November 17, 2010

Nam Can Be Fun!

Miss Saigon

One of the arguments against the preposterous claim that Berlin is in any way a worldly metropolis is its weak record on non-European food. It just lacks food that strikes Germans as too „exotic“. It makes a fair number of ex-pats whinge endlessly about the blandness of the local food scene. I even know a few who sneak chilli sauces in one form or another to Asian restaurants in order to get the food to taste a bit less German.

But even though these moaning ex-pats are endearing, they usually exaggerate. The truth is that Berlin is getting better. Six years ago it was a true wasteland for those searching real non-European food. There were restaurants serving “Indian” or “Chinese” food, but it was all just an orgy of generic blandness. At the end of the first decade of the 21st Century it has become easier to find more and more places serving more experimental food.


The biggest surge of good and a bit more authentic Asian food came with the rise of Vietnamese restaurants a couple of years ago. Their success can probably be explained by two factors: first of all, and that can be seen as one positive heritage of the former GDR, Berlin has a real Vietnamese community. The second part is that in comparison to other Asian cuisines, the Vietnamese one is the least offensive to a tongue used to Central European cooking. Going to a Vietnamese restaurant has the advantage of going to an exotic place without actually being confronted with tastes that seem too difficult to handle: the food is refined and nice without being too strange. Yet more than anything, it does not commit the unspeakable sin a fair number of people in this fair country are just unable to accept: being too spicy. Add the lefty heroism attached to the name Vietnam and you’ve got a magic formula allowing every Berliner to take down the American Empire with their own bare hands.

One of these new Vietnamese restaurants is Miss Saigon around the corner from Görlitzer Bahnhof. It overlooks the square on the corner Skalitzer Straße / Manteuffelstraße and can therefore be seen as one in a series of new arrivals alongside the new Islamic Cultural Centre and the Korean Kimchi Princess together with their fried chicken parlour. It is a small place and cannot support large groups indoors. The small space is brightly lit, but the lights are not uncomfortably in your face. The overall impression is one of a pleasantly local restaurant. Another positive aspect of the place is the pricing: the most expensive dish will cost you 6.90 €.

Rolls
Dumplings












We started by ordering the house cocktails. The non alcoholic ones all cost 3.40€ whereas the alcoholic ones come at a unit price of 4.90 €. We ordered the Mango Rumba, which was described as a drink of mango and rum. Out came two huge glasses, filled with all the joy a mango can be squeezed into. I did not taste too much alcohol, but was nonetheless pleased with the nice presentation and the overall quality. It was still great value for the price. We then continued with the starters. Two of them reminded me of the Vietnamese version of Dim Sum. Those were the Ha cao – Xin man (two different types of steamed dumplings filled with shrimps, 3.90€) and Bánh bao (a steamed bun stuffed with a mixture of minced meat and shrimps, 3.20€). The dumplings were superb. The bun was very good as well, even though its sweet taste will not be appreciated by anyone. The third starter was the ubiquitous fresh roll or Gòi cuon thit Bò (two fresh rolls with beef filling, 3.50€). It was good quality, but had something disappointingly bland to it.

Bánh khot
Bò lá lot












As a main course we chose two noodle dishes and another doughy one. The noodle dishes were Bò sot (chunks of beef served on noodles in a rich sauce with a very strong cinnamon flavour, 5.90 €) and Bò lá lot (small sausage like creations of minced beef rolled in pepper leaves, served on noodles in a pleasing South Vietnamese sauce, 5.90 €). Both were good quality. They were not spectacularly exciting, but they were good options for considering the price. The third dish was Bánh khot (thick rice pancakes with minced chicken and prawns, 5.90€). The portion could support two more of those pancakes without becoming too weighty, but what was lacking in size was compensated through quality. Those pancakes were quite splendid, even though their taste was still not excitingly strong. After the main courses we ordered a few more of those cocktails and foolishly decided to order desserts. I never order desserts at Asian restaurants, as I usually don’t see the point. This time we took a fried banana wrapped in a crispy tapioca-dough and coconut balls stuffed with coconut cream in coconut sauce (both for 2.90 €). They were good for what they were, but I just don’t go for the fried- banana-vibe.

At the end of the day, Miss Saigon is a good address for a pleasant evening. It’s not overwhelmingly fantastic, but the prices don’t set the expectation bar that high either. There should be more of these places in Berlin: affordable and fun Asian food.

Overall mark: 
 
Miss Saigon
Skalitzer Straße 38, 10999 Berlin
http://www.miss-saigon-berlin.de



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2 comments:

  1. Looks fantastic! My bf grew up right near there so I’ll have to check it out next time we visit.
    Please visit

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well I don't know if I'm ever going to come to Berlin, but thank you for this guide, it's very well done!
    Please visit

    ReplyDelete