Floating Chinese Food… Only in Amsterdam
Amsterdam. Home to the tulip, the cannabis café, and Europe’s very first floating Chinese restaurant.
Without a word of a lie: The Sea Palace Chinese Restaurant in Amsterdam floats on water. Like a graceful swan, regal heron or… Peking duck… Sorry. We couldn’t help it.
The Sea Palace is known throughout Amsterdam for their home-made Dim Sum to die for. They may have made headlines when they opened back in 1948 for their unique location but it is their menu that has ultimately garnered their success. You can float about all you like: if your food is bad then your food is bad. Luckily the Sea Palace has the chefs to match the awe of its location.
The Sea Palace is one of those places that has become so entrenched in the fabric of the city that it has become a landmark. If you have spent much time in the city of Amsterdam, then you will probably already know where it is. Nestled in the docks area, it is the type of place that you pass and it reminds you of the gardens of ancient China…
…Imagine; you cross the bridge through a magical archway that leads you to a place where otherworldly guests feast. You can be shown to a table, tuck in within minutes, and be joining them as if it were some form of eastern heaven… The decoration, the slow movement of the water, the lapping sound of the waves. All of it comes together to create an enchanting evening where you can really unwind and enjoy yourself…
Amsterdam. It’s like no other place in the whole, wide world.
Location, Location, Location!
You can find this gem of the sea across the Oosterdok from the NEMO science museum… the most perfect thing to do in Amsterdam with children. This central location allows it to be easily found (a challenge even in the city centre) by all. Of course, the fact that it is floating makes it a little hard to miss.
Just so we are clear though, it is floating in the dock, not the air.
When you get out of Central Station, follow the docks along to the Science Museum. For the most part it is clearly signposted, but we have added a little map below for you.
Is the Floating Food Any Good?
You would be forgiven for thinking that the only thing special about this place is the location but that simply isn’t true. The menu features good, wholesome, classical Chinese dishes, all made to fresh to order. The food isn’t just good, it’s delicious… or at least sumptuously sufficient to earn one of our awesome reviews. While we can’t testify to the validity of that particular achievement – we can talk about the food all afternoon long.
Are you hungry? You’re about to be.
Some Sea Palace Specialities…
Served along with the Amsterdam skyline and the rippling reflection of the water, you will find a vast array of spectacular dishes. Some of the starters stand-out for their ability to tingle the taste buds. We love the Beef with hints of ginger and the sharp bite of a spring onion, softened to absolute perfection. Every vegetable here works for its worth. It is either crisp and crunchy or soft and eager to dissolve on the tongue. Either way you are getting great value for money, as well as a culinary delight.
Sea Palace also offer a roasted duck and Cha Siu Pork main course for the meat lover in your life. If the slow-cooked duck isn’t enough to make your mouth water, then the selectively spiced sauce that compliments the sweet salt of the pork, surely will. For those that love fish they created a vegetable, prawn, beef medley that will take your breath away… but our very favourite is the sesame sauce.
Take it from us: if you pour sesame oil over anything – anything – it will taste like Chinese food. Sea Palace have somehow captured the essence of Sesame in a sauce jug… and we could drink it neat. It taste like liquified China. To be fair, it probably tastes quite a lot nicer than liquified China might, but you get the point.
Another favourite that they offer is sides; cold, not quite salads, and served in a tapas style twist that blows your mind. How do you make tapas out of Chinese food? You visit the Sea Palace… Because why not have it while you are also floating…? These small dishes are complimented by an array of small plates served warm, so you can mix and match for an easy lunch, brunch, or late breakfast because we’re not here to judge.
What about deserts? Chinese restaurants are notorious for providing no choice in the pudding department. The Sea Palace knows this and has gone to lengths to provide you with an assortment of ice creams and sweet treats. There is always the obligatory deep-fried pineapple though… sweet, sticky, and definitely not something you should put on a pizza.
We leave you with a few more thoughts: Sichuan peppers, macadamia nuts, filled duck pancakes and seafood spiced with sesame. Try the crab claws if you are visiting and you like to taste the sea. They truly are an experience. If you want to though, you can check out the full a la carte menu for Sea Palace here.
Three Things We Love about Sea Palace
First of all, some of their regular dishes are stupendous in their simplicity. Their steamed Dim Sum, for example, are made to order and fall apart the second you touch them. The parcel of steamed food inside falls out like a little surprise every time, then melts savoury spices on your tongue…
… So yes, the simplicity of their more traditional food definitely wins them their customers. Having said that; they take a risk. Where else on a Chinese menu would you get fried squid Calamari-style? Where would you eat cold mushrooms in a vinegar sauce you wouldn’t believe until you tasted it? Nowhere. At least not in Amsterdam.
Second of all; they tailor menus to special events, making things a little easier for everyone. You don’t want people at your wedding ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ over what dish to choose for main course. Give them an either/or option, scowl at the vegetarians (we’re kidding) and stick to a set menu. Not only does it save you time on your Big Day, it also stops the kitchen staff cursing your name under the light of the full moon…
Third: If you love Chinese food then you will love absolutely everything they serve here. Every day, from 12 until 11pm, you can get hearty food served in the traditional Chinese style, on this little floating island in the heart of Amsterdam. It sounds like something someone made up – but it’s true! The Sea Palace is a full-on Chinese food experience. If you’re not into it, it won’t be for you.
Also if you get seasick, maybe take some medication before you go.
Other Considerations on the Floating Chinese Restaurant
The locals love this place but due to its location and that ‘special’ feel of being on the water, the tourists tend to take over. It is not the food that gets the odd negative comment but rather the space. With 650 seats total it gets really busy in the middle of the tourist season. They make up for this by offering a private event hire opportunity.
If you spend enough time floating around in the Sea Palace, you will eventually witness a wedding or two.
The whole building… or boat? We’re not sure… but it stands over three storeys. The kitchen is on the bottom. Then there is a smaller room for hire for the business types on the third floor. Wherever you are seated you are guaranteed a gorgeous view out over the water while you dine. With the lights, sights, and sounds of Amsterdam beyond it all makes for a pretty exciting night out… or at least the start of one!
Lastly, the lack of true desert menu does let them down a little. They have a huge wine list though, and they are in Amsterdam central. If you need a sweet treat, then pick a direction. There is a bakery on just about every corner.
Final Thoughts on Floating Chinese Restaurants
Really, this is the first, and only, floating restaurant that we have come across. Never mind that it is Chinese, too. We love the menu, the variety, the seating plans, and the adventure of it all. We’re not quite so sure about parking spaces or sweet menus, but the experience is certainly second-to-none.
We would recommend a trip to the Sea Palace no matter when you visit Amsterdam. It is open all year round but less busy in the winter months, for obvious reasons. We would also add that you don’t need to take your life jacket. They look at you funny and it makes it really difficult for the waiters to reach your table.
Go there, enjoy the experience, and indulge in some excellent Chinese food. Where else would you get the chance to float while you dine? Only in Amsterdam… and only at Europe’s first.