prego part deux (mmm++) mixing it up

Herenstraat 25, Amsterdam
(020) 638 0148

food: 7.5 out of 10 (very very good with some strange exceptions)
service: 7.5 out of 10 (related to the food rating)
decor: 8 out of 10 (as always cosy and comfortable...)
mmm rating:
A return to a restaurant that you had a great dinner in before is always a bit of risk. Will it be as good as last time? Will you be awed and delighted by the flavors the way you were before, or are you setting yourself up for inevitable disappointment?

Or am I being melodramatic?

Just before we arrived we made a wish that they would seat us in the same place as the last time. On the upper level, next to the window where you can peek into Amsterdam backyards and where you can also view the whole restaurant. To my (our?) delight, our wish was granted and they gave us this fabulous location due to a cancellation.

As always, I made note of the people eating alone (something which makes my heart lurch despite the fact that these people may really prefer and enjoy this solitary indulgence) since I imagine that they would much rather have company.

All this aside, I had done some research earlier in the afternoon in terms of ordering aperitifs. I usually feel at a complete loss when asked what I want to drink before dinner. Should I order water and risk being sneered at by the server all the while knowing I shouldn't really care what they think about me? Or should I order some old fashioned concoction like a whiskey sour? If so, is this an appropriate before dinner drink? Oh the dilemma.

I decided to resolve my quandary by doing a little research (aka Google and Wikipedia) on this topic and decided that I needed to try Campari with soda (lots of soda was recommended) *or* Lillet (which is French and sounds indulgent although I have no idea what it tastes like). I ordered the Campari with soda, which was indeed bitter, and did require considerable watering down to become more palatable. But it was ... "refreshing".

Our fellow diners arrived and we quickly selected our dinner to come... for me grilled sardines as a starter

Italian sardines from the grill with pickled lemon,

braised peppers and parsley

and then tuna

Sauteed tuna with brandade, tomato sauce and a

tempura of prawns and black olives

This time, I didn't sample much from A's plate so I won't comment on his selections. As for my own meal, the sardines smoky and tender, and the peppers and balsamic sauce provided a really great contrast (egad, I was going to say, "counterpointed the oiliness of the fish... " how snotty!) It was quite delicious.

The tuna was excellent (perfectly cooked) and had the unexpected extra of tempura asparagus in addition to the prawns. Unfortunately, the accompanying mash (the brandade) was so salty it was actually inedible. So I didn't eat it and it was excellent.

Sadly, this is where the "not as good as last time" comes in, since one of our dinner companions ordered the so-called tame duck. (We —ok, I— envisioned a duck named Jack that sits next to you on the couch while watching television, who you feed bits of chips to until his time is up... At least a bit more humane than fois gras.)

Tame duck breast with green asparagus, tagliatelle and

a sauce with morilles

which did not come with asparagus but with some fairly mushy, bitter spinach. The explanation that they had run out of asparagus did not make sense given that I had unexpected asparagus. So. Unfortunately, we didn't mention the absent asparagus until after we finished dinner, but no apology or adequate explanation was made. Pity. Otherwise I would have given an 8 for food.

I added a negative to the evening by mentioning that I think that morilles resemble brains, which resulted in a look of disgust and nausea from one of our dinner companions, who would then not try any of her husband's mushrooms. (Have I said that you can dress me up but...)

My dessert consisted of a tiny perfect lemon meringue pie and a delicious blob of some sort of frozen thing which turned out to be champagne sorbet.

So... at the end of the evening, the dinner had many delicious highlights, very personable service despite the whole asparagus episode, and some disappointments (e.g. if you are going to make a substitution of something that is quite clearly written on the menu, it would make sense to convey this earlier rather than later. For example: "You ordered chicken but we didn't have any left so here's some fish" or, less dramatically, "You ordered the dish with asparagus, but we have substituted it for rather overcooked spinach despite the fact that your dinner companions have asparagus.")

I will go back to this restaurant since the overall experience was very nice. And if the wrong things are on my plate, I will send them back with a smile.
the difference between morille and brains
the difference between spinach and asparagus

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