Friday, September 7, 2012

De Vliegende Schotel - Finally A Salad

De Vliegende Schotel
A Meal to Write Home About

Thomissa Comellas

            Nestled just off the Bloemgracht on tiny Nieuwe Leliestraat the vegetarian “De Vliegende Schotel” presents itself as a smaller version of the houses around it.  The vegan-friendly restaurant stands at just one story, a contrast to the traditional tall houses to either side.  The result is an unassuming, pleasantly frumpy first appearance.  Its narrow front is blanketed with menus and awards.  A small sign bearing the restaurant name in old-fashioned lettering juts out above the door. The theme of smallness continues inside the restaurant as it extends back from the street in the traditional narrow Dutch arrangement.  This provides room for ten brightly colored tables turned at odd angles to capitalize on space along the sloped floor.  Upon entering the restaurant one’s eye is immediately drawn past the tables to the wine selection at the left of the simple ordering counter and to the blackboard menu adorning the wall at its right.  The colorful interior and plants atop the elevated counter draw attention away from the kitchen at the end of the room without masking its existence entirely.  This perpetuates some of the cozy feelings of the former home without creating a country-cookin’ atmosphere.  The rather bland art pieces personalize the space only to the extent that the walls are not left blank; they draw little attention away from the tables and the meal at hand.
            Only two people tended the restaurant guests throughout this visit: a waitress and the cook/owner.  Both were very attentive and addressed me first in Dutch but then in English.  Upon my arrival the waitress poured me a glass of the house white wine while the owner found me an English menu unasked.  The owner is known for his eccentricity and during this visit, at least in dress, lived up to expectations.  He sported an enormous ear-flapped black beret and looked distinctly cartoonish.  The waitress moderately mimicked his attire with a black skirt, patterned tights and a sharp-looking nose piercing.  Despite her somewhat aggressive appearance she seemed mild-mannered and gladly helped me decide what to order.
After considering the weekly specials, a carrot-onion soup and a cabbage stir fry, I ordered one of four five-euro salad options and a four-euro soup and took a seat by the window.  Although there had been just one other patron De Vliegende Schotel when I arrived at 6:30PM nearly all of the seats were occupied by 7PM.  Guests mostly appeared to be native Amsterdammers between 25-40 years old and were ordering in the same manner as I was - a drink with a few selections to follow.
The wine was light and fruity and the perfect palette preparation for the spinach-sprout salad that arrived five minutes later.  Presented in a flower-shaped plate that managed to be friendly and cute without being kitchy, the vegetables were flavorful and fresh.  A basil-lemon vinaigrette with the slightest spice complimented the minimalist salad that featured tomatoes and kale in addition to sprouts and spinach.  It arrived pre-tossed and delightfully ready to eat, just as a salad would be at a table at home.
My entrée was De Vliegende Schotel’s peanut soup, a surprisingly spicy dish served exceptionally hot.  The soup mingled sweetness and chili-heat amazingly well and featured finely chopped peanuts, peppers and carrots.   It had been my second choice after finding the nettle soup unavailable but it was a filling, comfortable selection.
The warm pear-apple pie was a fabulous dénouement.  It could only have benefited with a heap of vanilla slagroom (Dutch for ice cream).  The pie was clearly homemade and coupled a flaky crust with delightfully crunchy fruit.  At four-euro it was a bit pricy and I think it would be better enjoyed as a meal of its own in the middle of the day rather than a grand end to an already substantial meal.
De Vliegende Schotel was a great choice for this reviewer and I imagine it would be perfect for a college-age or older dinner date.  Its size could be pushed to accommodate large parties however I think the limited service may be too slow to please a big group. 
My single qualm with the restaurant is simple but unfortunately difficult to ignore.  The converted house provides a great atmosphere and a pleasant location for a calming daytime or evening stroll but it also means that the ceiling is low and that the window space is small.  The fluorescent lighting inside was not grating but it did feel somewhat confining after walking in from the bright sunshine. The paper menus and awards plastered to the restaurant’s only windows further block the natural light.  Even seated at the table closest to the window I was very much aware of the abrupt barrier between the outdoors and the interior.  Additionally the residential location means that there is no room for outdoor seating along the cramped pedestrian area.
Despite the architectural limitations and poster choices De Vliegende Schotel is a charming destination for a quiet evening away from the main drag.  It provides filling, flavorful food at reasonable prices in a relaxed atmosphere.  Further, the vegetarian food genre seems sparse around Amsterdam and De Vliegende Schotel provides for this craving nicely.

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