Amsterdam's best Japanese restaurant

The quality of Japanese restaurants around the world often has precious little to do with the food served in Japan itself. There are, however, notable exceptions and Yamazato at the Hotel Okura in Amsterdam is one of them.

Having opened decades ago, the large restaurant continues to be packed for lunch and dinner seven days a week. The reasons are immediately apparent: as the hotel is part of one of Japan’s most famous luxury hotel groups, Yamazato’s staff are often posted here after having worked with the company in Japan, and thus bring real know-how with them. The dining room is carefully designed, and is surrounded by a rock garden, cherries and koi pond. Were it not for the fact that Yamazato is essentially two restaurants in one, you could almost forget that you’re eating in a hotel.

Yamazato offers both kaiseki cuisine and sushi, making for a combination that you would only see in hotel-restaurants. The kaiseki menu follows the seasonal classic progression consisting of a couple of appetisers, clear soup, sashimi, fish, meat, rice and dessert. When top-notch products such as Kagoshima beef are used, Yamazato really stands out. Full of flavour, meltingly tender, this is well worth the supplement and entirely different from pseudo-wagyu from Australia, US or elsewhere.

The sushi counter cut from a single piece of hinoki wood inspires confidence in the level of skill and craftsmanship that has gone into producing it. If you decided to sit here, it is best to let the sushi chefs compose a progression of pieces, based on what is on offer on any given day. The rice here is not seasoned aggressively, making this sushi that is relatively easy to approach for guests who might not have all that much experience of eating in Japan. Throughout the meal, the quality of the fish, mostly sourced from the North Sea, Mediterranean is very high, making this the finest sushi in the Netherlands.

Due to its age, Yamazato doesn’t inspire any hype these days in Amsterdam. The residents of the Dutch capital should not forget how lucky they are to have such high-quality Japanese food right at their doorstep. There certainly aren’t that many comparable restaurants in Europe.


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