Resplendent Rijsttafel

The biggest surprise for me in Amsterdam was the food.

I’ve already told you about the fondue (Cafe Bern), and our local meal with Daan & Yasmijn. On Saturday night we chose to partake in the local specialty, Rijsttafel (Indonesian rice table). With it’s history rooted in the Dutch colonization of Indonesia, rijsttafel was created as a way to showcase abundance and the rich diversity of the Indonesian culture. Today, it is like tapas on steroids.

We chose Sama Sebo which is located right by the Rijksmuseum. After Daan had shared that it was his mother’s favorite Indonesian restaurant in Amsterdam, we felt comfortable that we had chosen well. A feeling that was most certainly confirmed a few hours later with our tummies full and I, with a marriage proposal and invitation to move to Bali.

The restaurant itself was rather small and given the sharing nature of the food the dining room was teeming with large tables full of celebratory gatherings. Our table of five was one of the smallest groups there that evening. While there were a few decisions to be made once sat down, like what kind of wine will you drink, still or sparkling water, other than that, the food just starts coming. Once we had our drinks, the serving tables started arriving. There were several small carts brought to our tableside, some with heating dishes on them. Then the food started coming. And boy does it just keep coming. Our table was full, the serving carts were full, there were plates on top of plates. True to it’s purpose, the vast array of flavors on the rijsttafel were out of this world. There were spicy meat dishes, some curries, peanut sauce and a little sweetness to the chicken dish. There were multiple types of rice, every kind of meat and vegetables served every way imaginable. Each dish tasted better than the last but each in it’s own unique and surprising way.

Unlike my experience traveling in Greece, traveling as five women in Amsterdam brings you a lot of friendly attention. The experience at Sama Sebo was not an exception. The atmosphere was lively and celebratory. The wait staff had a mixture of respect and irreverence. While they enjoyed sharing their cuisine with us obvious amateurs, I do think they found amusement in our picking through some of the more unusual dishes. There are many rijsttafels in Amsterdam. We were told this is one of the best, but I’m sure any one of them would bring it’s own unique experience and I’m sure excellent food.

I have not yet found a rifsttafel in NYC that sounds like it would even remotely match our experience in Amsterdam. I’ll keep looking, but in the meantime, if you find yourself in Amsterdam, don’t miss out!

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