Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monsieur Vuong - Berlin - Germany

One of the most fascinating aspects of traveling for me is seeing Asian restaurants abroad. I've shown you the burrito-sized egg rolls at a Chinese restaurant in Salzburg, Austria. So when I found out my friend intended to dine at a Vietnamese restaurant while she was in Berlin, Germany, I asked if she'd be willing to write a guest post for the blog.

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.

German Currywurst
Photo courtesy of Coffee Travails

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.

Monsieur Vuong - Berlin - Germany 1
Photo courtesy of Coffee Travails

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!

Monsieur Vuong - Berlin - Germany 2
Photo courtesy of Coffee Travails

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!

Monsieur Vuong - Berlin - Germany 3
Photo courtesy of Coffee Travails

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.

Monsieur Vuong - Berlin - Germany 4
Photo courtesy of Coffee Travails

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!

Monsieur Vuong
Alte Schönhauser Str. 46
10119 Berlin-Mitte
+49-30-9929 6924
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.


  1. Who knew that such things existed in Germany!

  2. I've wanted to try currywurst for the longest time! I kick myself every time I think about being in Germany and not getting some.



  3. I stopped by there this summer when I was in Berlin. I got the bun thit nuong and it was good. There was a bit too much cabbage (but hey, it's Germany) and not as herby as my mom's version. Otherwise it was a really refreshing break from the usual heavy Wurst & Semmel type fair. My German friends agreed

    --T. Vuong
    not related to Monsieur Vuong :)

  4. The egg rolls look like a version I had in Saigon called cha goi re. I've also had pho in Berlin and they used hieu thieu noodles and lots of slivers of ginger already mixed in the bowl. While speaking to the waitress, I noticed she had a northern accent so maybe that's how they make pho in hanoi. I was surprised to learn that there's a very large population of Vietnamese in Berlin and that many of them are illegal.

  5. WeeMo,
    There's actually quite a sizeable population of VNese in Germany. :)

    Ha! Love the name. I think currywurst would be so good. I love curried sweet and sour sauce at McDonald's when I'm in Europe.

    I can imagine! Meat and heavy dough food all the time would be a bit much for me.

    That's it! I couldn't remember the name. My uncle made cha gio re once at one of the family gatherings but I haven't been able to find the wrappers.

    Ginger in pho is a Northern thing. They do that at the places that offer pho Bac here.

    A lot of VNese came to Germany after the Vietnam War, but another segment came as guest workers to East Germany when it was still Communist. I imagine there'd be quite a bit of tension between the two segments.

  6. I'm definitely curious about the tension you mention Wandering Chopsticks! To be honest, I loved my Berlin so much that I'm *sure* I'll be back -- with more time to check out the rest of the VNMese restaurants that seemed to range from hole-in-the-wall to upscale and trendy. The best thing though...one of my dining partners at this dinner was experiencing Vietnamese food for the first time and she's now hooked! Pho for breakfast, lunch, and dinner :)

  7. Coffee Travails,
    Hey, any time you want to write another guest post, you're more than welcome! I'm always curious to see how other VNese restaurants around the world look.


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