With summer upon us it’s that time of year again when mushy pasta is abandoned and heavy french sauces are cast aside and when a porterhouse will render you as motionless as a boa constrictor digesting an elephant.
Time then for some Asian food. Here are my favorite bang-for-your-buck-chopstick-wielding-no-fussing-non-dessert-serving Asian restaurants.
Ishin: fresh Japanese at Chinese prices
Whenever I have guests visiting and want to give them my patented Berlin tour or whenever I happen to find myself near the Unter den Linden and Friedrichstrasse intersection this is the place I almost always fall back on.
More a canteen than a restaurant in atmosphere it can get quite crowded around midday and the service level does drop off occasionally; but the fresh sushi, cheap prices and free green tea more than make up for it.
Recommended: go during happy hour every day till 4pm and a through Wednesday and Saturday, prices are cheaper and you get some extra sushi when ordering a set.
Salmon nigiri or spicy tuna from the sushi menu; steamed shoulder of salmon and the sticky rice with tuna and fermented soybeans from the bowl menu.
Tangs Kantine: less MSG more TLC
The Chinese Imbiss around the corner, with its Chinapfanne for 2 euros has become as ubiquitous as curry-wurst in Berlin.
It’s a good thing there are restaurants like Tangs in Kreuzberg around to remind us that Chinese food can be more exotic and less rich is monosodium glutamate than we were led to believe.
While not all dishes are on the same level, it offers some interesting dishes whose description contain a short story.
Recommended: fire chicken with bones, four treasures plate for 2.
Miss Saigon: the other Vietnamese place
Let’s get this out of the way: Monsieur Vuong is the most successful restaurant in Berlin, I can’t remember ever seeing it without a queue of smartly dressed people and tourists and to be frank it still offers excellent food which is admirable.
But as Yogi Berra said “nobody goes there anymore, it’s too popular”.
Besides, the soups and salads they offer have been copied by every Vietnamese place in town, sometimes even successfully.
Miss Saigon offers a totally different kind of Vietnamese food including some weird stuff like tiny shrimp pancakes which can make the choice quite baffling, especially with their confusing menus, but have no fear, it’s mostly very good stuff and the friendly staff are happy to help.
Recommended: the soup with 4 different types of tofu (including tofu shaped like shrimps) and chili paste is a life saver in winter, pork belly with garlic and beef rolled up in pepper leaves.
Mae Charoen: like the Thai mother you never had
Massaman curry has been named the best dish in the world by CNN and it’s tough to dispute this statement after sampling what’s on offer at this tiny place in Neukölln.
Tiny is actually an understatement; there are two small tables and a stand where you place your order with the friendly Thai woman who seems to be doing all the cooking in the joint.
and what cooking it is!
If Umami was hipsters this place would be Prenzlauer Berg
Recommended: the pad thai, the tom kha gai soup and of course the massaman.
Arirang: sundae bloody sundae Korea style
Possibly the most surprising question I’ve ever been asked in a restaurant was at Arirang.
Our waiter approached us and asked if we would like some oysters added to the dish we ordered at no extra charge.
This place is weird in many ways.
It’s a very shabby joint in one of the shabbier neighborhoods in town, the menu raises more questions than it answers and every patron except you will be Korean.
But it’s also the easiest choice in his category as the prices are moderate, the banchan is interesting, portions are HUGE and the food is as authentic as it gets.
Recommended: try to come with at least 3 people to sample at least one grill.
The marinated squid and pork belly in chili sauce is a must have, other than that you should experiment.
Oh and that sundae is not a dessert.
Toca Rouge: funky fusion and a toilet that’s an illusion
The food is delicious and interesting and the names of the dishes sound like Japanese anime shows.
Add the good service, trendy interior and great lunch deals and you got a great little Asian fusion thing going on.
Recommended: the names and descriptions are too weird and I haven’t been there often but I do recommend going to the bathroom, you’ll see why.