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East Mediterranean food in Amsterdam: NENI

Posted on Sep 9, 2019 by in All Photos, Good Food | 1 comment

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Life is beautiful, be part of it! This is the motto of NENI, and a taste of their food really makes life a bit more beautiful. A relatively new restaurant in Amsterdam, part of the NENI family of restaurants open throughout Europe, this place features East Mediterranean food and the same delicious way of life. The name stands for Nuriel, Elior, Nadiv and Ilan, the four sons of kitchen virtuoso and soul of the business Haya Molcho.

NENI is located in the former Citroën garage at Stadionplein, which was renovated to accommodate the restaurant starring an open kitchen in the middle, and a cocktail bar at the top of a flight of stairs. Entering the restaurant, we were first charmed by the cosy interior: hanging plants, fig trees and candle lights on each table. The open space is big, organised in a few different areas, and still manages to create a very intimate atmosphere.

NENI restaurant

It was full when we arrived, a great sign that the food must be something to come back for. There’s a relaxed atmosphere inside, as if you’re dining with friends, and the interaction with staff is the same. Our main host for the evening, Massimiliano, was nice, helpful and knowledgeable without becoming too much, as it happens sometimes with restaurant personnel trying to be too accommodating (or is it just me having this issue?).

Usually, when I write a review of a restaurant where I was invited as a guest, I try to tone it down and not be too enthusiastic about it, because I don’t want people to think I’m chanting songs of praise just because I received a free dinner. But this time I have no intention on doing that: I loved NENI, the food was amazing — and that simply needs to be said!

Although the place was packed, we didn’t have to wait long to get our food. Before deciding, we eyed the other tables to make an idea about the food. Everything looked good, and it was difficult to decide, so we went for the Balagan menu — described as “sympathetic chaos” — which is a shared menu composed of a selection of mezze, mains and dessert. East Mediterranean chaos sounded very appealing! We asked for the vegetarian option, of course, because here at Amsterdamian we are vegetarians. It turned out to be a great choice, with one dish more delicious than the other! With one exception (the cauliflower), which was good but not spectacular, every dish impressed us with the flavour combinations.

The celeriac

First, it was the hummus. Made exactly as I remember it from the best Lebanese restaurants I visited in the middle-east, it brought back happy memories. Then there were the crunchy avocado green beans, the falafel, the eggplants, the celery, the cauliflower, and a few more. I have to admit that I’m salivating as I write this. The best surprise was the charcoal roasted celeriac, which I would better describe as celeriac carpaccio. I’m a big fan of celeriac and I’ve had it in many recipes, but this one was the best so far; I still think about what could they have done to those celery slices to make them taste like spring? The falafel was as it should be: a very thin crunchy layer on the outside, and a tasty, velvety filling on the inside. The spicy caramelised aubergine was mouth-watering, well cooked (I can’t stand the undercooked aubergine) and the dessert, Knafeh (cheese filled kadaif served with ice cream), was divine.

It was a lot of food, but we’re good at eating, and it was too good to leave anything on the plates, as you can see:

NENI restaurant: after dinner

 

As the people were finishing their dinner, they were either moving to the cocktail bar or going home, but we decided to stay at the table and finish our cocktails there. Maybe we were too lazy to move after all that food. We tried the signature cocktail of the bar, the Lemonman, which was refreshing with just the right amount of citrus to keep it zingy.

 

The Lemonman cocktail

The Lemonman bar offers a wide range of cocktails that use lemon as one of the ingredients. Its name is a homage to the Citroën founder’s grandfather, Roelof Citroen. This Amsterdam-based family were tropical fruit merchants and Roelof had been given the nickname “de limoenman” (translated freely to “the lime man”, later changed to “Citroen” for “lemon”) — hence the name of the bar.

I’m very glad I accepted this invitation, I spent a lovely evening at NENI and will go back for sure, for those lovely flavours and for the place itself. My only hope is that the food and the service stay the same, because the restaurant is fairly new at the moment and, unfortunately, I’ve witnessed many good restaurants losing their initial good vibes over the years and it would be a real pity if that were to happen.

If you want to try it out, check out the restaurant website, it’s really easy to book a table online. You are welcome!

 

Disclaimer: I was invited as a guest to NENI, but all the opinions expressed here are my own, as usual.

1 Comment

  1. The food looks amazing 🙂 Definitely putting it on my list of cool restaurants in Amsterdam 🙂

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