While the Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, is feted for its abundance of Indonesian food, the Dutch capital has a much broader scope when it comes to the diversity of Asian cuisines it dishes out with impressive finesse. Here is a selection of our favorite Asian restaurants in Amsterdam, with contributions from all over the varied continent. Some of the restaurants are concentrated in Amsterdam's so-called Chinatown, which in reality is a harmonious mix of pan-Asian and -European restaurants and cultures.
The oysters in black bean sauce at Nam Kee may have inspired a namesake novel and screen adaptation, but what stands out most for me at this stalwart of Amsterdam Chinatown is its well-rounded selection of typical Chinese dishes calibrated to Dutch palates. The hybridized cuisine that Nam Kee churns out not only borrows from Dutch tastes, however, but also Indonesian ones, as many Chinese-Indonesians ultimately re-settled in the Netherlands in the mid-20th century; for that reason, U.S. visitors will find their favorite American Chinese dishes under Indonesian names, like nasi goreng for fried rice and bami goreng instead of lo mein.
No discussion of Asian food in Amsterdam would be complete without ample mention of its Indonesian restaurants, and indeed the Indo-Dutch rijsttafel has become a tourist attraction in and of itself. From finer sit-down restaurants to diminutive hole-in-the-wall Toko's, the Indonesian eateries of Amsterdam reflect a diversity of atmospheres and price classes.
Indian food is hit-or-miss in Amsterdam, but several restaurants earn top marks for their value, hospitality and excellent food. Meghna is one such restaurant, and its menu of Northern Indian dishes covers all the classics, from chicken tikka masala to the simple, lentil-based dal. While the atmosphere is quite basic and the food contains few surprises, it's a reliable pit-stop for Indian food lovers in search of familiar favorites.
Dosa South Indian Restaurant
Diners who prefer the flavors of the southern subcontinent can check out Dosa, one of the few South Indian restaurants in Amsterdam; while North Indian curries still share much of the menu, it's one of the few places in town where one can tuck into dosa, a lentil- and rice-flour pancake traditionally served with coconut chutney and the tomato-based sambar stew, and popular variations such as masala dosa, dosa filled with a spiced potato mixture.
Japanese Pancake World
Sushi can be had in cities of almost any size these days, but some Japanese specialties have been slow to catch on outside their home country. Such is the case with okonomiyaki, the namesake dish of Japanese Pancake World, which, as the restaurant's name implies, is a mountainous Japanese pancake from the comfort-food capital of Osaka. Sample some of the best okonomiyaki outside Japan in several varieties at this specialist restaurant, situated on a cozy street in the heart of the lovable Jordaan district.
The city may be crammed with mediocre sushi buffets, especially just due west of the Royal Palace, but those with an insatiable appetite for sushi would do better to head to Shabu Shabu in De Pijp. Despite the fact that their namesake dish is nowhere to be found on the actual menu, the restaurant delivers in other respects, such as with a fair selection of sushi and - more uniquely - with casual Japanese favorites such as curry rice and ramen.
Malaysian Restaurants in Amsterdam
Nyonya Malaysia Express
Indonesian food may be over-represented in Amsterdam compared with the cuisine just next door, but a couple of restaurants in Amsterdam Chinatown seek to remedy that. Nyonya Malaysia Express is a modest-sized restaurant just steps from Nieuwmarkt that serves Malay classics such as nasi lemak, a mound of coconut-flavored rice surrounded with savory condiments - like the delectable sambal ikan bilis, a fried anchovy sauce - and other additions. Expect excellent value for abundant portions of delicious food.
Wau Malaysian Restaurant A more formal Malaysian meal can be had at Wau, named for the traditional kites that bedeck the restaurant's walls; while the prices are a tad steeper than at Nyonya, the difference is reflected in the food, which is richer and more rarified, with a slew of dishes that are hard, if not impossible, to find elsewhere in the Netherlands; the sambal petai is one example, a dish of the famously stinky, bitter petai beans whose taste is curiously addictive.
Thai Restaurants in Amsterdam
Thai Bird Another Zeedijk stalwart, Thai Bird has overseen the transformation of Chinatown's most trodden street for the past 20 years. With two locations just across the street from each other, Thai Bird's two incarnations comprise a cheap, informal snack bar and a somewhat pricey, but more varied sit-down restaurant. Both locations serve reasonably authentic renditions of mostly Central Thai dishes.
This fashionable Thai restaurant in the Jordaan is the solution for visitors who find themselves left of the city center - and with extra cash to spare, as its Versace dinnerware doesn't come cheap. But the quality and attention to detail that this refined restaurant purveys are worth the cost, as even the most decor-indifferent diners will notice when they experience the impeccable service and fantastic Thai flavors. Value-conscious diners will also be pleased with their prix-fixe menus.
A loner on this list, Restaurant Tibet may be one of a handful of Tibetan/Nepali restaurants in town, but the only one to be worth a recommendation - and an enthusiastic one, at that. The warm, colorful decor and hospitable staff make for an intimate atmosphere in which to idle over splendid, creative Tibetan and Han Chinese dishes, described on the menu in prose that bursts with the chef's quirky personality. I can't vouch for the restaurant's authenticity as I've never been to Tibet, but even if the dishes are the fanciful interpretation of the head chef, I'm amply satisfied with the idiosyncrasy of his cuisine.