by Jennifer Miller
Imagine eating dinner inside a house made almost entirely of glass. The walls are eight meters high and one can see vibrant gardens, nesting storks and rows upon rows of tall climbing vines, strung with leaves and laden with tomatoes and melons. You also can see right into the kitchen. This is De Kas, one of Amsterdam’s most unique restaurants, where agriculture is an art form.
De Kas has been an Amsterdam must-see for some time now; having been set to be demolished, Michelin-starred chef and pioneer of Dutch haute cuisine Gert Jan Hageman bought the property back in 2001. The space, which dates back to 1926, used to function as a municipal greenhouse in which the city cultivated the flowers and plants that decorated its public spaces. Today, De Kas serves 800 to 1000 guests a week. Much of the food comes from the on-site gardens, which include roughly 70 different herbs and vegetables. The menu changes weekly and all the food is cooked the same day it is harvested.
According to chef Bas Wiegel, the restaurant is about keeping things simple: "We clean the vegetables, marinate them, roast them, and then serve them," says Wiegel. "When you do much more than that, you lose most of the flavor."
Further, only seasonal foods are served each week. "We follow what nature does, so there’s no asparagus in December," explains Wiegel. There is an anti-supermarket, conveyor-belt-style mentality at De Kas. Westerners are used to seeing fruits and vegetables homogenized, but as Wigel says, "not all tomatoes have same size, same color, same shape—that’s what nature gives you."
When Cool Hunting visited, the fare included green pointed cabbage, zucchini, fennel and much more—proving that only serving produce that is in season doesn't mean meager choices. Stand-out dishes included a red perch fillet with braised green chicory, pearl barley risotto with celery leaf and a smoked tomato sauce, and a slightly salted, cold watermelon soup with fennel seed, marinated red fruits, basil yogurt ice cream and an almond tuile. Obviously the real joy of De Kas is that those same dishes may not appear on the menu again, but some other seasonal masterpieces will replace them.
For opening times and reservations, visit the De Kas website.
Images courtesy of De Kas