Restaurant Betty's in Amsterdam is a must visit for vegetarians or people who just enjoy good food. It has a tripadvisor rating of 11 out of over 1,000 which is great for a vegetarian restaurant.
We were if course delighted to find more excellent vegetarian food, but Betty's offered a unique dining experience as well.
The rustic tables, spice-filled shelves that line the walls, and the casually dressed couples were deceptively laid-back.
As we walked in Kenny got the impression that seven-year old Sophia was not necessarily welcome so we made sure to order a lot.
The restaurant has a unique concept. There is no menu, no prices, and you absolutely must have a reservation.
There is a set menu but you can choose how much of it you want to eat. We opted in for everything, drinks, appetizers, bread, the entree, and dessert.
The owner was the only person manning the front of the house. We had to wait a little while for our drinks but once we had his attention he explained our food in great detail. When our food came he brought spices and special oils to the table to let us smell before he seasoned some of the dishes.
We had only been seated for several minutes when a father and teenage daughter tried to walk in. They were turned away. The owner said they were fully booked though a couple of tables remained empty. Later a man tried to come in and he was told the kitchen was closed. As we left we saw a sign on the door that said the kitchen closed at eight.
After observing all of this I was reminded of something I had read in Paris regarding the perceived snootiness of restaurant employees. The book explained that showing up unannounced at a restaurant in France is like showing up unannounced at somebody's house and expecting to be fed. It's just bad manners. If you show up with no reservation you should be early, apologetic, and not surprised or upset if you're turned away. This restaurant practiced this philosophy more than any restaurant we went to in Paris.
If I were to have a restaurant I would like to employ this concept. I would cook what I wanted according to the season and what ingredients were fresh. I would want people to make a reservation so I would know how much food to buy and prepare. I would go ahead and list my prices though so people could eat and drink in comfort without worrying about the price of the meal.
So, the food. It was fresh, delicious, and not at all generic. The bread was a freshly baked whole-grain walnut bread. We were disappointed when it was gone. The appetizer was a lentil soup and a mezze-style platter with a fresh bean dish, cauliflower, and orzo with wonderfully salty pistachios.
The entree also consisted of several dishes. We had polenta with spinach and the white asparagus that is in season and wildly popular right now. We had a mixed greens salad topped with apples, tender dried cherries, and cherry tomatoes that were so flavorful that I was glad that winter and the accompanying bland produce is behind us. We had a Greek stew with broad beans, similar to what we had in Cyprus. And we had couscous with fresh peas.
We certainly weren't hungry anymore but we felt like we had to compensate for Sophia's presence and the desserts in the glass case looked delightful so we indulged in two. Sophia chose a mascarpone cheesecake with berries and I got a chocolate, caramel, coconut tart topped with hazelnuts which tasted like an updated version of dream bars. We of course shared with Kenny.
It was another wonderful meal. It made me forget about the earlier misery of getting drenched on our bikes. I'm glad that we are able to find a few places in this world where we can experience more than salad, pasta, and pizza when we're traveling.