Michelin experience: Ratatouille, Haarlem
We were not planning on eating in a fancy restaurant. We wanted to have a quick meal, Japanese preferably since we’ve just visited a Japanese ship. But all the Japanese restaurants near the port were either only open for diner, eat-all-you-can or in the centre of Amsterdam. But it was 1PM and I was already starving.
“Why don’t we just drive to the nearest city. Haarlem, maybe? I’m sure we will find something open there,” I suggested.
So we drove to Haarlem but it was such a shitty weather and we couldn’t find a parking space. We drove to the centre of town and while passing by the canal, I spotted the signage of Ratatouille with the image of a rat hanging on the brick wall of an old, brown building.
“We could eat there,” I told my colleague pointing out to the building with red door and windows (I love red doors), thinking of feasting on a plate of vegetables. We had to cross a small bridge and do a tricky turning maneuver before we could go back to Spaarne street and park nearer the restaurant only to walk under the rain.
“It looks very close,” my companion said.
“Yes it does. Ah too bad,” I agreed while pressing my face on the door. I saw a dimly-lit dining room but several tables were occupied. “But there are diners inside,” I said. So we walked in, the waiter took my coat off and led us to a free table. We ordered water and some drinks and then I excused myself and went to the toilet passing by the open kitchen of the restaurants. Young kitchen staff were busy slicing some fruits and carefully arranging them on a plate. They were wearing white gloves.
I suspected that I must have chosen an expensive place which was not the agreement because that lunch was strictly budgeted. I echoed my thoughts to my companion but I also thought it might be just a nice restaurant with a really good service. I surveyed and admired the interior of Ratatouille, the exposed beams and exhaust pipe, the small glass ceiling from where pots of plants were peeking and the brick brown walls. The building very old and I love it that the owner (or interior designer) decided not to hide the flaws and imperfection of the old walls. Blow up close ups of the restaurant’s dishes hung on the wall.
The waiter came with our drinks and asks us for our order. I asked for the menu but he said they work on a set menu. I was already worried. “My boss is going to kill me,” I though thinking of the price. But we decided to go ahead with the cheapest option (probably), a two-course menu.
Like what we always do, we chatted with the waiter about the restaurant. I gave my compliments about the decor and the coziness of the place and my colleague asked if the restaurant was housed here for long. He said they just moved in this building a few months ago but they opened in 2013 and went on talking about their chef, Jozua Jaring.
“Just after turning one year, we already got our first star last year,” he proudly announced.
Oh shit! I thought. I wanted to walk away but we ordered already. You can understand that in this troubled economic times, you wouldn’t want to be dining Michelin-style for business lunches. But I couldn’t do anything anymore so just brainstormed about plans and changes for next year, plans that I am very excited about because it involve travelling to my favourite country.
Anyway, back to the food. Our amuse was a sort of tapenade with truffle cream followed by a swordfish (or was it mackerel) prepared ceviche-style with a drop of wasabi, basil sorbet and slices of horseradish.
Our main course was wild pheasant (pictured above) with tamarillo cream, sauerkraut, Brussels sprouts, kale, blood sausage croquette and most interestingly, a sort of loempia filled with pork belly. The pheasant was so tender while remaining moist.
We had fun dissecting the contents of our place and guessing the ingredients and flavours that touched our palate. Our favorites would be the basil sorbet in the appeteizer and the blood sausage croquette and loempia in the main course.
But I think the sauerkraut don’t really have a place anymore to that plate of pheasant. It does not compliment any of the ingredients, which were already too crowded for such a small dish.
We were apparently very engrossed in the conversation and the meal that I completely forgot to take photo of the dessert. It’s called Peer Belle Héléné, pear with chocolate mousse and vanilla ice cream. Divine. Just divine without being cloyingly sweet.
I’ve enjoyed my meal with a glass of Mas Mascort Cava and a supple glass of 2012 Anne Pinot Noir. The wines at Ratatouille were affordably priced. My Pinot Noir, if I remember it correctly, was only €4,50 and it was a very good wine.
The cons? I found the portions too small. (Or was I just too hungry because I only had egg sandwich for breakfast five hours earlier?) The restaurant really was too dark for dining. You’ll notice it with the photos here, which were taken with my iPhone 5s. My phone has a very good light sensor but of course I didn’t use the flash. That’s disrespectful to other diners.
I would love to come back to Ratatouille. While writing this blog, I Googled the prices. I found them very reasonable for a Michelin star restaurant. A two-course meal starts at €28,95 and up to €84,95 for an eight-course meal. Besides, the wines really were cheap.
Maybe I should meet up with a friend who lives there.
P.S. I am quite excited about the new the Michelin guide 2016. I wonder which restaurants in Rotterdam would get (or lose) a star. I am rooting for De Harmonie and HMB Restaurant (review soon). They are predicting that Joelia will get one or maybe two stars. My heart swells with pride for my city, Rotterdam.
Ratatouille Food and Wine
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