Summary: De Japanner in Amsterdam West serves up really well-made Japanese snack food ranging from the classic to the innovative. Although it’s a little pricey, the uber cool vibes, well appointed bar, and expertly executed dishes make it worth at least one visit.
This past Friday after work Bogdan and I met up in Vondelpark and decided it was about time we check out De Japanner West. It’s on a corner of the Bilderdijkstraat across from one of my all-time favourites Troost.
Often when sitting at the Troost patio we looked over wistfully at De Japanner – from the outside it looks really cool. Once inside you realize that coolness is a conscious choice here. Japanese paper lanterns cast a red glow across a cramped interior where grown hipsters of all ages and Amsterdam’s apres work creative class rub shoulders. We came in around 6:30 on a Friday and the only seats available were at the bar – so you might want to reserve in advance at peak times.
With a total of 18 items the menu is simple but well-rounded. It’s Japanese late night snack food so what you’ll find is a menu composed of sharable choices including classics like edamame, salmon and beef tataki, gyoza stuffed with kimchi or wagyu beef, and fried shrimp rolls, as well as a nice selection of more inventive dishes like herring sashimi (a nod to the Netherlands’ abiding relationship with herring), ika (squid) french fries, bone marrow steak tartare, yuzu cheesecake, and uramaki (inside out sushi rolls) stuffed with beef and kimchi or green asparagus.
There’s also an impressive selection of sake and interesting cocktails. Not feeling very adventurous I opted for a glass of sauvignon blanc while Bogdan got fully in the vibe with a house recommended sake that wasn’t on the menu.
Since the menu is manageable we didn’t have much trouble deciding on a range of dishes to share. The server at the bar helpfully informed us that the dishes appear on the menu in the order they’re served – lighter to more robust.
We ordered the cold soba noodle salad (buckwheat noodles in a sesame dressing with wakame seaweed salad, dried strips of nori seaweed and fresh green onions on top), the gyoza (both the kimchi and wagyu beef varieties), the ika french fries, the ebi fry roll, and the yuzu cheesecake.
The gyoza were really good. Not your run of the mill mystery meat filling. The filling flavours were very distinct and captivating. The soba noodle salad was also delicious – it has a remarkable amount of flavour for a dish served cold. It was way better than I was expecting which doesn’t happen often.
The ika or squid “french fries” were by far the star of the show for me. Rather than the nacho-esque squid-topped-fries I was expecting, they were just calamari – but calamari done absolutely perfectly. Tender with a crisp coating. Perfect level of seasoning. Perfectly crisp. I’d go back just for this.
Our last savoury course was the fried shrimp roll. To be honest it was the only dish we found a bit disappointing. It was a perfect bite and exactly the flavour I was expecting, but the portion size was really small considering the price – 4 small bites of sushi for €6.50 is a bit steep.
Finally it was time for dessert. The yuzu cheesecake was really well done – sweet, buttery and crumbly crust with fresh pops of citrus enveloped in layers of silky smooth cream cheese and a grating of fresh key lime on top to bring it all together. Very good. 10/10 would eat again.
Overall we had a great experience at De Japanner. The food lives up to the hype but it’s on the pricey end – we paid €58 for 4 dishes, 1 dessert and 3 drinks – although a big chunk of that was top shelf sake so maybe it wouldn’t seem so pricey if it hadn’t been for that small indulgence.
If you’re in the area and craving really well executed small bites, then this is a good place to try.
Until next time,