Latei, Amsterdam

In Culture, Food on September 26, 2010 at 7:44 pm

We first heard about Latei through the underwater amsterdam website. In their “events” section, on the weekend they mentioned (not anymore!) organic Indian thali meals for a decent price (Euros 8-12). We were mildly interested at that point and decided that we could check it out when we went to Amsterdam. A little more surfing closer to an actual trip revealed excellent reviews of the place and especially their “home-style” Indian food.

With relatives visiting us, we had the perfect excuse to check out Latei, while showing them around Amsterdam. The restaurant is located at Zeedijk 143, fairly close to Amsterdam Centraal and the Dam.

Having got somewhat dubious directions, the search for Latei was interesting too – the tram dropped us off at Amsterdam Centraal from where we walked past the sex-museum, into the heart of the Red-light district, where bakery windows choc-a-block with baked delicacies are tightly packed in line with windows offering other kinds of temptations…past ironies like ‘Kamasutra Indian restaurant’ offering ‘Pure Vegetarian Thali’, Police on horseback, and children in strollers part of a ‘special red-light area tour’.

We really aren’t big fans of what we call Indian “Restaurant” food – the standard naan-paneer-butter-matar-tandoori type nonsense that passes for “indian” food in most restaurants, especially abroad. We remember reading about the ‘three gravy’ formula for running an Indian restaurant – they simmer three vats of gravy – red, white and brown – into which all manner of overcooked meat and vegetables are dunked and served up – so the thirty nine or so items that one sees on the typical menu basically come from just three vats!

When we arrived there, Latei seemed a little underwhelming – chairs and tables packed into what is not a very large space. It scores no points for conventional restaurant ‘ambience’. Its double height entryway makes it seem roomier once you enter, and of course, the huge array of lamps that hang from the ceiling, and the assortment of second hand goods scattered around the place (all for sale by the way) give it the whimsical, cozy character that is its charm. It doesn’t pretend to be anything that it is not – what it has on offer is food that is utterly simple, wholesome and honest, and yet not lacking in subtlety or character, and staff that is friendly, behaving like hosts, and being effective at their job.

The tables had a leaflet with the thali menus on them (vegetarian and non-vegetarian options) and and explanation overleaf of why ‘indian restaurant’ food is not representative of ‘indian food’. That, of course, made us smile…while the food that followed satisfied the palette and the soul. Rice and Dal (the tadka for the dal was a tad unusual, using allspice berries, which are not available in India!), with ‘hare mattar ki tikki’, gujarati carrot salad (with crushed peanuts, rai-ka-tadka and lime), cucumber raita and a walnut-raisin chutney. One of us got the non-veg thali where the mattar ki tikki was replaced by an organic-lamb dish.

To put it ‘desi-ly’ the thali was Fully Paisa Vasool! And speaking of paisa…it is 10 euros for the vegetarian and 12 for the non-veg — good food in the Netherlands certainly does not come cheaper than this….

However, that alone is certainly not our reason for recommending Latei – go here if you miss your ghar ka daal chawal (daily home cooked Indian food) – or are fed up of the daal chawal you cook yourself! You might enjoy a different (albeit ‘saatvik’) take on familiar dishes.

And to remind yourself that you are indeed still in the Netherlands, finish with a slice of their excellent home-made appeltaart 🙂

  1. Great to have the ‘Anjeers’ back, and no pun intended! Love the ‘three gravy formula’…very close to the MSU hostel mess! Does ‘Latei’ mean anything?

    • Yes, ‘Latei’ is (probably in Dutch) the Lintel (horizontal member) above the door – I think it implies something like ‘portal’. This could be inexact or wrong, but thats the impression we got when we asked the same question.

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