Wouter van Laarhoven
Wouter van Laarhoven is owner/chef of restaurant and bodega Alma in Oisterwijk
Alma is situated on sacred ground. Is there anything on the menu that reminds of De Swaen or Cas Spijkers?
That was so long ago! We are working hard to develop our own signature and to hold on to that. Upstairs you’ll find our fine dining restaurant Alma, which means ‘soul’ in Spanish. We were looking for a short, powerful name that cannot be mispronounced and has a deeper meaning, without being vague. Downstairs you’ll find bodega alma, in bistro-style, with a menu that changes regularly. There are guests who come in several times a week and we want to surprise those people every time again. Oisterwijk has many foodies. I can know; i grew up in a village near here.’
I do see rich preparations on the menu: Albufera sauce and also pomme Paolo, fried in goose fat!
‘The basis is classic, but we are adding new ingredients and preparations. Lots of vegetables as well. From Rungis of course: because they deliver a consistent quality and have a lot of products in their range. With the venison fillet we serve parsley root and beetroot. The beetroot we brine, roast and infuse with a concentrated stock; that gives a powerful taste. The preparation of the parsley root is classic, we make a mousseline out of that. With wild duck we serve a pumpkin toffee. We also roast pumpkin to make a pumpkin mousseline in combination with pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oil. Finally, we make sweet and sour pumpkin slices that are filled with rendang of wild duck leg.’
Also the bodega menu is both classic (vol au vent, croque Alma) and completely contemporary (yakitori, gyoza)…
‘Putting together that menu with chef-bodega Marco Knuiman is my guilty pleasure. Malou (my partner: Malou Hagenaars – ES) and i are always upstairs where everything needs to be better and better. There it’s all about passion and perfection. When we go out for dinner ourselves we prefer to eat in a restaurant like downstairs. With fine wines by the glass and a menu that extends from the Dutch bitterbal to caviar. They are both our love and passion. We also use a fair amount of vegetables in the bodega. In the okonomiyaki, Japanese savory omelette, goes cabbage and there are fried patron peppers on the menu, Caesar salad and tuna tataki with bok choy, butter lettuce and spring onions.’
What are you looking forward to in the coming month?
‘Beets are very versatile and can bes used in everything; from amuses to pastry. Citrus fruits are also amazing. We have a rich kitchen combined with freshness. I love classic vegetables like Jerusalem artichoke, parsnip and chervil. Right now it’s allowed to get it a bit more heavier with richer and fuller flavors and longer dining. Talking about the long dining in combination with corona: we have a balcony upstair and a a terrace with heaters downstairs. Guest can eat there, for as long as possible. In the former hotel rooms in the restaurant we also have doors that turn inward. You can open the whole facade, just as if you’re in St Tropez…’
Photography: Pieter d’hoop