Considering that people of Vietnamese descent make up one of the largest minority groups in Berlin, there is an awful lot of awful Vietnamese food to be found here. The DC area also has a large Vietnamese minority and there is a ton of really good Vietnamese food, so this has always been an issue for me. In both cases, migration happened in the '70s as a result of the Vietnam War. In Germany's case, there was also migration in the '50s to former East Germany. I could imagine that the Vietnamese that immigrated to the US are from a different region than those that ended up in Germany. (I'm sure somebody out there know this history.) Does that explain why the food here is so mediocre? Are the Vietnamese-Germans from a part of Vietnam with mediocre food? A part of the country where they are stingy with fresh herbs and lime, prefer weak pho, and drink mango lassis? Or can we blame the Germans again for accepting (demanding?) this level of mediocrity and believing that mango lassis are the thing to drink with all "ethnic food?" I may never know, but there is some happy news. Thanks to the guy behind Berlin Food Stories, I found the only good Vietnamese I've had in the many years I've been in Berlin. Why must it be so far from my apartment??? (It's actually not sooooo far. In my life before children, I would have thought nothing of trekking across town for a good Vietnamese meal). Don't be lazy like me, Banh Xeo Saigon is worth the trek. I would very much recommend listing to BFS's suggestions to order from the Real Vietnamese part of the menu. We did not go so far as to ask for translations from the dishes on the chalk board, but what we did get (grilled betel leaf-wrapped beef and a salad with duck that was fresh and light with tons of herbs and citrus) from the Real Vietnamese section was divine. I've been craving a repeat and just about everything else I saw come out of their kitchen since the moment I left the restaurant. Instead of feeling frustrated that I'm about 11 months pregnant and stuck at home with a sick preschooler and the restaurant is closed for vacation until August 31, I will focus on being happy that this place exists at all in Berlin and that this little project can come to an end on such a positive note. There have been a few low moments, but mostly I've had the best time trying to find all these cuisines on two continents. When I started eating from A to Z, I was pretty down on both the trendy and the "ethnic" food situation here and while I still think there is a lot of fluff and embarrassing copying of Brooklyn on the trendy side and a really lot of mediocrity in many "ethnic" establishments, these culinary adventures made Berlin a more complex and interesting city for me. So I sign off here, desperately craving anything from Bahn Xeo Saigon's kitchen (and also steak tartare, rare hamburgers, bloody steak, the stinkiest raw milk cheese you can imagine, and a bar's worth of cocktails), all in all, not a bad way to end things.
Bahn Xeo Saigon