Culinary hero of yesteryear

John Halvemaan's restaurant feels sterile and stiff, and yet his food remains as good as ever

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Stardom in the world of gastronomy can be short-lived. Chefs come and go, and only a handful manages to leave a lasting impact in this fast-paced sector. John Halvemaan is one of those, who were at the top of their game at one stage and subsequently drifted into oblivion.

When Halvemaan opened, it was one of the most famous restaurants in the Netherlands and one of the leading forces in Amsterdam: the beautiful location on the shores of a lake and its food meant that it quickly became a destination restaurant. Unfortunately, the times have moved on, and Halvemaan has not. The experience of eating here nowadays feels cold, sterile and lifeless. The restaurant is empty more often than not, and the chef himself doesn’t seem to spend all that much time there anymore.

And yet, this is a pity. In summer, one enjoys lovely views over the lake from the terrace. Halvemaan’s food is still delicious, and has managed to keep evolving over the years. Steak tartar with oysters shows that the cooking here is still relevant: the flavours are clean, precise and each product is served in the right quantity. Another signature dish of Halvemaan’s is the foie gras brulé with balsamic and peppers. This is perhaps nothing new (Jean Georges Vongerichten serves something similar), but it is executed faultlessly here, and the pairing with the peppers balances the richness of the liver. This makes the dish feel much less rich than it actually is.

It’s a pity that restaurants serving food such as Halvemaan have lost their attraction over the years. What makes Halvemaan less attractive, however, is the fact that eating here is no fun. With so much competition in Amsterdam, one feels that a little more sex appeal would do the restaurant a lot of good.

Halve maan

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