The Ciel Bleu is on the 23rd floor of the Japanese owned Okura hotel in Amsterdam. The picture windows across one side of the dining room give a fine view over the city. The dining room is luxurious, with generously spaced tables set out with fine linen tablecloths, and comfortable chairs. An eight course tasting menu is EUR 125, with wine pairings at EUR 90. On the a la carte, starters are mostly EUR 32 – 45, mains at EUR 45 – 79. Bread is a single choice of sliced brown bread, bought in from a nearby bakery but having good flavour (7/10).
The wine list stretches over 19 pages and is very well chosen, with excellent growers from around the world. Hugel Pinot Gris 2004 is listed at EUR 45 for a wine that costs about EUR 18, the excellent Torres Mas La Plana 2002 a steep EUR 125 for a wine that retails at about EUR 25, Opus One 2003 is at EUR 350 for a wine that costs about EUR 135 in the shops. Even the rare (outside the US) Kistler is represented. The sommelier was very knowledgeable and his wine pairings were unusually perceptive.
An array of nibbles appears as you browse the menu. A deep fried smoked eel ball and piccalilli sauce was very tasty (8/10), a Madeleine of black olives with tomato coulis an unusual idea that worked fairly well (7/10), a bonbon of beetroot and goose liver was smooth with less beetroot flavour than I was expecting (7/10), cannelloni of green apple and caramel with goat cheese and dried figs was refreshing (7/10) but best was a “shake” of sweet and sour cucumber with green apple mousse and a dried mushroom, which had great depth of cucumber flavour (9/10).
First up was deep fried soft shell crab with avocado and beansprout salad, alongside deep fried foie gras and langoustine with a spicy mango chutney. The soft shell crab was very good but the foie gras was even better, with very light batter and a clever mix of tastes (8/10 overall). Next was a cornetto of scallop with truffle mascarpone, served alongside a single cooked scallop with green pea coulis and black truffle, and a Parmesan mousse. The scallop itself was beautifully cooked, the peas a classic combination with the scallop, the Parmesan not dominating the dish as it could easily have done (8/10).
Strips of cod were garnished with almonds, garlic and coffee and served alongside a warm foam of “belle de Fontenay” potatoes and horseradish. I thought that the potato foam was superb, beautifully creamy with a little bite from the horseradish to cut through the richness. I never find cod the most exciting of fish, so overall for me the dish was 8/10, but the potato was better than that.
A fine piece of turbot was next, fried on farm bread and topped with paletta Iberico bellota pata negra, with lardo di Colonnata, glazed black salsify and a dressing of Amontillado sherry. The fish itself was perfectly cooked and had lovely flavour, the sherry dressing a clever foil to the fish, while the pata negra was reasonably subdued (borderline 9/10).
Next were fried sweetbreads in Pedro Ximines on a mousse of celeriac, which had a lovely, rich taste and the crust on the sweetbread providing a nice texture contrast to the softness of the rest of the dish (8/10). For the main course, saddle of roe deer was served with black pudding cream, cannelloni of green cabbage and dried ribbons of venison with clove jus. The deer itself was excellent, though perhaps this dish had a flavour more than was really needed (8/10).
Cheese is from Philippe Olivier, but there were a couple of Dutch cheeses to supplement the French classics such as Munster and Beaufort. Cheeses are delivered here three times a week and were in very good condition (8/10). Fennel ice cream with star anise, white chocolate ice cream, mango and soufflé of vanilla and yoghurt with Oreo biscuit crumble and coconut ice cream (7/10) finished off the meal.
Service was superb throughout, dishes arriving at a steady pace, the waiters very attentive and responsive. Overall I feel this is a strong two star level restaurant (it gained its second Michelin star in the 2008 guide). Chef Onno Kokmeijer was engaging and clearly passionate about his job.