For a relatively small city, Amsterdam has a surprisingly global assortment of restaurants. (We credit the city's merchant roots, colonial aspirations, and an open and cosmopolitan population.) As you've probably heard, Amsterdam has the best Indonesian food anywhere outside of southeast Asia. Rijsttafel restaurants (usually located near the central canal ring, to scoop up tourists), such as Tempo Doeloe, line the length of your table with small plates of Indonesian specialties. But the international grazing doesn't stop there: Michelin-starred Yamazato, in the Okura Hotel, turns out supernal sushi; a recent taste for tapas informs the very trendy Envy; and Gallic-flavored, classical kitchens, like the venerable La Rive, draw their own posh following.
But ironically, what has turned Amsterdam into a newly touted dining destination is its patriotic rediscovery of Dutch cuisine. The trend takes two forms. The first, a rapidly spreading Slow Food movement, is fueled by a taste for local sourcing. De Kas and Restaurant As characterize this glossy restaurant model: organic interiors, fresh seasonal ingredients, a creative chef with a purist approach installed in the kitchen, and frequently, a south Amsterdam location (the less central geography affords enough room to grow the requisite herb garden). Less pristine but sometimes more fun are the born-again Dutch kitchens working to retrieve a lost recipe book of regional dishes. Grettje traverses all the lowlands provinces, plating everything from Frisian onion soup to Limburgian stews, and celebrity chef Ron Blauuw's Brasserie Keyzer does right by North Sea smoked eel and Dutch brasserie food (96 Van Baerlestraat; 31-20-675-1866; www.brasseriekeyzer.nl).
In the end, it's often Amsterdam's constellation of cafés, and the thriving society they support, that visitors find most invitingand affordable. Usually sitting canal-side, and clustered largely in the Jordaan, the Nine Streets neighborhood, and the Western Canal Ring, the city's timeless brown cafés (named for their tobacco-stained patina), like 't Smalle, offer an all-day menu of croquettes and Dutch gin. If that's too twee, New Age cafés, typified by Walem, dish up mammoth broodjes (Dutch-style sandwiches) and attract stylish crowds.