With very minor edits for consistency, please welcome my friend Coffee Travails' account of her experience dining at Monsieur Vuong in Berlin. The fabulous photography is all hers, of course. And do check out her blog if you're interested in reading about coffee, academia, and Vietnam, or the intersection of all three.
Whenever I travel abroad I like to seek out three things: 1) street food and 2) Southeast Asian food and 3) coffee. Sometimes they come in one package.
During a recent but brief trip to Berlin I found the former in Currywurst (pork sausage with ketchup and curry powder for 1 Euro) and my Southeast Asian fix in numerous Vietnamese and Thai restaurants scattered around the city.
Germany has a sizable Vietnamese diaspora and I saw plenty of restaurants, trendy and otherwise, that looked enticing and worthy of a future visit. I read about Monsieur Vuong (or Mr. Vuong as my friends in Berlin called it) in the New York Times “36 Hours in Berlin” feature from 2006.
The photo of, perhaps, Mr. Vuong on their website was too good to pass up and several of my friends said that it’s a hip place with a small but ever-changing menu. They don’t take reservations and the seating is communal, spread across low set wooden tables and small stools. That said, my party was still able to snag a table for five on a Thursday night at 8 p.m. with minimal wait.
The drink menu is predominantly non-alcoholic (save several rum cocktail options, Tiger Beer, Beer Saigon, a few others, and a couple of wine options) with a number of sinh to (Vietnamese smoothies) to choose from. I had a raspberry, banana, and Thai basil sinh to. It was fresh, not too sweet, and heavy on the Thai basil (which I loved). I also sampled a taste of the strawberry, pineapple, and chili sinh to which had a nice bite with a sweet summer strawberry aftertaste.
Apologies, but I don’t speak or read German very well (barely any!) and the menu was primarily in German, with a bit of Vietnamese. I ordered a batch of spring rolls for the table and they were different from what I’m used to – super crispy and rather than wrapped in one spring roll wrapper it was more like a rice flour coating or little shreds of it. I likened it to a double layer of crispy goodness. The pork inside was excellent and reminded me of the Cha Gio (Vietnamese Spring Rolls) I’ve had in Hanoi, except less greasy. The Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Dipping Sauce) was also delicious and spicier than I expected. My dining partners explained that often non-German restaurants in Germany will dull down the spice or add in a little German flare to appeal to consumers, but I think these spring rolls, though unique, were pretty much dead on and hit the spot!
My main course was a glass noodle chicken dish with a spicy ginger nuoc cham. It was good but nothing spectacular – the chicken was full of flavor but the dish was a little soggy, the fried shallots already wet. I do think that Mr. Vuong has something special going on with his fish sauce!
The other dishes at the table were all vegetarian (substitute tofu) and the “Pho Hanoi” was served with accompaniments already in the dish. It all looked a little disappointing and in a rare instance, I didn’t have food envy.
Mr. Vuong seems to be a trendy and hyped place though they didn’t mind us taking our time, chatting up, relaxing, and ordering a second round of sinh to and drinks. I went with a refreshing iced lemon grass tea to wash down my dish.
The restaurant space is small, busy with red tinted lights, a few fish tanks, and an open bar for the sinh to and alcohol. I enjoyed watching the diversity of the crowd – a serious spectrum of age groups and careers represented here! By everyday German standards it might be too expensive for a frequent visit but our total came to about 74 Euro (approximately $105 USD) for five mains, 6 sinh to, 1 glass of wine, 1 lemongrass iced tea, and a plate of spring rolls. Not bad!
Alte Schönhauser Str. 46
Noon to midnight
1 year ago today, pistachio gelato at Bulgarini Gelato Artigianale - Altadena.
2 years ago today, my go-to place for to-go banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) and other cheap eats Banh Mi & Che Cali Restaurant - Alhambra.