Last month I had a week off from work, so Rocky and I decided to cross the pond and spend the time in Holland and Belgium. After spending some quality time exploring the canals of Amsterdam, we made our way east to Zwolle to see what Chef Jonnie Boer is cooking up at De Librije.
We made our way to the Zwolle city center, pulled up at the old Dominican Abbey, handed our hybrid over to the valet, then sat down at an ideal corner table in the library-turned-dining room. After some talk about the menu options, we ended up going for a mix of dishes from both the meat and vegetable tastings. We ordered up some special bubbles and got the party started.
First up, a ‘tea’ of red cabbage with dried apricot and cilantro. Subtle earthy start with lasting light spice.
Next, a stunning spread of fish. A wonderful aquatic assortment.
Crisps of sole skin with seaweed and lemon. Puffed anchovy.
Oysters, cucumber and lemon verbena.
Razor clams with sea beans. Local cockles.
Raw Dutch shrimp. Tiny, delicately flavored, almost gummy. A lot of fun to eat.
The mise en place for a one bite beef tartare showed up .
plated assembled on our hands.
A variation of a dish that Boer has been serving for 20+ years. Dutch beef tartare with oyster, oyster cream, herb cream, lettuce, and puffed potato. Maybe unnecessarily novel placed on a hand, but very tasty.
Milk cow, smoked eel, goat cheese, mushrooms and baharat. Strips of dry aged milk cow seared on hot rocks. With slices of smoked eel, braised lemon, some fantastic little mushrooms, and kick ass BBQ potato chips. Arranged on a cow’s shoulder blade with acidic sorrel leaves and dusted with mushroom powder.
Langoustine, vanilla kombucha and pickled vegetables. A ‘ceviche’ of langoustine(in lieu of the typical citrus, kombucha was used to mimic the acid level) rolled in dried bread crumbs. It was accompanied by delightful, crunchy pickles, though I preferred the langoustine better on its own.
Fermented bread from fermented grains(I think..) and goat butter flavored with rembrandt grapes. The goat butter was tart and tangy. I preferred the bread with the butter and oil that accompanied the bread service:
Tulip bulbs, turmeric, black garlic and BBQ celeriac. The celeriac BBQ gelee in the base of the dish was amazing. Superbly intense and vibrant flavor. The greens, which they called lime fingers and said were untreated, had a great texture and salinity. I would have been content with half the amount of the feature. The crunchy, starchy bulbs got boringly redundant.
Monkfish, smoked haddock and vegetables in fermented cabbage juice. The monkfish was outstanding. Luscious, full flavored, and nicely balanced with the savory elements and acidic pickles in the dish.
Tomato, white beans, red beetroot and orange. The disc of white bean played as a great starchy base for the onslaught of tomato and orange acidity. Radish and cress both lent some nice earthy spice to balance the sweetness. A brilliantly dynamic plate.
Roe deer, beetroot, horseradish and elderflower. An insanely tender roe deer loin with a stew of the leg. Along with light, floral elderflower and angelica yogurt. The beet and deer paired seamlessly.
Toasted chocolate, pistachio and green cheese. A really swell combination. Nutty, not too sweet, with light spice from the cheese. Small crisp wafers and boozy raisins were nice additions.
Strawberries, Japanese knotweed, water mint and honey mascarpone. The berries with the honey mascarpone and a minty foamy sauce were tremendous. The dish had a lasting red curry spice just strong enough to keep it curious.
Chocolates themed after four flavors of the tongue. Bitter – coffee. Salty – hazelnut. Sweet – vanilla. Sour – passionfruit.
Some mignardises… A very minty chocolate pudding topped with a hard piece of cake. Caramel yuzu lips. A box of lovage chocolates.
Oranges dried in an oven and made into ice cream. With mascarpone. The tart/creamy combination was really solid.
And to finish.. edible ‘joints’. Made from various herbs(mainly mint I think), oil, and white chocolate.
And to drink.. a stunning bottle of 1989 Jacquesson.. or at least part of the bottle. Not too far into the meal I was told there had been an accident with my wine. I don’t know if it tipped over in the giant ice bucket or if someone poured it off for the wrong table. The guy said it was their last bottle so he couldn’t replace it, but told me they would make up for it. They presented a few options. The two I liked were to open another vintage of Jacquesson or a bottle of Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre, which I had mentioned as an option at the start of the meal. After talking with Rocky, I asked for the Raveneau. A few minutes later a bottle of Raveneau showed up, but it was Butteaux. Since three people by now had told us they were making up for losing our Champagne, we rolled with it. We had maybe half the Jacquesson and a third of the bottle of Chablis. Both bottles were charged on our check at half price. Not too great of a way to make up for a mistake.
Date of meal: July 1, 2014
De Librije. Broerenkerkplein 13-15. Zwolle, Netherlands +31 38 421 2083 www.restaurantdelibrije.nl