Eating Out

Setting the bar high at Pilsvogel Amsterdam

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I was totally blown away friends. Pilsvogel doesn’t just deliver good food and good service in a picturesque (prime people watching) spot, it goes above and beyond. From the excellent presentation to the totally delicious food, the whole experience exceeded my expectations…including most notably the bathroom.

On Sunday afternoon we headed out in search of kimchi and candles. I had wanted to check on Tjin’s Toko for a while. It’s a well known spot for picking up diverse food items that you can’t easily find in most supermarkets in Amsterdam i.e. kimchi.

So off we headed towards Tjin’s in De Pijp. What I hadn’t considered before we left is that Tjin’s might be closed on Sunday, as are many shops and virtually all markets in Amsterdam. Just after we parked our bikes Bogdan casually asked “Is it even open today?” Good question. It wasn’t.

So instead of wasting the trip we stayed, perused, bought some kitchen items and then found ourselves at Pilsvogel, mainly because there was a really inviting looking bench available right across from super busy De Wasserette and in prime people watching territory. My favorite.

Since we chose the spot for the scenery I didn’t have high hopes for the food or service. It’s a general rule I follow that the restaurants in scenic spots usually don’t have a lot going on besides the scenery: restaurants in Florence’s Piazza della Republica and Amsterdam’s Rembrandtplein come to mind.

In this case I’ve got to say I was totally blown away. Pilsvogel doesn’t just deliver good food and good service in a picturesque spot, it goes above and beyond. From the excellent presentation to the totally delicious food, the whole experience exceeded my expectations.

Once seated I took a look at the laminated menu card on the table and it seemed like there weren’t a ton of options – which again might give you the impression that food is sort of secondary at this place. I’ve since looked on the website and it appears that there are a lot more options in general – like tapas and brunch- but perhaps they’re only available inside.

In any case the options were basically sandwiches, bread with spread, salads and soups. At first the bread with spread selections were looking really good to me. Options included olive tapenade, goat cheese and dried tomatoes, and sage butter. But realizing how hungry I was I followed Bogdan’s lead and opted for a sandwich instead.

Bogdan chose the BLTC – bacon, lettuce, tomato, chicken thighs and mustard mayo. I briefly considered getting the vitello tonnato (what an opulent sandwich option!) but since I’ve been aiming for 80% vegetarian I went with the avocado instead.

The description on the menu was pretty simple. Avocado on toast with dried tomatoes, pine nuts and lemon mayonnaise. Again, I wasn’t expecting much. I had sort of pictured a run of the mill sandwich. What I got was so far from that.

The first big surprise is that both sandwiches came open faced. The second was just the utter perfection of the bread, which hinted at the general quality of ingredients used at Pilsvogel. The bread was perfectly soft in the middle with a gorgeous thick crust that had just enough give to sop up the delicious slurry of dried tomato, mashed avocado, lemony mayo, and what looked like parsley oil or parsley chimichurri. The presentation was beautiful as was each individual element.  

The beauty of this sandwich is in the balance of flavors. The avocado creates a base of creamy fresh flavor, which is then complimented and enhanced by the tangy richness of the lemon mayo and the zesty sweetness of the dried tomatoes. The creamy crunch of pine nuts and finish of the parsley oil also added a lot of dimension and textural interest to the other elements.

When preparations have so few ingredients, there’s nowhere to hide your sins. Mediocre ingredients will produce a mediocre final product. I’ve had enough crappy dried tomatoes in my life to recognize a good one when I taste it and this one, ladies and gents, wasn’t just good it was fantastic. So fantastic that I asked the server if the tomatoes are made in house (they are not) but I stopped short of asking where I could get my hands on some because I think I already seemed borderline rabid.

The quality of the ingredients in this simple sandwich is obvious in each constituent part and together it forms an absolutely perfect final product.

Okay…sandwich gushing over.

As I was already floating on a cloud of avocado flavored love I decided to keep the joyride going and ordered the rosé cider that had caught my eye on my menu earlier. Again, what came out totally exceeded my expectations.

Not only did they serve the cider with it’s own custom glasses, but this small bottle of cider also came out in it’s own mini bronzed ice bucket. It’s own mini bronzed ice bucket. I mean…come on.

So you see, this place totally exceeds expectations. Plus, let’s not forget the prime people watching experience. Total cost for two sandwiches, two coffees, a cider and a fresh ginger tea was a very reasonable €27. When it came time to pay our server was scarce so we made our way inside – my thinking squarely focused on getting more insight for this review…and that I did.

The inside is really warm and a little deco inspired – much like a lot of typical Dutch pubs. The total show-stopper was the bathroom in the basement. About 5 gender-neutral stalls surround a turquoise and gold artesian fountain made of stone. It had been converted to a hand washing station and the soap was three oval shaped bars attached to metal rods that you literally had to stroke to get soap on your hands. I just..couldn’t do it without feeling weird. If you’re at Pilsvogel (or even in the neighbourhood) this bathroom is a total must see.

So now after our foray into pintxos at La Oliva last week and this mind-blowing open-faced avocado sandwich experience at PIlsvogel, I’m understandably having a major moment with sandwiches. My Pinterest boards are filling up with all kinds of delicious combinations and as soon as I can find some reasonably priced avocados I’m going to try to replicate the perfection that was Pilsvogel’s avocado sandwich at home.

Until then happy eating y’all,

Cristina

If you want to check out the full range of offerings at Pilsvogel you can see the menus here. If you want more sandwich and pintxo inspo check out my Pinterest board Sandwiches, Pintxos & Crostini, where you can see the full extent of my steadily intensifying ‘sandwich moment’.

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