Oriental City is located right slap bang in the middle of one of the main tourist locations of Amsterdam. Just five minutes from Madame Tussauds on Dam Square, the restaurant is on a corner of one of the main red light district canals, just down and on the other side from a stretch of Bulldog cafes, sex shops, red windows and the Oude Kerk.
This area is not known for good restaurants, with many of the places here aiming for unfussy tourists and over-priced for both food and drinks. But Oriental City is popular with both tourists and locals, as well as with the international expatriate population in Amsterdam so despite the location it’s worth a try.
Situated over three floors and elaborately decorated, Oriental City offers Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine, priding itself on its seafood. The menu is however varied, with several vegetarian options. Main courses include sliced pork in garlic and chilli sauce for €8.50, Sichuan beef tripe and ox tongue (also €8.50) or deep fried shishamo (fish) with chilli, garlic and salt for €12.50. We visited on a Saturday lunch-time when the majority of customers order from the dim sum menu. The restaurant can get full, and as we were a group we booked in advance. Dim sum is available daily from 11:30am until 5pm but they do ask you to book in advance. For those eating from the main menu however, tables were available without a reservation.
The tradition of dim sum originates from the ancient silk road, where travellers and local farmers initially stopped to drink tea at the end of their day. At first, it was believed combining food and tea led to weight-gain, but over time this changed and once people realised drinking tea helped with digestion, it became common to serve small dishes with the tea. The tradition continues and has developed today, with many restaurants selling a wide variety of mainly fried and steamed dishes, as well as desserts. This food is designed to be shared, making it popular throughout the world and not just among those of Cantonese origin.
Oriental City offers a choice of around 45 savoury dim sum dishes, plus desserts. There are also daily and weekly specials which appear as an extra page to the menu. We ordered two out of the three vegetarian savouries – steamed rice flour dumplings filled with carrot, cabbage, bamboo shoots and Chinese mushrooms at €3.30 for four dumplings, and three steamed rice-sheet rolls filled with Chinese and Japanese mushrooms for €3.50. The meaty options included six steamed prawn and shrimp dumplings at €3.50, three minced beef version of the steamed rice sheets at €4.50,three steamed Chinese buns filled with roasted pork for €3.80 and three prawn spring rolls for € 5.80. In addition they brought some vegetarian spring-rolls and fried dough in rice-sheets as extra non-menu options to increase the choice for the vegetarian. No-one felt brave enough that early in the day to order the stewed chicken feet in black bean sauce for €3.50, however.
All the dishes were tasty and filling, and the waiting staff constantly refilled the pots of hot tea throughout the meal. They were also helpful and able to advise once we had ordered a good amount for the size of the group. All items were served to be eaten with chopsticks, but Chinese soup spoons and the forks and spoons intended for serving out the dim sum dishes were available in case of emergency. Everyone was too full for dessert, but options included two slabs of coconut pudding for €3.30, three pieces of fried water chestnut pudding for €3.50 or a piece of Chinese sponge cake for €3.50.
The meal came to €19 per person, very good value considering the volume we ordered and how full we all felt after. There were some items left over, which the staff offered to wrap up as a take-out and can also offered advice regarding the best way to re-heat (steamer or microwave).
Oriental City is definitely a good venue to visit in that part of the city, offering reasonable quality filling food in an attractive and light environment. They also cater for groups and parties, with seating for up to 150, and even though the printed menu itself suggested very limited vegetarian options the kitchen staff and waiters are flexible and do have extra dishes which can be made on request. Overall if dim sum is your choice for the day, Oriental City comes very much recommended.