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“Great food”
Review of Wink

Wink
Ranked #171 of 4,223 Restaurants in Amsterdam
Certificate of Excellence
Cuisines: Mediterranean
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Dining options: Reservations
Neighbourhood: De Pijp
Reviewed 26 July 2014

Great food, in a simply decorated and modern restaurant. Very friendly service and a menu that changes often. I bit pricey, but it deserves it for the inspired dishes and quality.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
1  Thank io9
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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130 - 134 of 200 reviews

Reviewed 17 June 2014

When people think of Amsterdam, plenty of things come to mind. For the hedonistically inclined, it’s the red light district and the coffee shops. For the artistically inclined, it’s the Rijks and Van Gogh museums. For the horticulturally inclined, it’s the Keukenhof tulip fields. Would you think of delectable, uniquely prepared, seasonal cuisine served with up with panache in an unpretentious setting? No? Wink will make you think again.

I stumbled upon Wink serendipitously after taking an afternoon stroll through the Albert Cuyp market, which is conveniently located a stone’s throw away (if you haven’t been to the Cuyp market, you’re missing out; everybody from housewives to hotel staff shops here). Upon noticing a Zagat sign in the window of what looked like a private residence, I stepped through a doorway, tossed back a dark curtain, and was suddenly standing in a small dining room that had maybe 10 wooden tables with no linens. A large mirror and a chalkboard listing the menu items were the only noticeable décor. A petite yet sturdy woman wearing a head scarf emerged softly from the kitchen directly in front of me. At the same time, a tall, thin man swooshed in like a jet engine through the curtain behind me carrying a huge box full of vegetables, which I presumed were dinner ingredients. There was a palpable sense of excitement in the air. The woman introduced herself as Natasja, the chef. She shook my hand warmly, succinctly answered my questions about her restaurant’s theme, which was “Mediterranean, but not what you would expect,” and her menu, which varied nightly depending upon what’s in season.

Because it was a weekday and there was only one of me, I lucked out. Natasja offered to reserve me a table for dinner that night, which I gratefully accepted. As an American, it was impossible for me fathom that that the table was going to be reserved for me all evening, meaning that I could come any time any time after the kitchen opened and linger over my meal. (Remember now, there might have been 10 tables in the entire restaurant). To anyone who has ever dined in an American restaurant, it is too often blatantly obvious that the restaurant’s goal is to turn over each table as quickly as possible. While I understand that the restaurant industry is brutally competitive and that it’s tough to stay profitable, if I can’t relax and enjoy my meal, why would I go back to that restaurant? Who wants to pay to be pressured?

When I returned to Wink later that evening, I was seated near the window by the tall vegetable delivery man, who turned out to be one of Wink’s co-owners, Jan Paul de Haas, a former advertising executive, who had “given it all up to do what he truly loved to do.” He and Natasja Postma had just recently bought the building that housed Wink, which had just opened in the spring of 2013. Jan Paul plays the multiple roles of maître d, server, and sommelier with infectious enthusiasm, like the father of a newborn baby. I witnessed Jan Paul’s successful seduction of every diner at every table (myself included) with his vibrant sense of humour, joie de vivre, and consummate knowledge of the food and wines on the menu. The sound of laughter, not loud music, fills the air at Wink. I attribute this in no small part to Jan Paul’s considerable skills in the charm department. If you have spent any length of time in Amsterdam, you may notice that, as a general rule, while the local men are easy on the eye, they are lacking in emotional accessibility. Jan Paul defies the norm magnificently by wearing it on his shirtsleeves that he’s a genuinely happy guy. I was correct in my assumption that his happiness had everything to do with the gifted woman preparing the food coming out of the kitchen through a cute little hatch in the wall.

Natasja Postma is an artist of the highest caliber. Her dishes —not unlike Rembrandt’s paintings of everyday people in his neighborhood—feature commonplace earthy elements, that when skillfully combined and served raw or cooked at the proper temperature for just the right amount of time, they produce an intriguing result that is nothing short of magical, making one constantly beg the question: “How does she do that?”

Despite the short list of menu items, I couldn’t decide what to order because Jan Paul’s descriptions made everything sound so amazing. My indecision prompted Natasja to come to my table to offer some assistance. Instead of treating me like her problem child, she seemed to relish the opportunity to communicate directly with a new guest. After asking me a few pointed questions about my food preferences, she confidently departed for the kitchen, seeming to have sensed exactly what I wanted through mental telepathy. Jan Paul explained that they were going to serve me a tasting menu; I would receive small portions of dishes that Natasja had selected from the menu until I signaled that I was getting full, at which point, they would bring me the dessert course.

My customized meal arrived one dish at a time, as follows: (1) amuse-bouche of Nicoise olives, crusty bread, and olive oil; (2) salad of shredded cabbage, watercress, chives, toasted mustard seeds, and crispy little balls (less than one inch in diameter) made of ground chestnuts, dressed with olive oil and citrus; (3) puttanesca of fresh heirloom and cherry tomatoes, basil oil, fresh basil, calamari tentacles, deep fried anchovies, and what I suspected to be lemon. There may have even been some capers in there; (4) hummus made of butternut squash, tahini, falafel (tiny balls again), red and yellow beets, cilantro, mint, flash-fried bulgur wheat and pomegranate seeds; (5) sliced pork belly, sweet potato puree and savoy cabbage, sprinkled with fried pork skins; and (6) panna cotta topped with a vivid red wild berry coulis.

The first thing that struck me about Natasja’s cuisine was its individualized creativity. Although she appears to borrow bits and pieces from French, Italian, Lebanese, and Californian culinary traditions, her finished product is entirely original. But it’s not just Natasja’s inventiveness that makes her dishes succeed; it’s the meticulous execution of her vision that elevates her creations from the level of “interesting” to “outstanding.” The key to her success is that she sidesteps the pitfalls of excessiveness that chefs all too often march into, namely: (1) overcooking, which could be cooking ingredients for too long or at too high a temperature or both; and (2) overuse of salt, butter/oil, garlic, sugar, and spices.
At Wink, you will not have to worry that salt will obscure the inherent flavors of the ingredients and that garlic will overwhelm a dish. If Natasja uses salt and garlic at all (she has to use them, it’s a Mediterranean restaurant), you don’t taste them. Instead, you taste the natural salt in the meat and the seafood, the combination of sweet and savory vegetables, the crunchy tidbits, fresh herbs, and citrus. Miraculous, right? You will not be disappointed by the presence of sugar in the salad dressing. Natasja wisely reserves the white stuff for where it rightfully belongs – dessert!

Although generally I find fried foods disagreeable, my meal at Wink was a notable exception. Natasja is a wizard at frying. I would love to know her technique and what type of oil she uses. Although there were many types of fried morsels interlaced throughout the dishes I received—falafel, anchovies, and bulgur wheat to name just a few—these crispy items added fascinating textures but did not detract from any of the dishes. Never once did I feel grease on my lips or the “wrecking ball” of grease in my gut. Astounding feat!

Even two superheroes like Natasja and Jan Paul could not create a masterpiece like Wink all by themselves. They’ve hired an aide de cuisine, Larissa Van Essen, who assists Natasja in the kitchen and helps Jan Paul run food to the tables with a quick step and angelic demeanor. Larissa seems profoundly grateful to be there. Whether or not she pursues a career in the restaurant industry, the opportunity to work in such an intimate fledgling restaurant owned by such an authentic couple has got to be a rewarding experience for a young person.

There’s just one more thing I’ve got to say about Wink. When my check came to my table, I received a farewell token of appreciation that I will never forget. They are bite-sized chocolate squares, denser than regular cake, with a finer texture than brownies but with the same non-crumbly properties, rich in complexity but not overly sweet, they are pure perfection on a plate. Like a lunatic, I said to Jan Paul: “I don’t know what you call these things, but whatever they are, I’m in love! Can I marry them?” With a twinkle in his eye, he replied: “In Holland, you can.”

    • Service
    • Food
1  Thank MirandaLand
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 May 2014

By far one of the best meals/experiences I had in this city. I try to go as often as I can! very honest and friendly managing couple, and very tasty food!! please try!

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Thank Adriaan F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 May 2014

It's not the most beautiful restaurant in Amsterdam, but don't let that stop you. We've had a great night at Wink!

Very nice, informal atmosphere. The enthousiastic owners (Jan Paul on the floor, Natasja in the kitchen) introduced themselves and talked passionate about their food and wines, which tasted fantastic.

We'll definitely go back.

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Thank ecedej
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 21 April 2014

'Wink is located in the “Pijp” neighbourhood, where these days a lot of new restaurants start. Wink opened in spring 2013 and is for me to stay. It’s a small and informal place. The menu offers a choice of around 4 starters (8-10 euro), 4 mains (18-20 euro) and 4 desserts (8-10 euro) and changes frequently. Good selection of wines (25-40 euro). Every course was a nice surprise and we enjoyed everything. Service is good and friendly, at times even a bit too friendly. We will come back for sure.

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Thank RobertvB
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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