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Asian in Berlin -- and Germany, in general

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An anonymous commentator to the New York Times said, "Any food with sweet and sour sauce or coconut milk is considered 'authentic' Asian" in Berlin. I know a number of years ago, the state of Asian cuisine in Germany in general was truly dreadful, but it seems that that has changed substantially in the past 10 years. Comments? Those familiar with Asian (esp. Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese) restaurants in both Germany and the US, how do the two compare?

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  1. outdated [Yank] article and i'm not qualified to compare but...

    [if i'm not mistaken] Düsseldorf has Europe's largest Japanese community. i am amazed they even have regional Japanese [food/restaurants] in this town! Thai, Viet, Chinese cuisines are all popular as well. apparently Germany has the second biggest Viet community in Europe after France, btw.

    i looooooooooooooove German beers and food so whenever i go over there [a case of hopping on a train] i wouldn't want to eat anything but real German [sometimes Japanese if in Düsseldorf] food and drink as much beer as possible, and then bring home more food and beer than i can carry. once i had Vietnamese in München... i was so bitter and depressed afterwards i almost confronted the 'award winning' restaurant's owner. for better Viet food in Europe i'd go to France for the weekend. although any longer than that i'd rather go to the source.

    and what's your experience?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Pata_Negra

      In general, I agree with you: when in Germany, eat German food (and drink German beer). But I have an extended visit coming up (about 6 weeks), so I'm looking for a bit more variety. Most people speak highly of Thai and Vietnamese, but there are always a few nay-sayers like the one I quoted, and it reminds me of my experience 15 years ago, when the only Asian available was extremely mediocre Chinese -- allegedly Cantonese, but that's a slur if you've been to a good Cantonese place. These places were generally over-priced and dripping with red silk and Chinese lanterns, the dishes very timidly spiced, half of the dishes being of the "sweet and sour" variety with big chunks of pineapple.
      If you want to hear my opinion about the state of Asian food in the States, I'd be happy to go on, but my concerns were whether the Thai, Vietnamese, etc. were merely an expansion of the Chinese restaurants of the Nineties, or whether they represent a significant improvement in the restaurant scene...at least in the larger cities.

      1. re: StevenFro

        Well, I'm not sure where your extended stay in Germany is taking place, but I'd be more than happy to recommend any number of Asian places in Berlin.

    2. Well, "sushi" joints have taken Berlin (and the rest of the nation) by storm in the last 10 years, with -- at least in Berlin -- most of them owned by Vietnamese, and the quality generally mediocre. I also heard that the Japanese food in Düsseldorf is rather mediocre, despite the large Japanese community.

      Speaking for Berlin, we are _very_ slowly seeing a rise of non-Cantonese restaurants, which rocks my world, because I've recently gotten addicted to Sichuan cuisine.

      There is very decent Thai food to be had, as well as Vietnamese. We also have a large number of Tibetan and Nepalese restaurants which are -- strangely enough -- all in the same neighborhood.

      Dim sum places are still much harder to come by in Berlin than in, say, NYC or SF.

      But things are getting better! Yay.

      1. At least as far as Thai is concerned, you can eat every bit as well here as in Bangkok. My favourite is Kamala on Oranienburger Strasse, where just today I shared a delicious lunch with a friend of som tam, laap muu and vegetarian spring rolls, washed down by a Beerlao.

        And they don't dumb it down (unless you ask), and they WILL spice it up if you tell them "Chop aharn phet," or "Make it spicy."

        Kamala is owned by the same folks as Mao Thai, which is fancier and much pricier but does NOT have better food. Serving staff at Kamala are mostly Lao (not Vietnamese as is common here) and the cook is first rate.

        5 Replies
        1. re: bill2p

          While I wouldn't go so far as to comparing Berlin's Thai offerings to the abundance found in Bangkok (no duh), Kamala is pretty good. I agree on Mao Thai, too -- way overpriced and not any better.

          Goodtime on Brunnenstr. ain't so bad, either, even tho it's not exclusively Thai.

          1. re: linguafood

            I just got back from 3 weeks in Bangkok, and while I agree with you regarding the sheer profusion of wonderful food there compared to here, I have to say Kamala's Laap Moo stands up to anything I had in BKK's sois and food courts.

            1. re: linguafood

              Bill: You cannot be serious!

            2. re: bill2p

              I'm glad to hear it. I've never been to Thailand, so I can't speak to the question of authenticity. And I'm not so concerned about that. If the food is delicious (and not the same old thing), I don't much care whether it's authentic.
              In the US, any city will have a couple of Thai restaurants, but, unless you're in LA (or a couple of other big cities), you can almost predict the menu completely: a couple of noodle dishes, the same variety of curries (green, red, massaman), the generic Pad Thai and satays. And, even more annoying, the food tastes almost the same in all these places. One suspects that all the food is being produced in one central location and shipped to restaurants around the country. The food is OK, but it's uninspired, to say the least. The situation with Chinese and Vietnamese is similar. Decent food, decent prices, but quickly bo-o-o-oring.
              I'll be in Berlin this summer, and I've read through Chowhound (and a couple of other sites) pretty carefully. The reports are encouraging, but I must confess I remain a bit suspicious. I'm happy for all the recommendations I can get, though!

              1. re: StevenFro

                If you enjoy Vietnamese or Thai cuisine, I think you should try Lao cuisine (aka Thai "Issan"). It tends to be spicier and tangier, but there are several mild dishes as well. Sticky rice is also usually preferred in Lao cuisine, which helps to switch things up a little, if you're getting tired of the standard Americanized-Thai dishes and regular steamed rice.

            3. In Munich there's an excellent Vietnamese place, which is a bit upscale, near the Pinakothek der Moderne. Order the whole spicy fish. Reservations recommended.

              Cyclo
              Theresienstr. 70
              80333 Muenchen
              Tel: 089.28808390

              1. Three Chinese restos in Berlin I can recommend:

                Tian Fu / Sichuan / Wilmersdorf
                Wok Show / Jiao Zi / Prenzlauerberg
                Aroma Village / Sichuan / Prenzlauerberg

                Good eats.

                2 Replies
                1. re: linguafood

                  What about the one next to the Chinese embassy (just across the Jannowitzbruecke station)? It is above my league, but I have heard good things about it.

                  1. re: polyg

                    I had heard good stuff about it, but wasn't impressed when I went there. We probably made a mistake by eating from the buffet, but with the other 3 places I mentioned -- none of which are expensive -- I haven't found the need to go back.

                    Here's my report on wok show: http://bitchinberlin.wordpress.com/20...

                2. I can highly recommend Tian Fu in Berlin-Wilmersdorf. It's a very good Sichuan place that has helped me deal with my homesickness for the 'real deal' back home.

                  http://bitchinberlin.wordpress.com/20...

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: linguafood

                    I think one of the differences with Chinese food (and Thai also) in Germany as compared to the US is that dishes marked "Scharf" are German-Scharf, which means not very hot and spicy. If they know you, they will make it hot and spicy if you ask. If not, they make it German-Scharf and then you have to use the chili sauce on the table. Also, I'vde never seen Mu Shu Pork anywhere in any Chinese restaurant in Germany.

                    I will try Tian Fu sometimes I've shopped at the Asian market next door. In addition to Peking Ente, I like Shanghai on Kantstr. There is a nice Japanese/VietNamese restaurant in Zehlendorf called Bamboo. I've been there twice and it was good and is not as expensive as some of the other Japanese in Berlin. It previously had a different name and different owner. It has parking, although the lot is small.

                    There is an excellent Thai-VietNamese restaurant in Frankfurt/Oder on the main street just before the international bridge called Asien Restaurant. They have a Thai shrimp dish that's outstanding and the red curry is good too. I also like a VN dish that has pork, green beans ahd some tomato and the Saigon-style spring rolls are particularly delicious.

                    1. re: linguafood

                      oi, then i don't think it'd be too kind of me to show you some food photos i ate in Chengdu ;) it was the first place in China i came just to eat. there are now direct flights AMS/DUS-CTU mwahaha..... [facing heaven... as in both Chengdu and the chilis http://saudades.proboards.com/index.c... ]

                      1. re: Pata_Negra

                        that looks delish! what are the mock items made of (dare i ask?)

                        i look forward to returning to my own town's sichuan heaven that is chopstick express: http://bitchinberlin.wordpress.com/20...

                        1. re: linguafood

                          i have no idea what they're made of. the 'tea smoked duck' tastes like 'smoked' tofu in texture. the 'squids' are softer. everything tastes different from one another, and the sauces make the dish.

                          *wipes drool from my keyboard* dreaming about Chongqing hotpot....

                      2. re: linguafood

                        Hey, Linguafood, I was in the Tian Fu Noodle House abou 10 days ago. I had the homemade noodles with crispy duck. It was delicious. I also bought some Har Kow dumplings to take home in the store that were store made (they were frozen). They were also great.

                        Since i'm going back to Mexico where I lived for 10 years, I'm learning how to make steamed buns and will try to learn how to make the Har Kow.dujplings. I've been making the Jiao Ze and bought a large aluminum Chinese) steamer to take with me. The area of Mexico where I'm going (Lake Chapala near Guadalajara is a wasteland when it comes to Chinese food. There is a Japanese/Thai place run by a young man who worked in CA for many years that they say is good (it wasn't open when I left there). Guadalajara has some Japanese restaurants that used to be good, but again not much for Chinese.

                        1. re: RevImmigrant

                          Haven't been to the noodle house yet, just their place on Uhlandstr. Back in the hinterlands of PA now, but luckily, there's the chili heaven that is Chopstick Express.

                          Good luck in Mexico!!!!

                      3. I've been reading through the posts on Asian in Berlin (esp Kreuzberg 36 where i live now) to try to find recommendations for good Thai food. I don't mean Mister Vuong or Hoai Nam type places - or coconut milk and pineapple slices...I've seen Pagode and Phuket on Bergmannstr mentioned, any other inspiring Thai places in the neighborhood that anyone knows?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: 10997AD

                          Not so sure about Thai in Xberg 36 -- tho you mention Bergmann, which is Xberg 61, so I am confused as to where exactly you are....

                          Kim Chi Princess, a relatively new Korean joint in 36, has been getting pretty good reviews, and friends of mine liked it.

                          Stay clear of Papa Nô/Mama whatever they're called, that place sucks bad.

                          Really like the quality of the food at Phuket on Mehringdamm (much better than Pagode), even tho it's not super-inspired. But they will make it hot if you ask for hot ("thai spicy"), which is a major plus in my book. Their duck green curry is pretty awesome, as well as their nam tok (spicy beef salad).

                          Edd's on Lützowstr. (Schöneberg) consistently is named THE best Thai resto in Berlin, so maybe it's worth checking out. I haven't been. It's on the expensive side.

                          1. re: linguafood

                            good to hear your suggestions, i live in 36 but have pretty much given up on asian food in this part of kreuzberg - Green Rice (across from Maroush) is alright in a pinch but i will definitely try the duck green curry at Phuket next time i'm near Mehringdamm.

                            Kim Chi Princess is also okay in a pinch - the service is still as dismal as it was when they first opened, and the food is a little on the bland side, not up to even normal NYC inexpensive Korean standards. I wonder where there might be authentic Korean anywhere in Berlin - would love a tip on that!

                            will have to try Edd! also great to read all your other tips in other threads - esp on the italian places i have yet to try. am pretty partial to Der goldene hahn across from Markthalle in Xberg, though the cooking seems uneven sometimes.

                            1. re: 10997AD

                              Apparently, Ixthys in Sch'berg has pretty authentic Korean food. Be "forewarned", tho -- the owners are mega-Xtian and have all kinds of bible quotes on the wall. If that doesn't bother you, check it out. I haven' been but read that it's supposed to be good Korean home cooking.

                              I only went to Goldener Hahn once and really did not like it. I thought it was so bad I never went back: overdone octopus, small portions at high prices, and incredibly loud music and obnoxious service.

                              Noodles & Figli was nice when I went last summer, and quite affordable.

                              1. re: linguafood

                                I've had great Korean at YamYam in Mitte. A friend of mine who lived in Korean several years took me a few weeks ago, and I'm still thinking about it. Try the spicy calamari rice bowl or the bi bim bap. So good.