Killer Asian food – tick. Cosy Amsterdam vibe – tick. The most fun you’ve had in ages – tick. Ron Gastrobar Oriental Downtown could just be Amsterdam’s best night out and here’s why.
Back in 2019 we reviewed Ron Gastrobar Indonesia Downtown. We were captivated by it and recommended it to everyone we knew – and a lot of people we didn’t via this blog. It offered the full package with everything dialled up to the max from fabulous food to a stunning venue; brilliant entertainment and outstanding staff.
So we were beyond gutted to hear that due to the expiration of the building lease, pre-corona, this absolute gem was shutting down. Ron Blaauw (more about him later) retained the Indonesia brand at the Ouderkerk aan de Amstel branch and subsequently opened another outpost in the city of Laren. But by our reckoning there was still a Ron Gastro Downtown-sized hole left in Amsterdam centre.
Ron for those of you who don’t know gave back a Michelin star many years ago, freeing him up to offer unpretentious, accessible and more affordable food in his restaurants which include the original Ron Gastrobar and the Indonesian restaurants mentioned above. The final star in the Ron firmament was Ron Gastrobar Oriental. A little while back a decision was made to refurbish this venue and the great news is that Ron Oriental is back with a BANG and we were lucky enough to visit a few weeks after its reopening.
Blog readers will know that I typically urge visitors to avoid standard Asian fare in Amsterdam. Sushi is so ubiquitous internationally and visitors who stick to the likes of Momo will be sitting alongside other tourists in a restaurant that could be anywhere from Singapore to Sydney, Cape Town to California.
But there are Asian foods which ARE typically Dutch and as good here as anywhere in the world if not better – particularly Indonesian food which due to Indonesia being a former Dutch colony has thrived in The Netherlands for generations. Mix that up with a dose of Dutch gezelligheid and you’re on to a winner.
So enter Ron Gastrobar Oriental Downtown which they describe as
the most exciting and swinging member of the Gastrobar family
Take a mix of Indonesian and Chinese food, tuck it away down the Kerkstraat – a dark and cosy central Amsterdam street and add an interior that mashes up the best of both worlds – you can start to see why we highly recommend this fabulous gem.
We arrived for our 8pm booking on a Saturday night in October and were welcomed warmly.
The interior is centred around a large bar and the majority of the seating downstairs is either at the bar or at a chef’s table overlooking the kitchen. Although there are regular tables around the sides we’d highly recommend booking a bar seat – you’ll be right at the heart of the action and it creates an intimacy and warmth that adds to the vibe. Each place setting is prepared with a beautifully presented dark wood tray ready for action.
Upstairs is a small but beautiful room with fewer tables and a little stage. More about what goes on there later.
Don’t think I’ve gone mad but I have to mention the bathrooms here too. I love a creative take on things and stepping into the bathroom is a must. In keeping with the “unexpected” ethos of the venue, you leave the restaurant behind and enter a space with a great sense of humour – where a romantic Chinese movie is playing on a little screen whilst The Circle Of Life plays at full volume. Sounds odd? A little mad? Trust me, this places deftly navigates cool and fun. Nothing is ever cheesy or cringe – go with it and you’ll leave with a smile on your face.
The food at Ron Gastrobar Oriental is amazing. Indeed, let me use a word I don’t use that often and say it was exceptional. They describe it as “sexy Oriental food” and I couldn’t agree more. The menu doesn’t do it justice, we had a feast and I’d be hard pushed to pick a favourite dish.
There are two kitchen areas – one producing dim sum and another for everything else. Please give it all a try – order as much as you can handle – or afford.
We started with two items I can’t even find on the menu but if you are offered them, say yes. A duck lumpia (a kind of Indonesian spring roll which may or may not be the gyoza referenced on the menu!) and a crispy little shell filled with something like steak tartare. At this point I’m going to apologise for the pictures that follow. The restaurant was dark and cosy on this October evening – just as it should be – however even my trusty Nikon struggles with atmospheric low lighting, so take this as a general impression (and a reminder that food is meant to be eaten not photographed!)
Next came the dim sum course – three perfectly executed baskets of creative delights courtesy of Chef Wang who was working his magic in the kitchen just behind us. The Wagyu Siu Mai (wagyu, bone marrow and truffle) were a sensation – and I happen to know they are Ron Blauw’s favourite too.
Then Kingfish served ceviche style followed by the extraordinary 1000 chilli sea bream (deliciously sweet and not at all spicy despite the fabulous presentation) and a lovely lemon chicken.
We were then lucky enough to be served by chef Patrick himself, who introduced RGOD’s legendary half Peking Duck – served with rice, pancakes, hoisin, leek and cucumber and decadent bau buns as a bonus.
On this occasion we didn’t have the satay but having found it an absolute highlight of our previous dining adventure at Ron Gastro Indonesia I can pretty much guarantee it will blow your socks off.
For dessert an enormously refreshing play on passion fruit with coconut ice cream and mango.
This was the meal of champions. We took our time so never felt full (or rushed) and yet enjoyed traversing the Asian continent via its fabulous flavours and wonderful creativity.
Ron Gastrobar Oriental is a restaurant, entertainment venue and cocktail bar in one. So be sure to try one of their signature drinks. Given the bar is the centrepiece of the venue you won’t be surprised to hear that drinks are a real highlight. And sitting round the bar means you get to see them being shaken and stirred in all their glory.
I went for the signature “Ronny” served in a tongue in cheek coconut but the mix of Bacardi, coconut, spicy mango and passionfruit was no joke – it was as good as it sounds. The “cocktail envy” kept rolling as I saw others being prepped and served, so whatever your tipple I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Ron Gastrobar Oriental still has more to offer. They describe it as “surprising entertainment” and that’s as good a description as I can think of – in the best possible way.
From Thursday to Saturday this is a venue that has thought about your whole evening. The vibe builds through the night and guests are led through an experience that starts with dinner, moves seamlessly into live performances and then culminates with a fantastic DJ. And you don’t need to leave your seat – although trust me, its hard not to.
We were entertained by a singer who must have had at least three outfit changes over the course of an hour. Her base is the little stage upstairs, accompanied by a couple of live musicians but she sashays downstairs regularly throughout her set in all her glittery finery with swing versions of everything from Frank Sinatra to Amy Winehouse. The music is pitched perfectly, both in variety and volume.
As the vibe builds, she was joined by one of the waiters who grabbed the mike and let rip with a duet. This is SO Ron Gastrobar – the element of surprise and fun, not taking itself too seriously but at the same time managing to keep the balance between cool and crazy.
Most fun of all, just before 10pm, guests are all handed a mysterious envelope. Inside are “Ronnie” dollar bills and instructions to wave them like mad when the track “Bills” is played.
Guests are each given a lovely little shot of something lemony, the sparklers come out, the atmosphere jumps up several notches and the staff join the entertainment as the track kicks in.
It was absolutely brilliant. Everyone got involved. I usually hate organised fun but the electric atmosphere was irresistible and as the bills were waved enthusiastically, guests started to jump out their seats and take part.
Don’t worry if you’re still mid-meal this isn’t a club, and the food rolls on. The DJ set was sensational, again the volume loud enough to get guests up on their feet, dancing to killer tunes by their tables yet somehow not at all too loud to sit and carry on your conversation if that’s what you want. Hosted by a DJ standing seriously by his decks in front of a cabinet filled with hanging peking duck.
We missed “Mr Spicy” with his glittery ringmaster jacket pushing his sambal cart around Ron Gastrobar Indonesia when the restaurant closed down but he is reinvented here with sparkle aplenty sprinkled amongst the performers, the hosts, waiting staff and guests.
Saturdays are billed cleverly as Sate Night Fever whilst the last Sunday of the month is “Dim Sum Day” (dim sum and live music at lunchtime). The website even mentions “a crazy bingo” – and you can definitely count me in for that!
But because all good things must come to an end, eventually it was time for us to head home. The dancing continued without us in the Kerkstraat’s funkiest hideaway and I’m pretty sure that the last guests standing had to be dragged away.
We mourned the loss of Ron Gastrobar Indonesia Downtown long after they closed their doors for the final time, and we struggled to recommend anything half as good. But Ron, you’ve done us proud – Ron Gastrobar Oriental Downtown provides all the laughs and surprises, the fabulous cocktails and killer food we’ve been missing, as well as the a giant dose of music and sparkle that we all so sorely need in these post Corona days.
We’ll be back.
We were exceptionally lucky to be hosted as guests of Ron Gastrobar Oriental Downtown but hopefully you can see from our review just how much we genuinely loved it. Indeed, we were barely out of the door before we started recommending it to friends and family.
Book now on their website for an evening (or lunch) you won’t forget – you might even see us there throwing our finest shapes.