ARCA introduces “culinary Portugal” in Amsterdam. Did you know that the capital Amsterdam is in 10th place in the top culinary world ranking? That’s quite impressive!. And now Amsterdam has gained another hotspot with the Portuguese ARCA restaurant & bar led by the award-winning Portuguese top chef Henrique Sá Pessoa. He even has 2 Michelin stars to his name with his restaurant Alma in Lisbon. So you don’t have to go all the way to Lisbon to taste its dishes. At ARCA in Amsterdam you can enjoy traditional Portuguese dishes as well as innovative dishes with Asian influences. Read on for my experience with the ARCA restaurant.
Introduction chef Henrique Sá Pessoa
At number 38 in the list of the 100 best chefs in the world
Henrique Sá Pessoa is the owner of the award-winning 2 Michelin star restaurant Alma in Lisbon. He was voted the highest newcomer at number 38 in the top 100 list of the best chefs in the world last year at the best chef awards 2021. By winning this award, it has put him on the map worldwide.
The restaurant ARCA in the Art’otel in Amsterdam
The Portuguese top chef has chosen Lisbon as his home base for his 5 restaurants, including Alma. Now with the opening of the restaurant ARCA in Amsterdam, he wants to introduce everyone to culinary Portugal. In contrast to Alma, the restaurant is accessible, trendy and casual. You can find ARCA in the Art’otel. It belongs to the hotel, but ARCA wants to propagate its own identity and vision to the outside world. That is why ARCA has its own main entrance, different interior and its own concept.
The concept chef
Top chef Henrique has been appointed by Art’otel as concept chef at ARCA. He has devised a contemporary and accessible Portuguese share dining concept especially for ARCA. His dishes are both traditional Portuguese and innovative with Asian influences. Concept chef Henrique brought his team to ARCA especially from Lisbon. He has given the day-to-day management of ARCA to Ricardo Pereira (chef) and Rodrigo Silva (sous chef) with whom concept chef Henrique has been working with for almost 10 years. Concept chef Henrique Sá Pessoa visits ARCA every 2 months from Portugal to discuss business with his team. Then you can also see him in the kitchen and in the restaurant.
The origin of the Portuguese-Asian fusion dishes
Where does he get his inspiration from? He has traveled extensively around the world. When he came into contact with Asian gastronomy while working in Australia, it was the beginning of his passion for Asia. On his return to Portugal 15 years ago, he introduced ginger, coriander and lemongrass into his dishes. At the time, he was considered a true fusion chef. In fact, he was already a trendsetter in Portugal in that area. Now that’s all normal, says top chef Henrique. His knowledge and skills in traditional Portuguese cuisine and life in Lisbon also come in handy when coming up with his creations. And all these influences together are reflected in his dishes. He therefore considers his kitchen to be a real tasteful kitchen with refined taste, perfect technique and an excellent product.
Why the name ARCA?
The name ARCA was chosen by the top chef Henrique. “Arca is Portuguese for ark. It is a ship where you keep all your treasures. The Portuguese have kept on their ship the valuables such as gold, jewels etc. that they encountered on their trade routes 600 years ago”. The top chef also sees the restaurant as an ark with hidden treasures. The concept for ARCA is therefore inspired by all those journeys over the vast trade routes of Portugal 600 years ago.
Interior of the restaurant ARCA
The space of the restaurant has a contemporary design with black and white color use, brass, gold, stainless steel and pronounced ocher accents. Furthermore, the kitchen is open plan where you can see the staff at work. It looks hygienic and clean when it comes to preparing dishes and keeping the workplace clean. The restaurant looks luxurious, refined, modern and artistic due to the interior design. And yet it also evokes a cozy and warm atmosphere. First, by adding the element of fireplace to the interior. Secondly, by using special dimming lamps to dim the lighting so that an atmospheric atmosphere is created.
The Portuguese dishes, wines and cocktails
Portuguese dishes in general can be heavy and intense on the stomach. In addition, the dishes are served in the well-known rustic pots and pans. At ARCA, the dishes are beautifully presented on a plate or in a bowl or dish. The dishes are also easily digestible. At ARCA you can enjoy truly authentic Portuguese dishes, but also dishes that have been modernized with Asian influences.
Cocktail menu with signature cocktails and Portuguese wines
The restaurant also has a special cocktail list with their signature cocktails. The cocktails my girlfriend and I tried were beautiful, colorful and delicious. ARCA also has a small collection of Portuguese wines. I had tried the Portuguese wine ‘Quinta de Santiago vinho verde’. It tasted light, dry, fresh and fruity. In short, a nice glass of wine.
Tasting menu “With a touch of Asia”
In addition to a la carte, ARCA also offers 2 types of tasting menus. These curated tasting menus are “Discover Portugal” and “With a touch of Asia”. And with the tasting menus, guests can enjoy a culinary journey at ARCA. I went to try their special tasting menu “with a touch of Asia”. With a small adjustment, because I can’t eat confit pork belly because of my allergy to pork. So I opted for 2 other dishes instead. These are octopus salad and Bacalhau Marinado.
SOPA DE ABÓBORA E CARIL
I started with the Portuguese pumpkin soup. You clearly tasted the Thai influence in the soup. It had something spicy from the Thai red paste and it was creamy in taste because of the coconut milk. The pieces of pumpkin gave a very nice bite and the scallops tasted delicious and buttery soft. The soup as a whole was really delicious.
Then came the tuna tataki. The tuna tataki dish at ARCA looked beautiful and colorful and that makes me happy. The finely sliced tuna slices lay neatly on a bed of thinly sliced cabbage and vegetables with 2 types of dressings around it. The tuna slice was pink inside and lightly baked on the outside. By tasting the dish as a whole, the flavors also flow nicely together, making it complete. It was a very tasty dish.
Na de tonijn tataki kwam de octopus salade. Dit was echt verrassend lekker met de pittige rode dressing en de gerookte paprika. Ik had namelijk niet verwacht dat de octopus stukjes zo boterzacht waren. Dit was tot nu toe de lekkerste octopus salade wat ik ooit gegeten had.
Bacalhau Marinado was the next dish. This consisted of lightly salted cod (codfish) with olive caviar as a topping on a bed of pickled onions, tomatoes and olives. I thought it was an eye-pleasing dish. The salted cod slices were not too salty in taste but just right. You should also really taste the Bacalhau Marinado in its entirety to experience a true taste explosion in your mouth. All the flavors were nicely balanced. It was a very delicious dish.
CALDEIRADA DE PEIXE E MARISCO
Then a Portuguese fish stew with an Asian twist. It smelled wonderful as soon as you took the lid off the stew and watched the steam escape. Pieces of red pepper, ginger, coriander, lemon, potato, tomato floated in the fish stew, and skin-fried fish pieces, mussels, peeled shrimp, and bok choy. I also tasted curry. This was truly a delicious fish stew.
After the main course it was time for desserts. These are Leite Crème and Pudim Abade de Priscos. Leite Crème consisted of lemongrass and raspberry custard with coconut tuile. Custard tasted fresh and slightly sour, but delicious in combination with coconut tuile. Then Pudim Abade de Priscos. This second dessert consisted of caramel and port flan, almond and mandarin sorbet. It tasted very nice. Both desserts really come into their own when you taste the individual elements on the plate in their entirety.
To conclude, I enjoyed a glass of ginger tea and the accompanying bowl of small sweets and savory snacks.
I really liked the restaurant ARCA. If you inform the ARCA staff of your dietary requirements and allergies in advance. Then they can take that into account. In my case, the tasting menu “With a touch of Asia” was specially adapted for me due to an allergy. The team at ARCA are all Portuguese, but that adds something authentic to this restaurant. It felt to me like a tourist dining in a restaurant in Portugal.
The share dining dishes ensured that I enjoyed the food more and of course also being together with my table companion. Even the beautiful, colorful and delicious cocktails gave that feeling something exotic. And a nice glass of Portuguese wine and the atmospheric interior at ARCA completed the holiday feeling.
I also thought the service was top notch. As soon as I finished a dish, they immediately cleared my table and then cleaned the table. They also kept putting new cutlery on the table for the next dish. I had never seen this way of operating anywhere else. ARCA is an absolute must!
Martelaarsgracht 5, 1012 TM in Amsterdam
Website: ARCA Amsterdam