Rumours that a North Korean Restaurant would be opened in Amsterdam first serviced in 2011 when a Job opening for North Korean waitresses appeared in several newspapers. It took another year, but restaurant Pyongyang opened its doors in January 2012, not in the centre as the rumours said but in the outskirts of Osdorp. Comtourist visited Restaurant Pyongyang a couple of months later to see what all the fuss is about.
We reserved a table in Restaurant Pyongyang on Saturday evening with four persons including one of our foreign friends. We ended up having a great evening that came very close to actually being in Pyongyang where three of our group actually had been. Dinner here is not cheap but worth every penny as far as Comtourist is concerned!
Update 05-09-1012: The North Korean Restaurant in Amsterdam was closed down in September 2012. Articles in the press suggest that there were disagreements between the North Korean staff and the Dutch owner. The staff claimed that they were being exploited and had to work for free. The owner claims that the staff only worked in his restaurant to get an EU work permit so that they could start their own restaurant.
Background of Restaurant Pyongyang
Owner Remco van Daal claims that the Amsterdam restaurant is not part of the international Restaurant Pyongyang chain. Van Daal who set up the "Foundation DPRK" in 2009, aiming to bring the North Korean and Dutch people together wears a Kim Il Sung pin on photos, so seems to have ties with the DPRK government. The Pyongyang Restaurant Chain in Asia is operated by The North Korean government to generate much needed foreign devices using money laundering schemes. Most restaurants are found in China but recent expansion saw the opening of new restaurants in Bangkok, Jakarta, Pattaya, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Vientiane. Most customers are curious tourist that want too undergo the "North Korea Experience". The menu includes dog meat, prices are in US Dollar and pretty steep.
The Amsterdam branche was opened and financed by van Daal with support of the North Korean government. North Korea selected the waitresses and cooks who were trained Beijing before coming to Amsterdam. Van Daal was also well supplied with North Korean works of art and products to sell to his guests. The restaurant, promoted as North Korean Cultural Centre opened its doors in January 2012 in the Amsterdam suburb of Osdorp. It received a lot of media attention and seems to be doing ok despite its remote location. No dog meet is served in Amsterdam and guests are allowed to make photos, which is not allowed in the Asian restaurants.
Restaurant Pyongyang is located in the Western part of Amsterdam far away from the city centre. Most tourist will probably take a taxi that will cost between 30 and 34 Euros from the city centre. We took tram 17 from the Central Station and got of at the Hoekenes stop after a 30 minutes ride. From here it is another 10 minutes walking to the Restaurant. The restaurant building is tucked away behind a high Hotel building; we were greeted outside by two North Korean ladies in traditional dress outside the restaurant. The interior of the restaurant is windowless and decorated with great North Korean works of art.
The entertainment and service
Restaurant Pyongyang promises a full evening programme where guests are entertained with North Korean dance and singing. The female waitresses perform the traditional North Korean dance and song routines between the meals. The videos from the Karaoke set are also real North Korean propaganda.
The hostesses of Restaurant Pyongyang performing the traditional Puppet Dance
There are two menus to choose from 5 courses for 59 Euro and nine courses for 79 Euro, we went for the nine course menu. Most of the dishes were well prepared, very tasty and familiar with what we had eaten in North Korea. The kitchen staff is obviously well trained with skilled cooks behind the stove.
1st course: Mushrooms prepared in three different ways.
2nd course: Sushi called Chobab in Korean.
3rd course: Vermicelli Chapchae, the most popular Korean noodle dish served on cucumber.
4th course: Roast Scallop with sauce in Lemon, pineapple salad and vegetable sauté
5th course: Mung Bean pancake, fried Sea bass, cucumber Kimchi and roast liver
6th course: Steamed Beef Insam, a very tasty dish prepared with the famous North Korean Ginseng
7th course: Korean Bulgogi (marinated barbecued beef) with Kimchi (the famous Korean vegetable dish)
8th course: Bibimbab, rice and vegetables mixed when served
9th course: Turkish Fruits for dessert
Comtourist have been in North Korea and we can confirm that dinner at Restaurant Pyongyang truly is the next best thing. The ambiance, entertainment, service, food and even the somewhat uncomfortable atmosphere all match what we actually experienced in North Korea. The hefty menu price is also in line with the real deal, so reserve an extra 100 Euro per person if you can afford it when travelling to Amsterdam and undergo the North Korean experience in Restaurant Pyongyang!