Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ciel Bleu

Typically we are skeptical of restaurants located at the top of high-rise buildings. Sometimes when the emphasis is placed on the view, it takes focus away from the food. We had come across Ciel Bleu’s web site prior to our trip to Amsterdam but had hesitated, given its proclamation of having a stunning view from the 23rd floor of the sophisticated Hotel Okura. When we arrived in the city and realized our options for a Sunday night meal would be few and far between, we decided to give Ciel Bleu a try. Thank God.

Ciel Bleu enforces a dress code: jackets for the men and “something nice” for the women, as J was told by the hotel staffer making our reservations. Despite our fatigue from a long day wandering around we did it up, and arrived at Ciel Bleu ready for a drink.

Within minutes of our arrival we were sipping on champagne and trying to decide between 4, 5 and 6 course menus. With a promise of a cheese plate and some lavender foam on the 5-course we made our selection and sat back for what would be four unforgettable hours. That's right, four hours!

Ciel Bleu has proudly held a Michelin star since 2005, and our experience there clearly demonstrated why this amazing restaurant has been bestowed with this prestigious rating. The staff members were polite and attentive but not overbearing. They graciously described each course in English, including the fabulous surprises thrown in along the way.

The evening began with three interesting and delicious little treats to get our tastebuds warmed up and ready for what was to follow.

Amuse Bouche
Amuse Bouche - Banana Crisps with some type of savory cream, Salami and crisp cheese

Amuse Bouche
Amuse Bouche - Cheese Crisp

Old Amsterdam Cheese
Amuse Bouche - Old Amsterdam Cheese

This cheese was so tangy and full of flavor. Cheese and crispy texture was the apparent theme throughout the three amuse bouches.

Red Beet Gelee with Bacon
Red Beet Gelee with Whipped Bacon Cream

The bacon cream got salty just at the point when the red beet gelee kicked in and provided refreshment like sprinklers on a hot summer day.

Grilled Langoustines
Grilled Langoustines with Ginger and Vanilla, Coulis of Roasted Sweet Red Peppers and Thinly Sliced Pata Negra Ham

J absolutely adored the whisper-thin ham and langoustines.

Pike Perch with Beet
Pike Perch Fried on the Skin with Beetroot, Black Truffle and Frothy Sauce of Potatoes and Leek

J loved that the skin was nice and crispy against the delicate fish. I loved that beets could look so beautiful. This was edible art at its best.

Partridge and Foie Gras
Roast Redlegged Partridge with Melted Foie Gras, Cep Crostini and Jus of Roasted Chestnuts

Comfort food meets decadence. Seriously, look at this lineup: the thinly sliced cep crostini, wickedly delicious foie gras, and delectable chestnut jus. This is the kind of course you should eat by a roaring fire, with snowflakes falling in the moonlight.

Cheese Platter
Cheese Platter

Once again, by the time we made it to the cheese plate, we were foggy from the bottle of wine we just devoured and therefore we forgot the details of the line-up. Regardless, we kept it going by ordering a glass of Sauternes and a glass of Port to pair with this amazing plate of cheese.

Ice Tea Meringue and Lime Rum Popsicle
Ice Tea Meringue with Blueberry, Lime and Rum Popsicle with Exploding Sugar.

The Popsicles were like Pop Rocks in our mouths. If the duck represented winter, then this little extra was like the Fourth of July: lemonade and fireworks.

The meringues didn't do anything for J, but I found them to be a lovely little juxtaposition of sweet, crunchy meringue and tart berry.

Pastachio Parfait 2
Soft Biscuit of Pistachio with White Chocolate and Parfait of White Chocolate, Marinated Clemintines and Lavender Froth

Wow. Typically we can do without white chocolate, but this dessert was positively charming. The marinated clemintines and lavender froth kept the chocolate from being too sweet, and the pistachio gave it a nice firm body.

At the end of the evening we were one of the last tables in the restaurant, and we'd successfully had one of those meals that changes your relationship with food. There are meals you can plunk a lot of money down for and sort of feel cheated at the end, and then there are meals like this one that are worth every penny (or euro) because you know how much heart and soul went into it. Meals like this are about so much more than just eating. There is eating dinner, and then there is a culinary experience that makes you feel like you have a personal relationship with the person (or people) preparing your food.

Ciel Bleu
Hotel Okura Amsterdam
Ferdinand Bolstraat 333
1072 LH Amsterdam, the Netherlands


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