Back in 1999 the Dutch barbecue scene looked quite different than it does today. Modern smoked meat restaurants like Rough Kitchen, Wilde Zwijnen and Cafe Carbon did not yet exist. Other than De Klos, De Reiger and a few Argentine steak joints-finding barbecue in the city was a fools errand-the Dutch love their meat but cooking it with fire was not yet a cultural fixation.
In 2016 the landscape of barbecue in Noord Holland has changed dramatically. Big Green Egg smokers are chock-a-block in the city and queues regularly form at restaurants like Cannibale Royale, Uptown Meat Club and Mi Sueno.But I’m still fixated on De Klos.
Walking into the dark, old meat house feels like coming home. The barman greets each patron with a wisecrack as the smell of sizzling hog and lamb flesh perfume the air. I always sit at the bar so I can enjoy the smart-ass barkeeps to their fullest. The repartee is impossible to beat as the staff are all on point and quick to point out any fault, defect or shortcoming they perceive in their customers.
It’s fun to see grouchy old fuckers finally dissolve in laughter as the staff eventually break down their resolve.Heineken is undrinkable in the US but here in Amsterdam, just 25 miles from the brewery, it tastes like a fresh loaf of bread. Once the draughts start flowing serious hunger sets in and I begin dreaming of a big platter of smokey Dutch pork ribs.
Cafe De Klos also offers oven-baked ribs but I’ve never tried them. Smoke is essential in true barbecue and plainly makes meat taste better.
As soon as the barman takes my order one of the two cooks reaches into a refrigerator and pulls out a tightly wrapped packet of meat. The ribs are places on a brazier and cooked for close to 20 minutes on the hot fire. By the time they’re placed on a platter, and brought to me they are sizzling hot with smoke rolling off of them.They are unfathomably delicious. The crispy hide on the meat practically shatters to reveal succulent pig flesh clinging to the bones underneath. There is no sauce nor is there any needed. A small bowl of garlicky mayo comes alongside the feast while a pile of sliced, cold white onion serve as a caveman-style garnish.
I wish I was there right now.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve visited Amsterdam since the 90s. It’s my favorite city in Europe and one I’ve often fantasized about living in whilst wool-gathering in my rear courtyard in New Orleans. It’s places like De Klos that make the city the cultural capital of northern Europe. It’s a Dutch institution held (by meatlovers) in the same regard as the Rijksmuseum or Concertgebouw.
A previous report I filed on Cafe De Klos
Address: Kerkstraat 41-43
1017 GB Amsterdam, Netherlands
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