Asian in Berlin -- and Germany, in general
- StevenFro May 30, 2009 11:37 AM
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?
outdated [Yank] article and i'm not qualified to compare but...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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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...