If you really want the true taste of Vietnam, go to Saigon Com Nieu. It’s within a 5 minute walk from the Nollendorfplatz UBahn, in the gay district of Berlin. It’s pretty affordable since most main dishes are around €7-15. The restaurant is very clean and spacious, which I appreciate since I abhor cramped seatings where I am burdened by other customers’ chitter chatter.
As a person who grew up with home cooked Vietnamese food, I ain’t into those westernized Asian restaurants so much. I’ve been searching for a while now for a good restaurant that can offer the same flavors as back home. Not only does this place compare well, but it reminds me of my mom’s home cooking. Everything I’ve dropped by (3-4 times by now), I always see groups of my fellow Vietnamese people enjoying their meals, a good indicator of authenticity! The unique difference at Saigon Com Nieu from most other Vietnamese restaurants in Berlin is that they specialize in southern Vietnamese cuisine. For those who do not know, there is a stark difference between northern and southern Vietnamese cuisine. Since I am Southern Vietnamese, I am quite biased, but each has their own unique flavors to offer.
Some main dishes that I’d recommend:
- Phở Bò đặc biệt – (Translation: Beef Noodle Soup Special)
The most popular and famous dish from Vietnam. I recommend this not because it’s the cliche go-to dish but because it’s actually very difficult to find a good pho in Berlin, even though it’s the most popular. Saigon Com Nieu captures the flavors just right and they serve it with a side dish of a variety of different herbs: Thai basil, saw leaves, coriander, etc. I have barely seen any other Vietnamese restaurants do this, but it should be a requirement because it’s like serving wurst without bier!
2. Bánh xèo – (Translation: Sizzling cake)
It’s basically a savory crepe is filled with delicious shrimps, pork, and bean sprouts. One of my favorite Vietnamese food and they managed to capture its awesome crispy texture. It comes with a pile of lettuce and herbs. Break up the bánh xèo into bite size pieces and wrap it inside the lettuce and herbs and dip it in fish/soy sauce.
3. Bún bò Huế – (Translation: Beef Rice noodle soup of Hue)
Can you eat pig’s knuckles? I love it. Try this soup if you’re daring but seriously, pig’s knuckles are not that outrageous. It consists of thick rice vermicelli (bún) in an intense soup that balances the flavors of spicy, sour, salty and sweet together, dominated by an utmost strong lemongrass scent and flavor. It’s topped with thin slices of beef, along with pig’s knuckles.
Last but not least, the customer service has never failed me once. The waitresses are a bunch of cute middle-age to old Vietnamese ladies who wear these Áo bà ba (silk tops), a type of Vietnamese traditional clothes. The authentic experience of a Vietnamese restaurant is actually having to deal with an unfriendly waiter/ess who screams at you, “What you want?!” and then throws your food in front of you. Thank goodness these European Vietnamese has adopted a different serving concept. These Vietnamese ladies are very attentive to their guests. They always greet you in smiles and you are seated immediately when you walk in. Extra points: This restaurant has free WiFi!