During the last days of 2022, a village located just-next-door to Amsterdam, beautifully located on the Amstel river, saw one of the year’s most promising restaurant openings. After a very long renovation of the formerly famous Klein Paardenburg restaurant, SAAM opened in November. It’s owned by one of The Netherland’s best known sommeliers, Koen van der Plas, together with the energetic Henk-Jan Beltman, the well-known co-owner of Tony’s Chocolonely; Jasper Hermans, a passionate chef with a lengthy resumé; and Margot Janse, the team’s coach and one of South African top chefs. Not only does the addition of Margot Janse make the South African link obvious―as does the name (South Africa AMsterdam)―but the food and wine list clearly reflect the South African influences.
SAAM is one of those restaurants where no expense has been spared. Luckily, everything is in perfect harmony, where nothing is over the top, but everything is simply and beautifully executed. Calm colours in both decoration and staff uniforms, lovely understated art from various artists, a relaxed open kitchen, music in the background which is present, but never disturbing. Lovely tableware (look at the adorable coffee cups!), a great selection of stemware, and everything fits. Sometimes with new openings a restaurant needs to get a dent into a table or a wall or scratch into the paint before it becomes a little more lived and warm, but there’s no need for that at SAAM.
The food is just what the doctor ordered. Expressive and a little complex, but comfortable and playful at the same time. Well executed French style sauces and cuissons are mingled with the South African influence of spices and ingredients, which give a bit of playful heat here and there. But what can you expect from these chefs, most of whom have an extended resumé in the Dutch culinary Michelin world and who are helped and inspired by the generous and warm Margot Janse from Franschhoek?
For a young restaurant, the wine list is extensive with a beautiful and diverse selection of South African wines, but there also some nice French and German entries (Lamarche and Keller for example) and promising names like Wasenhaus. While there is already enough to choose from, the wine list is bound to get larger and deeper, as Koen and his right-hand man Max van Bockel also run Sommwine wine imports.
The interior is lovely all year round, but the whole experience becomes even more spectacular when the days lengthen and you can also experience the lovely Ouderkerk village. You can even come by your own boat from Amsterdam!