). While not easy to find, Vak Zuid’s location is spectacular, embedded in the vast core of the 1920s built brick stadium. The restaurant is pleasantly large with a main dining room for 150 people, a lounge as well as private rooms upstairs. The interior is spacious and decorated in a modern design dominated by red, black and brown. The large windows towards the inside of the stadium where we could see the athletic track and the soccer pitch in the floodlights are a great feature.
The food at Vak Zuid is an interesting well balanced combination of French and Asian, mostly Thai and Vietnamese. Vak Zuid opened its doors in the late 90s at the height of the fusion hype. While many other fusion cooking restaurants have closed, Vak Zuid has thrived by continuously perfecting the blending of French ingredients and flavors with unusual southeastern Asian companions.
But back to the wonderful 7 course dinner!
We began dinner with Shrimps Emping – a starter that I would not usually order myself and that positively surprised me in many ways. Emping is the Indonesian name for bitter nut crackers that at Vak Zuid are lightly sweetened and spiced up with a slight chili kick. Formed into a waffle shape, they were filled with a combination of Dutch shrimps and crayfish in crab mayonnaise. The fresh and chewy crayfish worked really well with the soft and tasty Dutch shrimps.
The Shrimps Emping were followed by a Thai Beef Salad. The beef was thinly sliced and prepared in a super hot wok. The beef was served on a mixed salad with cashew nuts, avocado, and coriander. The dressing – a soy based chili dressing – was flavorful and present without tarnishing the other ingredients. The salad was a great continuation of the shrimp starter – building on its freshness and adding spice and substance. The Thai beef salad has been a long time crowd favorite. Staff told us that attempts to take it off the menu practically led to riots from the regular clientèle.
The 3rd course was equally great but completely different. It was a thick bisque, softened and at the same time thickened with coconut milk and garnished with scallions and corn. Like the first two courses, it’s a great example of west meets east – a very traditional French bisque transformed into a much more exotic dish by the coconut milk that is the basis of many southeast Asian dishes.
The next course was a real treat and the presentation and description caused enough excitement to forget about taking a picture as for all other courses. It was a combination of roasted guinea fowl with Peking duck stuffing, served with udon noodles and hoisin sauce. The guinea fowl was very tender and juicy and worked really well with the spicy minced Peking duck meat stuffing.
By now we were feeling quite full. So what could be better than being surprised with a lemon sorbet with vodka and champagne? The sorbet was very refreshing and fun to drink with all its champagne induced ice cream bubbles. And it worked as expected, giving our stomach a chance to digest and our taste buds an opportunity to prepare for the next unexpected combination of flavors.
Then the highlight of the evening arrived – Tempura Vak Zuid, half salmon and half tuna, rolled raw in seaweed, covered in tempura batter on the outside and deep fried briefly, just enough to fry the batter and sear the tuna and salmon lightly on the outside leaving it raw but warm on the inside. The tempura was served on perfectly cooked green asparagus – tender but with a bite – and sticky rice.
The 7th and last course was dessert. Finishing in fusion style, we enjoyed a lemongrass flavored creme brulée with fried banana that happily shared a plate with a rich and slightly moist baked chocolate cheesecake.
All food was wonderful and perfectly executed. It was both traditional and innovative, like comfort food of the 21st century. And even though you might not be treated to a personal 7 course chef’s tasting, I highly recommend a trip to Vak Zuid. The interior is stylish but also comfortable. The food is interesting and well executed. And the service is attentive and knowledgeable.
The kitchen at Vak Zuid is open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner. It is closed on the weekend when Vak Zuid opens as a club until the early morning hours. You can find Vak Zuid at Olympic Stadium 35
or online at www.vakzuid.nl.