Have you ever eaten your way through a city? Forget what your travel guide reads – hop in our smart fortwo cabrio electric drive and follow your taste buds as we explore Amsterdam with blogger and self-proclaimed serious foodie Susam “Sam” Pang of bySam.nl.
Early Sunday mornings in Amsterdam are quiet and serene. The roads and bridges are empty, inviting us to take a spin in our smart fortwo cabrio electric drive, that combines as the world’s only fully electric mass-produced convertible the advantages of an open top and a clean, silent drivetrain. The smart BRABUS tailor made finish in berry red pops against the early morning mist still hanging above the canals. With full batteries and eager to explore the city, we welcome Susam Pang. The author of the food blog bySam.nl is the ultimate source on where to eat in Amsterdam.
Sam, thank you for taking us along today. Where do we start?
Susam Pang: Lot Sixty One is my go-to place in the morning. Their shop is situated on Kinkerstraat in the Oud-West district, just around my corner. The area is really up-and-coming. I love Lot Sixty One because it’s so low-key and they have fabulous coffee. You can watch the staff roast it right next to the bar. I usually just have a cup of coffee and watch people. Try some of their sweet pastries when you go.
Sounds like the perfect spot to reset and prepare for an inspired work day. Where are you most productive?
Susam Pang: I go to Bluespoon – it is a restaurant and bar on the bottom floor of Andaz Hotel on Prinsengracht. The overall vibe is like a relaxed lounge. Bluespoon just started this work community for bloggers and freelancers, so it is where you can be productive and be in an environment of like-minded people, which I love. The interior design is done by renowned Dutch designer Marcel Wanders. Try one of Bluespoon’s signature cookies.
What does Amsterdam have in store in terms of cuisine? Dutch food has a certain reputation, doesn’t it?
Susam Pang: I must say, I am a big fan of French Fries (laughs). But there is so much more to discover in terms of taste. The new Dutch cuisine is definitely trending. There are a few fine dining places giving the local classics a new twist, like herring or Dutch beef. Of course, the Netherlands have always had a connection to the world and therefore, you can find all of the world’s tastes and cuisines in Amsterdam.
While Amsterdam is not the hugest European metropolis, you can tell there is a constant buzz going on. How do you stay on top of the food world?
Susam Pang: Whenever I hear gossip of a new place about to open, I just drop by and interview them. The minds and makers of the Amsterdam food scene are a mix of experienced professionals and total newcomers – sometimes with long journeys or completely different backgrounds. I love to sit and talk to people about their food and the stories behind it.
Can you share such a story?
Susam Pang: There’s this Japanese place called Sapporo Ramen Sora. It’s easily the best Ramen spot in Amsterdam. The owner came from Japan and just wanted to run his own restaurant. The place is not fancy, but the food is authentic. The key ingredients are imported from the town of Sapporo, the most northern city in Japan on the island of Hokkaido where Ramen, as we know it today, was invented.
Let’s grab lunch, shall we?
Susam Pang: Yes! I have to show you Shanghai Bistro. They only opened up a month ago. I heard of the scheduled opening and wrote about it and the team invited me for a test dinner. The interior wasn’t even finished but they opened up just for me and my boyfriend and we had dinner with Tim, one of the owners. He also runs a taco stand in the Foodhallen, an indoor street food market. Francis is working the kitchen. After spending time in Singapore, where he saw all the chefs cooking behind windows at street level, he wanted to do the same. That’s why Shanghai Bistro has their kitchen in the front.
What can you recommend?
Susam Pang: The food here is just amazing. The slogan is “Not made in China.” Both owners interpret classic Chinese food their way. You can also find Francis’ Caribbean roots in the dishes – he is originally from the Dominican Republic. The special at Shanghai Bistro is Xiao Long Bao – dumplings filled with broth. Definitely try the Bao Bun with crispy chicken – that is amazing. They also have a new vegetarian dish with bimi, a type of broccoli.
Delicious. And you got to take a peek in the kitchen! Do you cook yourself?
Susam Pang: I do, and I tend to stick to Asian food – it’s quick, easy, and fresh. I can recommend Dun Yong Supermarket. You can explore six storeys of Asian delicacies. The owners are so cute – when I speak to them in Cantonese, they walk me around and give me advice on recipes. It feels like I am shopping with my mother (laughs).
The supermarket is right in the center of Amsterdam. What else can you recommend in this part of town?
Susam Pang: I like going to Athenaeum Boekhandel. This bookstore is also known for their well-stocked magazine department. They offer a variety of print issues ranging across all topics, unique titles that you can’t find anywhere else. Especially the arts and fashion magazines – they look so beautiful!
Amsterdam is not a city of wide boulevards or expansive squares. Its busy, narrow streets and picturesque canals add small town flair to every corner. With the nimble smart cabrio electric drive, its minimal footprint, and the world’s tightest turning circle we can squeeze through almost any gap – only cyclists enjoy more room to move. The sun has not yet disappeared behind the trees as we pull up to Frankendael Park in Amsterdam’s tranquil Watergraafsmeer neighborhood. Brightly colored market stalls are visible as we follow a stream of visitors through the park’s entrance gate.
A nice afternoon for a visit to the park. Why did you bring us here?
Susam Pang: A few times during summer, Pure Markt takes place here. Here you can find clothing and handcrafted accessories as well as locally farmed produce and freshly prepared food from a wide variety of vendors. You come here to indulge in special delicacies, like Chilean-style empanadas. Apparently they are a favorite of our Dutch Queen Máxima, who is originally from Argentina.
We assume you have saved the best spot for dinner.
Susam Pang: I have! I want to take you to Jacobsz, a stone’s throw away from here. The place has a fantastic vibe. The big room upstairs is where Napoleon received his keys to the city in 1811. A huge painting of the French emperor hangs above the fireplace. Now, in the afternoon, the light is amazing in there.
How’s the food?
Susam Pang: Last month, I co-organized the Foodblogger Awards. Jacobsz won in two categories, including best new restaurant. It’s one of my absolute favorite places. They will recognize you if you have been a guest before and remember the wine you enjoyed. The food is fine dining but the team at Jacobsz doesn’t cook by the rules. The first time I ate here, I had grilled green cabbage straight from the barbecue served with salty almonds and meringue of turmeric and basil. It had this amazing smokey flavor. Even if you only have a few days in Amsterdam, this is the place you shouldn’t miss out on.
Susam “Sam” Pang was born and raised in the rural east of the Netherlands, “surrounded by farms and cows.” After studying law at the University of Leiden, she moved to Amsterdam, where a new world of food opened up to her. Writing for her blog bySam.nl, she visits restaurants every week – but insists she still has a long list of places to visit.
Local Secrets Amsterdam:
Lot Sixty One Coffee
1053 ED Amsterdam
1016 HT Amsterdam
Sapporo Ramen SORA
1072 ET Amsterdam
Van Woustraat 110
1073 LS Amsterdam
1053 AT Amsterdam
Dun Yong Supermarket
1012 BD Amsterdam
1012 XA Amsterdam
1097 BS Amsterdam
1097 AA Amsterdam