In the ever-changing culinary world, many chefs are forced to constantly develop their cooking to match the increasing expectations of the guests, guides and other media. A dish that has just been created is outdated the next day, and the pressure that comes with ever-changing menus can be quite something. This often results in stress and in some cases, in chefs that are losing their identity.
Yet, there are a few who stick to what they like, and know. Amongst these is Thorvald de Winter, who together with Gaylord, his brother runs Apicius in the tiny village of Bakkum, not far from Amsterdam. Its a small, but fine restaurant that is stylish yet relaxed in its decor. Sitting in the cosy room, you feel welcome and can just let everything go, in order to enjoy the food and wine. Despite this, Apicius is far away from being as well-known as other Dutch restaurants. Some people don't like the restaurant and that is in a way understandable. It is a place for people who can appreciate the quality of products, and don't necessarily look for the adventurous experiences one can have at the Librije or Oud Sluis. What Apicius does very well, is use products of the highest quality and serve them fairly simply. The menus don't seem to change and awful lot, but if it is that good, why should they?
Most of them are fairly classical in the approach, yet highly original. One such example would be a scallop dish. A few pan-fried scallops are simply served with smoked eel, shellfish and cauliflower. It is not a dish that re-invents the wheel, but then again it doesn't claim to do so neither. It's much more a seriously delicious plate of food, where you have a great balance in flavours and textures. The same goes for a turbot with cepes and pecorino. A piece of extremely fresh turbot is simply presented with a few accompanying elements. What stands out here is the precise timing, the intensely earthy flavours, and the slightly unusual combination of the fish with pecorino. It is a great creation that seems original even if it doesn't fall back on countless molecular gimmicks. A final example of Thorvald's cooking is his lobster bisque. It is of such intensity, that it truly is hard to beat. Served pretty classically in a silver cup, you only have the bisque and a few pieces of lobster meat. Yet, you don't miss a thing, as this dish is all about concentration and complexity. The flavours could not be more precise, delicious and complex. It is almost like a distillation of pure lobster taste. A truly glorious classic!
For those who think that this is not enough, have a look at the wine list. Here you will find a selection that is unparalleled in price and offer. As Gaylord is a huge wine lover, he has slowly built up a list that can rival that of any three-star in the world. You have all the Coche-Dury you could ever hope to drink and Ramonet, Sauzet, DRC, Chave, etc complement it beautifully. However, that's not it, what makes the list even more interesting, is that the prices are at times well below retail, and make such wines suddenly more or less affordable. That is what makes Apicius a truly great place, the fact that it is not "a museum" in the words of Gaylord, but rather a restaurant where you are encouraged to order a great wine and truly enjoy yourself!
Apicius has many evergreens that are more or less always available. Whilst most chefs constantly change the entire menu, Thorvald serves his classics alongside new creations, which makes Apicius interesting for regulars and people who come for the first time. Combined with the relaxed and warm atmosphere, this restaurant is truly a great place to come for a fine bottle of wine (or two, or three) and some seriously good food. No more, no less, but that's pretty good isn't it?