If you don’t know what you’re looking for, BIHP might be difficult to find. Housed in a narrow, canal-side home among the charming Nine Streets of the Jordaan District, this elegant, three-course restaurant is frequented more by locals then by tourists. The delicate and rich atmosphere fuses fine art, honest food, and (containing only 16 tables) an impressive selection of drinks for such a small restaurant.
The space exudes stylishness and it’s no surprise that BIHP was started back in 2006 as a joint venture by an interior designer and present owner/operator, Bilal Chahal, who is a professional abstract painter. With splendid furniture and thoughtful lighting, it’s certainly a far cry from a touristy Amsterdam restaurant. Preferring to work among his art, Bilal’s artwork dons the walls of the second floor dining area and adjoining gallery.
Bilal says that when they first thought about the restaurant, they wanted a place that combined the things that they loved: good food, good drink, and of course, art. He says, “We are not trying to make an exhibition of the food, we are trying to give you an honest meal.”
In accordance with this philosophy, the cuisine does not confine itself to any particular tradition. The chefs hail from Greece, the Netherlands, and Columbia. Bilal himself is originally from Lebanon. Dishes are created using a cornucopia of spices from around the globe in an effort to make complicated tastes that both challenge and delight the palate. Although it doesn’t sell itself as a biological restaurant, most ingredients are purchased from local farmers and the fish is purchased from green fisheries.
The menu works off of a very simple, affordable yet extremely flavorful and well presented three-course formula. For €32.50 you can choose one of three delicious appetizers, one of three entrees, and one of three desserts. Weekly specials are also available. For pairing, BIHP offers a huge selection of wines. Bilal tells us, “I love wine very much and I think that people should have a lot of varieties to choose from. Both red and white, it’s really a large selection for such a small restaurant.” You can spend anywhere from €25 euro to about €100 per bottle. The restaurant is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. The space is also available for celebrations of birthdays and private parties.
BIHP attempts to abandon the stuffy pretenses of a slick gallery-turned-restaurant. Bilal says their aim is honesty and good service, “I just want to be honest to the customer.” Despite its meager size, Bilal says they are planning no expansion, “It’s small but we are happy with the size. When you are here, it’s like you are in my house.”
Bilal is out to change peoples’ perceptions about Amsterdam having terrible service. “We do everything we can to make our customers feel like a guest in our home.” On occasion, Bilal even serves, boasting that at BIHP you can be sure you’re getting, “the best service ever and you’ll feel very comfortable. It might all look very hip but it’s not hip, it’s honest food and good wine.” And, of course, art.