Here’s my challenge to any Dutchie: Go one full day without uttering the word lekker and I will personally treat you to the lekkerste experience of your choice listed below. So what does this most ubiquitous of all Dutch words really mean? Originally used to describe something that tastes yummy, like stamppot—a dish made with mashed spuds and mashed weeds, e.g. carrots (wortel stamppot), kale (boerenkool stamppot) or endive (andijvie stamppot)—its meaning now extends to something, or usually someONE, deemed hot, alluring and sexy. You might refer to your hunky neighbor as lekker, but don’t call your boss that within his/her earshot unless you’re prepared to trade your day job for a roll in the hay.
To further complicate things, lekker also can mean pleasant or sweet. At bedtime, you can say slaap lekker, meaning “sleep well” or “sweet dreams,” to your mom with no sexual overtones or “lekker, man” when your friend tells you he’s won the lottery. On the other hand, if he’s really a creep, the whole thing could be niet lekker—not nice. The most confusing part comes when the Dutch pair lekker with gezellig (see previous post) for the ultimate superlative: lekker gezellig. In Holland it doesn’t get any better than that…until you get to heerlijk or wildly delicious—Dutchie Nirvana! For purposes of this post, let’s assume lekker refers to food that tastes delicious, served in an environment that exudes gezelligheid (coziness). Here are a trio of places to find it in Amsterdam. Eet smakelijk!
Moeders (Mothers): If smells emanating from this homage to moms everywhere were caloric, I’d be obese. Having lived next door to it for three years, I’ve salivated on numerous afternoons over the aroma of tangy spare ribs and suddervlees, slowly simmered meat—my favorites on an international menu that also includes a Dutchified Rijsttafel, substituting culinary specialties of Holland for rice. Zo lekker! Imagine, a “rice table” without rice! Opened in 1990, Moeders serves lunch, dinner and high tea in an informal, homey ambiance that’s as lekker than its food. Photos of guests’ mothers, eclectic table settings, antique biscuit tins, vintage tea pots and other kitsch make it decidedly gezellig—especially the outdoor patio, open May through September.
The Pancake Bakery: Dutch pannenkoeken are nothing like American pancakes, French crêpes or Israeli blintzes. Prepared in a special cast-iron pan, they’re flipped before one side is completely done, resulting in a softer interior texture than their international cousins. Sweet toppings include strawberries, whipped cream, bananas, Nutella and Grand Marnier. Savory options encompass ham, bacon, cheese, mushrooms, chicken and sausage. Whichever you prefer, they’re all headliners at The Pancake Bakery. Set on the Prinsengracht in a historic 17th century warehouse a stone’s throw from Anne Frank’s house, this dimly lit Amsterdam fixture serves up traditional pannenkoeken and poffertjes (small pannenkoeken, often cooked with apples and crowned with melted butter and powdered sugar. Since 1980, it’s drawn locals and tourists with a gezellig vibe and infinite array of topping combinations, including bacon and salami with syrup, an acquired taste for Americans.
Nomads: East meets West in this Arabian-themed restaurant on Rozengracht created by the same folks who gave us supperclub. More relaxed than its upscale cousin, Nomads features a domed dining room lined with cozy niches, velvet cushions, red mirrors and a magnificent mosaic floor. Guests dine shoe-less, reclining like royalty while sampling hot and cold mezzes (small dishes) served on enormous copper trays. Wash your meal down with mint tea or a specialty cocktail, then sit back and digest specialties like falafal, tabouleh, couscous and tahini-spiced kebabs while a belly dancer gyrates or resident DJ Jimmy Jazz entertains with modern Arabian sounds.