A Priori

Last night we dined at A Priori (site is only in Dutch, but there’s information in English here). They’re part of the Jeunes Restaurateurs d’Europe network, and having dined at numerous other member eateries we’d received a voucher which covered about half of last night’s bill.

The setting was stylish, decorated in matte black and apple green, and the staff dressed to match. After our champagne and peach liqueur aperitif we chose the “Culinary Poem” menu, with no idea of what it would contain. First we were presented with a cube of tuna, a blob of aubergine and a slab of olive paste topped with a parmesan dome. Not bad – the tuna was lovely.

Then came what for me remained one of the highlights of the meal (there’s nothing like peaking early, eh?). Carpaccio of clam, one on a bed of diced fennel, the other on diced tartare of beef. Both melted in the mouth and the delicate flavours combined well, not overwhelming each other.

The fish dish. I forget what kind of fish it was (we never saw a list of the dishes or ingredients, so I’m having to rely on my memory and the photos), but it was well cooked. The crab didn’t really excite me, but then it never does. The surprise was the salsify, which wasn’t at all bitter and had a nice resistance to it.

Then duck’s liver on puréed pea. Good strong flavours, although I’d have preferred something crunchier alongside as both ingredients were kind of squishy and pastey.

A cube of duck’s liver dusted in something interesting I couldn’t identify; a Granny Smith sorbet; and a dollop of fantastic orange chutney (I’m convinced there was something else added to it – whiskey?).

The main course, and also one of the least convincing. From left to right – pheasant (pleasant, but not exactly bursting with flavour); chestnut crumble; jerusalem artichoke cream; a truffle finger, which was pretty dry and chewy; and something I couldn’t identify but which basically tasted like a mild paté on a finger of toast.

As a pre-dessert we were served a bowl of walnuts. I’m not really that mad about nuts, (although the sight and sound of someone opening them with a nutcracker always makes me think of my father at Christmas) but my wife assured me that these were particularly unusual and tasty.

A selection of sweets. The red tube is flavoured with blood orange, and the ice cream is flavoured with Szechuan pepper. Nice, although as the TV Masterchef hosts would say “There’s too much going on on the plate!”

The nibbles that came with our coffee was a fairly standard assortment, but very nibblable nonetheless, and presented in an original way.

And finally a coconut milkshake with a little white chocolate on a stick.

Overall I was left with the impression of a chef working with quality ingredients, putting a lot of thought into their arrangement and presentation, but at the end of the day failing to create anything really memorable. With the exception of the carpaccio of clam on beef tartare nothing really knocked me out. I guess you could say it was “tasteful”, yet lacking in flavour…