A visit to "Vandaag" in New York City

Our correspondent Noor Speckens visited Vandaag, a restaurant in New York City, to explore how Dutch it is; here is her report.

If you go to Restaurant Vandaag and expect to find the comfort food you remember from your childhood in the Netherlands, you will be sorely disappointed.

Vandaag, as per its website, advertises itself as a restaurant offering Northern European cuisine and "explorations focusing on Denmark and Holland."

Aside from the short list of smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches), I cannot speak for the Danish part of this equation, except that it might confuse geographically-challenged Americans even more ("So, you’re Dutch? Are you from Copenhagen?"). The Dutch part, however, was lacking in the familiar Dutch staples, such as kroketten, puree or even patat friet. I guess there was no point in trying to compete with the Belgian snackbar "Pommes Frites" a few doors up the avenue. However, there were bitterballen to be had as a starter.

A lack of true Dutch dishes

Although the restaurant professes its preference for cooking with local and seasonal ingredients from the Hudson Valley, none of the solid winter dishes that comprise the bulk of Dutch cooking were on the menu. I was hoping for stamppot, haché or even a simple gehaktbal. Pea soup (erwtensoep) was listed, although "embellished" with "ham hock (OK), octopus (really?), matignon (we’ll have to look that one up), and chili oil (why?)", it probably cannot be called snert anymore.

Come to think of it, the only vaguely Dutch dishes were the "Vandaag Burger" topped with Gouda cheese and maybe the Hete Bliksem ("crisp fingerlings, bacon, apple, stroop syrup"). The rest of the entrees seemed pretentious and contrived such as for example "Red Russian kale with green strawberries, sweet onion, caraway", or "Albacore tuna with rutabaga, pomegranate and rye berries". The portions were small and not cheap.

Good selection of drinks

As for the cocktails, beers and other beverages: there were genever cocktails and aquavit cocktails, as well as various rather obscure Dutch and Belgian beers, (Danish) mead, which isn’t to say that they were bad. I had a glass of De Schelde Hop-Ruiter ale.

The restaurant’s interior is pleasantly modern, a bit stark perhaps, with clean lines; the floor is polyurethane-coated concrete, the tables, chairs and benches are made of blond wood. There are no tablecloths, upholstery, curtains anywhere to muffle the sound, which made for a rather echo-ey, noisy space.

The servers were American, the bartendress was Danish maybe, but none of them had the slightest idea what you were saying when you asked for one of the few items on the menu with the proper Dutch pronunciation or seemed to be aware of the fact that you were speaking Dutch and they were working in a restaurant with a Dutch name. All in all, eating at Vandaag was a bit of an alienating experience for someone looking for a Dutch experience.

Vandaag is located on the North-West corner of East 6th Street and 2nd Avenue in the East Village, 103 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10003. Open for lunch and dinner.

http://www.vandaagnyc.com

dutchusa

Comments

Sounds to me that this is the only thing that's DUTCh.
The portions were small and not cheap.

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I went there a couple of weeks ago. The bitterballen weren't bad (although I really wanted to ask to put them on a bun) and neither were the gebakken aardappelen. But the stroop wafel was quite a disappointment. It was pricy and just a tiny bit Dutch.... I have friends who make better bitterballen for our Dutch parties in Cincinnati!

I couldn't agree more. My own experience exactly.

I never heard about this place. I live in Cambridge though. I love Holland. It is the best place in the world. And Amsterdam is the best city of the world. I always dreamed of going there with my friends. I really like to visit this place. Thanks for posting about it. Good luck in the world cup this year!!!
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