Ever since it opened Vinkeles felt like the archetypical fine dining restaurant. The beautiful dining room, the competent service team and the tasty if not spectacular food made for an effortless if perhaps not quite remarkable dining experience here.
Over the past years, however, Vinkeles has considerably upped its game and now serves food that is on a completely different level. Chef Dennis Kuipers was in the fortunate position of having a full restaurant pretty much every single day of the week and therefore able to do his own thing. He fine-tuned the cooking, worked on the sourcing of his produce and now at age 45 serves food that feels mature, precise and focused. Whilst his food was a little fussy in the past, his cooking now really manages to boil things down to the essence, and at times even is a bit daring, such as the foie gras flan with spiced caramel and red cabbage shows. The rich flan is topped with shaved duck breast, giving the whole dish a bit of grip and adding a meaty element to it. What sounds more like the garnish of a classic game dish is turned into a harmonious starter with admirable balance.
Another equally interesting dish is raw hamachi served with goat’s cheese, tapioca, chocolate, hazelnut and puffed wheat. Most raw fish-based dishes tend to be on the fresh, acidic side. This, however, places the hamachi in a completely different flavour spectrum: there is plenty of richness, with the chocolate and goat’s cheese bring out the tuna-like richness of the fish. The hazelnut and wheat give a bit of an earthy contrast and as whole this bizarre combination works remarkably well.
Apart from the cooking having found its very own voice, the improvement in the product quality served has been noticeable: scallops are hand-dived in Norway, the turbot now comes in respectable sizes (mostly fish of 5-6 kilo are used), and even Gunma wagyu has found its way onto the menu.
The latter comes with caviar and pointed cabbage, and is a lesson in less is more. The combination of the meltingly tender and richly flavoured meat and the briny caviar make this a dish to remember. The two products feel like they were made for each other.
After all these years, Vinkeles feels like a restaurant that has found itself. The dining room (which used to be a bakery) feels intimate and comfortable, the service is excellent and the food truly unique. One has to have respect for a chef such as Kuipers who was a bit neglected, but has kept his down and pushed forward, which now seems to really pay off. This is a place to visit without any doubt.