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Studio HENK and Coulisse celebrate the festive month together

December is here, it’s the festive month where everything revolves around coming together and celebrating. It’s the perfect time to enjoy moments around your table with delicious food, good wine, family and friends. To celebrate these kinds of moments, and shine some light on the Dutch hospitality industry, Studio HENK has collaborated with the Amsterdam based restaurant Coulisse; as sustainability, comfort and quality are important themes in the work of both of our companies. We spoke with Tim van der Molen and Simon Witmaar, owners of Coulisse, about their love for seasonal cooking, easy fine dining and much more.

The concept of your restaurant is ‘easy fine dining,’ can you explain what you mean by this?
“Easy fine dining is a term that we invented as we wanted to include all of the aspects of fine dining and serving food at a high level, whilst meanwhile ensuring that the service is not too casual, but certainly not too stiff. We want to ensure that people experience everything in a comfortable setting. We try to create a pleasant atmosphere with various genres of music; from hip hop to reggae and from jazz to electronic music. With dishes that follow each other in quick succession and exciting wine combinations, we give our guests a full evening program, so they don’t get bored but also don’t have the feeling that they are in place that is too posh. From the moment that guests arrive, until they step out again, everything should feel organic and comfortable.”

“We only work with local and seasonal products”

How important is sustainability to you?
"Very important. For example, we only work with local seasonal products, we minimise the use of meat (if we do use meat it is mainly game), and we only choose line-caught fish. In addition, we are very conscious of minimising our waste. For example, we don’t just use the best parts of the vegetables, but we try to incorporate the whole product from A to Z in a dish. We also try to ferment, can or otherwise process all of the leftovers from our dishes.”

Can you tell us more about seasonal cooking and your use of local products? 
“We base our dishes on the seasons and the products that go with them. In the summer we cook with a lot of vegetables, herbs and plenty of fruit. In winter, the focus shifts to seafood and game, where we opt for slightly heavier flavours. Then in the spring - when a lot of the fresh produce returns - we will again work on a vegetable-focused menu with easily digestible dishes. The ingredients we use at Coulisse are locally sourced wherever possible. We prefer to work with small-scale entrepreneurs such as local farmers, fishermen or small importers. Not everything comes from the Netherlands, but as much as possible. It is important to us that the origin of the product is clear, and the parties that supply them to us have insight into how the products are produced. In almost all cases, this also benefits the quality.”

Tim, you have gained experience as a chef in restaurants such as Noma in Copenhagen and Vuurtoreneiland in Amsterdam. Has this influenced your menu at Coulisse?
“All of the places where I have worked have had some influence on the way we cook here at Coulisse. I like that this doesn’t just come solely from star restaurants or from bistros. The balance between those two worlds is extremely beneficial. At Noma, for example, I learnt a lot about creativity, flavour combinations, discovering new products, and hard work. At Vuurtoreiland I learnt about cooking on an open fire, sustainability and the use of local products; two important pillars of Coulisse.”

“Create more interaction at the table on Christmas by letting guests put together their own plate.”

What makes you different from other similarly esteemed Amsterdam restaurants?
“We are constantly developing and discovering new flavours without wanting to shock our customers. The most important thing is that everything is very tasty and that the origin of the products and cooking techniques comes first. In addition, we find the natural presentation and dynamic atmosphere of the restaurant important. All of this leads to an experience that - in our opinion - cannot be obtained anywhere else in Amsterdam.” 

What do you pay attention to when preparing a dish? 
“Everything has to look organic and natural, that's very important. We are not a restaurant that works with dyes or moulds in the preparation of plates. However, that doesn't mean that a lot of time and work doesn't go into creating and preparing our meals. For us it is essential that the product remains clearly visible on a plate. First and foremost, a dish has to look good, without looking rustic. It is sometimes quite a challenge creating an organic and delicious looking dish that also looks chic at the same time. It is not always easy, but this means it is all the more fun when it eventually succeeds.”

How can people at home recreate the ‘Coulisse feeling?’ 
“When we celebrate Christmas with friends, we never have neatly laid-out plates. Instead we fill the entire table with delicious things and let everyone put together their own dish. This is similar to what we do at Coulisse. I get a lot of inspiration from Asian cuisine, where this way of dining is more common. So my tip for recreating the ultimate Coulisse feeling at home is: put a number of main components on the table per course, and then set condiments around them that guests can add themselves. This ensures that you experience less stress at home, plus it looks cozy and leads to more interaction at the table.”

Easy fine dining in your own living room, who wouldn't want that? Thanks to restaurants such as Coulisse - who offer a delicious take away menu with sustainable dishes every week - this is now easily attainable. Our goal is to celebrate being together in the month of December in a relaxed atmosphere, whilst also supporting the local hospitality industry. We wish you a Merry Christmas full of warmth, love and comfort, and on to a fresh and healthy 2021.