A cozy Dutch treat

Updated: 2011-03-06 07:46

By Donna Mah (China Daily)

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A cozy Dutch treat

Hong Kong

Nestled up by a Central-Mid-levels escalator far from the crowds is a cozy Dutch-inspired European restaurant called the Orange Tree. Here you can pick up Dutch treats including bitterballen (deep fried beef dumplings), garnaaltjes (North Sea shrimps), hutspot (carrot, potato, onion mash) and poffertjes (Dutch coin-size pancakes). During haring (herring) season, they serve the fish fresh (that would be raw) with the traditional chopped raw onions. Not a great date dish, but surprisingly creamy, smooth and delicious.

The Orange Tree isn't a new restaurant. It's been around since September 1997 and has always been at this location. As an independent chef-owned restaurant, the food has to be good to keep customers coming back. Chef/patron Pieter Onderwater is originally from the Netherlands and tells me that about 50 percent of his clientele is local, which in his book is high praise for the taste and quality of the food. Onderwater arrived in Hong Kong in 1991 on a cruise ship where he was working as a chef. When it docked in Yokohama, Japan, after leaving Hong Kong, Onderwater decided to jump ship and return to Hong Kong.

A cozy Dutch treat

After a stint at the now defunct Victoria Hotel in Shun Tak Center, Onderwater then moved on to the Derby Room of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. After his time working in the larger organizations, Onderwater wanted to run his own place. It eventually evolved into the Orange Tree, which serves Dutch food plus many other continental dishes. But what exactly is Dutch food?

When I think of Dutch food, I often think of snack items rather than full meals. There is a fast food chain in the Netherlands, Febo (fay-bow), which serves snacks, usually deep fried, that you can buy from an automatiek (a wall of small glass doors where you can choose your snack, insert money, open the door, and grab your snack). The food served at the Orange Tree is definitely not the food found behind a wall of little glass doors.

According to chef Onderwater, "The Netherlands has a great reputation when it comes to agricultural produce and fish and seafood I import sole from Katwijk, mussels from Prins en Dingemanse [plus] shrimps, smoked eel, [and] herring."

So look for fresh, quality ingredients from the Netherlands, eschewing too many adornments on the plate. Popular mains include: lamb fillets and eggplant baked in puff pastry on creamed leeks and rosemary jus, steak tartare "Orange Tree style" served with a mixed salad and French fries, pan-fried whole Dover sole roasted fennel, haricots verts and vine tomatoes. For dessert, a selection of farm-ripened cheeses (Beemster XO 26 months, roquefort, brie, cumin gouda), or the poffertjes with vanilla ice cream, are highly recommended.

The Orange Tree is only open for dinner after 6 pm. A meal here is about HK$300-500 ($39-64) per person. Mains are priced at around HK$200 each.

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