In an old gorgeous building is where the Soho house is located with a stunning venue called Cecconi’s which is the place to be for a great Italian meal. The ambiance is very British and with an open kitchen I have to say I love this setting. The service is moody at times and once you return as a regular you are more respected and recognized. The beet salad with goat cheese is perfect, lovely flavors of sweet savory and earth. The tuna tartar is also a dish that I can eat here every day, very tasty with fresh very well selected tuna chunks. The vitello tonnato is too die for and simply perfect the way they serve it with the huge capers and mayo tuna. Spaghetti Bolognese is proving that there are Italian chefs in the kitchen. Yes, it has been cooked for hours and the flavors are dazzling. The meatballs are yummy, served with a rich tomato sauce which makes this dish delicious. I adore the fresh basil leaves on top. The scaloppini Milanese is a large piece of veal, battered and deep fried. The deep-fried sage leaves are marvelous, and so are the flavors of the scaloppini once you have drowned it in fresh lemon juice. Make no mistake the best dish of the house is the spaghetti with truffle, as you will notice I love to come back to a venue and order the same, not only to check the continuity but also because I believe if something is so outstanding you should order it again and again. The flavor is finger licking good, the pasta is cooked perfectly and the fresh truffle, and its amount is simply divine. Tiramisu again is proof of real Italians in the kitchen and is therefore perfect. I grade Cecconi’s with a 9.8 out of 10
An awesome restaurant on the canal, the ambience of Envy rocks and this place is famous for a fabulous lounge dinner, with small snacks or for nice long meals with many small dishes. The chefs are in an open kitchen so you can see how they prepare your food. They have transparent refrigerators with all kinds of nice fruits and veggies and other fresh ingredients. The wine selection is excellent, with a variety of dessert wines and the service is spot on. The crowd here is very trendy and the famous Dutch soap stars are all over the place. Everything is fresh, and I notice immediately when they serve the Bressaola that it is nice and moist. What nice presentation they have here! The scallops were simply marvelous. The lamb chops were a nice rosé inside and very well marinated. The raiser blades, which are a shellfish, razor clams, were very moist and tasty. All other dishes were fabulous and the chocolate desserts were to die for, and that is why Envy deserves an 8.5 out of 10!
On top of the mountain where the castle is located there are nice shops and lots of restaurants, some gourmet and some serving mostly local dishes. One of the most famous venues for local cakes and dishes is Korona Kavehaz. The ambiance is simple tearoom style but overlooking Budapest, which makes this venue heavenly. The service is impeccable and very nice. The traditional dishes like goulash soup are a ‘must try’ so off I go. The color of the soup already tells me a lot and with paprika like this coming from this country you can’t go wrong. The beef in the soup is outstanding, great quality and so soft, making this dish epic. There is pasta made locally called Magyar teszta or metelt, which is almost like Italian pasta however it comes in very weird shapes. The soup has some of this pasta and lots of beef. I have to admit this is the best goulash soup ever. It is so rich and so filling that I now understand how this dish helps you survive a heavy winter. Another amazing dish is the deep fried Jalopena. Served with fries and a lovely (kind of) tartar sauce, this combination is ravishing and an absolute ‘must try’. Speaking of ‘must try’, the cakes make your dreams come true. They offer a large selection of the most exquisite pastries but the two most appealing to me are the chocolate mousse with cake, which is surprisingly not so sweet as I expected, and the chocolate cake with white and green marzipan polka dots, which is much sweeter, heavier and you can enjoy the almond flavor in the marzipan. I grade Korona Kavehaz with 8.8 out of 10.
I am so enthusiastic to tell you about this place called Gerbeaud, which has been in Budapest for ages and is a real treasure. Gerbeaud is a restaurant where you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner however, I would definitely recommend having tea with some of their epic pastries. The ambiance is classic French with crisp, white tablecloths. The service is outstanding – very hospitable, kind and informative. Inside the venue you will find a display of the most exquisite pastries you have ever seen, all crafted so artfully. The funny thing is that you can also have a normal meal in this ‘world of royal cakes and tarts’, so I order a salad with smoked salmon and quinoa, which is marvelous because it has a great dressing and the smoked salmon is of an outstanding quality. Continue with a selection of different pastries, which are smaller and therefore easier to try as many as possible. I can tell you the quality of the chocolate is excellent because they have used a higher percentage of cocoa and I can really taste this heavenly quality in the pastries. They are so flavorful with not just fat and sugar but also I taste hazelnut, almond and much more. I grade Gerbeaud with 9.3 out of 10.
Address: Budapest, Vörösmarty tér 7-8, 1051 Hungary
On the Castle property, on top of the mountain, in the part of Budapest called Buda, you will find this breath-taking venue called Fisherman’s Bastion. It’s best to use this name because the Hungarian name is quite difficult. Once you enter the castle you realize you’re in for a treat fit for a princess. The service is outstanding although sometimes slightly too much, not allowing you to enjoy your private moment in the palace. The ambiance is majestic with cold palace rooms transformed into warm dining rooms, with some for private parties, and most tables have a stunning view of Pest on the other side of the River Danube. I start with a goat’s cheese amuse which is presented in such an artful way and, once you try your first bite, you realize this is heaven as the flavors of the sweet tomato and the goat’s cheese are ravishing. The duck liver covered with chocolate and served with milk loaf is another treat to my palate. Look at the presentation and how do I dare consume this. All the amazing flavors of fruit with liver are just magnificent. Another dream come true is the artichoke soup with a goat’s cheese ball in the middle. The goat’s cheese really elevated the soup, which again makes this combination perfect. Oh yeah, it’s venison season so that’s the main dish today. Covered with crunchy pistachio and served with sweet potato fermented plum, this dish gives you that dazzling combination. The meat however, is slightly too dry and I realize this is going to lower my grade, but seriously, everything was so good. Yes, the service was a little imposing but all the dishes were outstanding except for the venison and therefore I grade the Fisherman’s Bastion with 9.2 out of 10.
Address: Budapest, Szentháromság tér, 1014 Hungary
Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The city is divided into two parts by the Danube River with one part called Buda and the other called Pest. It’s in Pest that you will find this stunning Italian restaurant in a majestic building covered with tiles and styled with antiques to create a quaint and homely ambiance. The service is efficient with the owner coming up to your table several times to check if everything is to your liking. I start with the seasonal pasta with venison, which is perfectly cooked in a red wine sauce and stunningly flavored and with no gamey flavor at all. The grilled chicken with the Gorgonzola sauce is ‘to die for’. Not only is the chicken nice and tender but also the sauce is creamy, tasty and ambrosial. The fresh, seasonal grilled veggies are another big hit on my plate, simply magnificent. The crispy red beet has nice presentation and is another palate pleaser and when the Tiramisu arrives I know that this is my favorite Italian in Budapest. Flavors are spot on and the presentation is easy on the eye. Compared with all the meals I have had in Budapest this place is an absolute must! I grade Bottega di Brontolo with 9.6 out of 10.
Address: Budapest, Wekerle Sándor utca 5, 1051 Hungary
Palm Beach is a very busy part of Aruba and in the Ritz Carlton, you will find a stunning Italian venue, Casa Nonna, where you will find truly authentic ‘Grandmother-style’ Italian dishes. How can you not love that? Of course, compared with the prices in Italy for the same dishes, this venue is expensive, so I would advise sharing some dishes, as the portions are large. The ambiance is dark, cozy and romantic with outside and inside seating. I love what they did with this place and we are offered a round seat, so we can face each other. Service is impeccable, and I would advise to bring a cardigan because it might get a little cold with the AC on max. The wine list is ‘to die for’ as they all go so well with the menu. A ‘must try’ is the cocktail cart which comes to your table and makes you the most epic smoothie-style cocktails with fresh fruit juices. The red beet salad served with goat’s cheese tells me quite a lot already. All ingredients are very well selected including orange and walnuts and it would have been a perfect salad were it not for the dressing that is slightly too sour/tangy. The three bruschetta however are perfect. These are served with eggplant, goat’s cheese and hummus and are nice and crispy with wonderful pickled carrots on the side. The farm-fresh Pecorino cheese is served with nuts, caramelized onions and delicious bread. It’s another stunning dish but be careful, as before you know it, you’re full because it’s so good. The butternut squash ravioli is heavenly mainly because the different flavors – truffle pecorino with the sweet taste of the butternut squash – go so well together. The gnocchi with crumbled lamb sausage is another amazing dish that makes you want to dance. The Saltimbocca is really ‘to die for’. What an epic dish – so perfectly cooked with lots of scrumptious flavors like rosemary and garlic. Please note that this is a huge dish so please share. I grade Casa Nonna with 9.5 out of 10.
Address: L.G. Smith Blvd., 107 Palm – Eagle Beach, Aruba
On one of the most busy and famous street in Gent you will find this restaurant called Casa Borsalino; oh no, they do not sell Borsalino hats but they do serve Italian food. The ambiance is confusing because when you enter the venue you will think that it’s a shish kebab joint but when you turn right you enter the real Casa Borsalino, which is more Italian style with large open windows facing the busy street. The service is ok but it seems that they are slightly scared to speak English, however they are there when you need them. The wines are not to my liking, as I simply hate when venues serve cheap Italian wines giving me acid reflex. Please select a better wine especially when you have such an impeccable menu. I start my meal with a simple mixed salad, which tells me immediately, with so many Italian items in it, that I am in for a treat. The Arugula salad and the Parmesan with the lovely dressing give me indications of how awesome the rest of the meal will be. The Salmon spaghetti not just looks gorgeous but is also cooked perfectly and spiced nicely. The creamy sauce makes it just perfect. It is a large portion so sharing is advisable. The filet steak in a peppercorn sauce is outstanding. Not many people can cook a steak medium but here they do and the spicy sauce is dazzling. Good to know they also serve fresh lobster with linguini in a tomato sauce but that’s for next time. I grade Casa Borsalino with 9.2 out of 10.
In the heart of Amsterdam, on the Rokin, there is a monumental basement venue, Satchmo, where they honor Louis Armstrong. The ambiance is cozy, intimate and trendy. Upstairs they have an open kitchen, which always gives me a good feeling of transparency. From the basement you have a lovely view to the street and you can watch everyone pass by. They also provide a gorgeous private room, which was built in the 1600s and is so lovely. The service is outstanding, fast and very hospitable. The menu is very international with French, Japanese, American style BBQ and Italian dishes. With Caviar, lobster and foie gras on the menu this venue catches my attention immediately. I keep it very simple today and start with a truffle linguini. I am stunned when it arrives because it’s served with many fresh truffle slices and in a butter truffle sauce. OMG it is ‘to die for’. Once in my mouth I have to admit this is one of the best pasta dishes I have ever had. Cooked al dente with a light butter sauce, some parsley, Parmesan and so much fresh truffle. The serving is large enough so I can indulge. The best part is all the Parmesan and truffle stuck to the bottom of my plate, which is the yummiest part and is really finger licking good. I continue with a raspberry cheese, which is so scrumptious however they don’t deserve the compliments because they did not make it themselves. They do however deserve props for having selected the best pastry shop. I grade Satchmo with 9.2 out of 10 because with pasta like this I guarantee that all dishes will be awesome.
On one of the borders of The Netherlands and Belgium you will find a quaint and lovely village called Baarle Hertog. In some places the border runs right through people’s living rooms, which is so funny. The Dutch and Belgian people living so close together have respect for each other and live in peace. They have different cultural customs and the food is different, but the Dutch took over the ‘soigné’ cooking style of the Belgians, which makes Baarle Hertog a culinary treat – and also the chocolates and souvenirs here are awesome. I have visited Baarle Hertog for over 30 years and to me it remains a special place. Whenever I am here I visit this grand café-style restaurant called Den Engel. There is seating inside and outside and the service here is outstanding – so hospitable and kind, which you rarely find in The Netherlands. I start with a lovely red wine, which is very nice and great value. Here in Europe you can always find great wine by the glass for a reasonable price because of easy access to good quality vineyards. The smoked salmon on a crispy baguette is magnificent. Served with a light salad of tomato, red onion and some cream cheese, this is just a lovely dish. The club sandwich with a fried egg, bacon, cheese and tomato on Waldkorn bread, served with homemade paprika chips, is another easy to consume dish. All ingredients are fresh and perfectly presented. The Thai beef stew, served with steamed rice, is another ravishing dish. This is Belgian beef stew containing all kinds of Thai flavors like lemon grass and cilantro, but you can still taste the Belgian beer used for the stew – so scrumptious. The chicken salad is another awesome dish served with beautiful ingredients and a heavenly dressing. Can you tell I started eating it before I took a picture to show you the presentation? I grade Den Engel with 9.0 out of 10.
On the north side of Aruba, in a very posh area called Malmok, you will find a stunning boutique hotel called OceanZ. The entrance tells you everything with a killer view of the ocean. I can imagine many are jealous for not having this view. The sunsets are amazing and, with so many colors, you’re reminded that there is a God. OceanZ has no more than 10 rooms but all are very well situated with outstanding designs. Most rooms have an outdoor shower, which means you’re completely naked under the stars. This gives me such a feeling of freedom. The front room with the ‘kick ass’ view of the ocean is where I stay. Not only are the rooms comfortable and very well decorated, but also when I open the door toward the ocean I have an infinity pool all to myself facing the ocean. The service is impeccable, from breakfast to dinner, the rooms are kept clean by lovely staff and the food they serve for their guests is outstanding. I would like to tell you about my experience and about certain dishes I had during my stay. In the eating lounge my table is always perfectly set with a lovely table cloth, well selected China, a cute little table chandelier and a buddha. In no time there is some fresh baked bread on the table with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and parmesan, I adore this combination. I have tried the pumpkin soup which is not only presented in an epic way but also the flavors of this creamy soup are heavenly with fresh ginger and lemon grass. The soup does not contain any cream except the small dots on top of the crispy Parmesan layer. The tuna tartar I had the other day is also ravishing. The Asian flavors are so very well selected with soy and ginger and, to add some great nutrition, they have mixed some avocado in with the tuna. The presentation is magnificent with sliced radish giving a crispy bite and the sauce made with the Anguilla eel is just gorgeous. The green salad with avocado, cucumber and edamame is another simple but perfect dish. The Caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes and little burrata’s is served with an organic pesto dressing made from homegrown basil. The Carpaccio here is a treat. Not only is it a feast for the eyes but also the flavored mayonnaise with crushed pepper and lime makes this a finger licking good dish and hits the spot. A dream dish is the angel hair aglio e olio served in a parmesan basket. It’s absolutely epic with so much flavor and so very well presented. The Salmon risotto is dazzling, served with crispy salmon skin chips. The texture of the rice is nicely cooked, although it could have been a little more al dente but the creamy, buttery flavor with the Salmon makes this dish marvelous. The lamb chops, served with a baked potato and a dazzling mint sauce is cooked right and seasoned perfectly. Salmon with a veggie mashed potato, served on a blueberry sauce, is another dish you will find divine. The mash goes so well with the salmon and the sweetness of the berries gives it just the right kick, making it a perfect meal. Profiteroles as dessert is always heavenly but these are served in a crispy sugar glazed basket with ice cream, which really makes my day and the other puffs are stuffed with Choco paste and Caramel. The Crème Brûlée is a slight minor, not because of the coconut flavor, but I find it to be far too sweet but if mixed with the blueberry sauce on the plate it makes it a little less sweet. Again, the presentation is awesome in a coconut shell which goes well with the flavor. On another occasion I had the honor of trying the brownie with vanilla ice cream served on granola, which is another perfect dish. Because of all these amazing dishes I really enjoyed my stay at OceanZ. It was totally epic. I grade OceanZ with 9.5 out of 10
Address: L.G. Smith Boulevard 526 Malmok, Noord, Aruba
In the middle of Aruba, you will find the capital called Oranjestad and within the heart of Oranjestad, inside a monumental building, you will find a quaint and lovely venue called Amice. They just recently opened so there are still some hiccups to deal with, but I can tell you already that this is an awesome restaurant where the food is ravishing, and the service is kind. The ambiance is cozy with a hint of Dutch style. The tables are large and with the private dining room they seat more than enough people. At the moment, Amice is open from 8am – 4pm. They will be opening at a later stage for dinner, but for now they are working on building their popularity. The menu offers a large variety of dishes from eggs Benedict for breakfast to hamburgers, wraps and warm meals for lunch. The value is spot on and the portions are as I like – very controlled but therefore the value is perfect. In order to gain an overall impression, I order all kinds of different dishes. First, I have to tell you that the smoothies made from fresh fruit are ‘to die for’ as they do not add too much sugar and in this country, they usually add powdered milk, which makes it a Batido. Please tell them if you are vegan or if you’d rather have almond milk. Wines are well selected, and bubbles are available – all for a very reasonable price. I start with eggs benedict with smoked salmon, which is very well presented on a toasted bagel with lettuce and home fries. The sauce served with the dish is lovely however the eggs are under cooked and that’s something I really don’t like. Maybe I should have asked them to be cooked over medium – in any case I definitely think you should tell them how you’d like your eggs cooked. The Caesar salad with salmon is a dazzling dish as not only is the salad delicious and crispy but also the salmon goes very well with it and it is quite a large portion. I have to say all dishes have a marvelous presentation. The chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce is a tasty dish and, although the chicken is slightly overcooked, I have to say I enjoy this dish, served with rice and al dente sautéed veggies. The linguini Alfredo with salmon is my favorite dish because all flavors are nice and creamy on the plate with a huge slice of salmon. It’s simply magnificent. Another epic dish is the Grouper in a creamy sauce served with al dente veggies and steamed rice. In Aruba they would love to sell you Tilapia instead of Grouper, so I ask specifically if it is really Grouper and I have to say, even though it was a small fish, it was real Grouper and quite a yummy one. The sauce goes so well with the fish that it’s finger licking good. Another delish dish is the tenderloin pieces in a mushroom sauce served with crispy sautéed veggies and mash potatoes. The meat is cooked perfectly at just the right temperature and the mushroom sauce is heavenly. The hamburger served on a huge bun with fries is of a good quality. The meat is nice and juicy, make sure you tell them how you want your hamburger cooked. The salmon served in a teriyaki sauce is another outstanding dish. Served with rice or mash potatoes, this salmon dish hits the spot and makes it a perfect lunch meal. Desserts are available; however, they do not make them in their own kitchen. I can recommend the cheesecake because it’s as good as cheesecake in NYC. The fresh mint tea, served in a beautiful teapot with honey, is another ‘must try’. I totally believe that this venue is a keeper. I grade Amice with 8.5 out of 10.