A simple fact of life in Berlin is that finding a really good and authentic Vietnamese restaurant can be about as rare as a sunny day in winter. It's not that the days (restaurants) don't exist, but they're rare and precious. It's a little mysterious, what with Berlin's large Vietnamese community and all, but I've long learned not to get too worked up about these things. I accept my fate and resign myself to dreaming about the long lost buns and phos of my youth in New York and Massachusetts).
(N.b.: A recent trip to the Dong Xuan Center in Lichtenberg was balm for my hungry soul; we had a delicious meal there, but since we were in a group, we went for the family-style dishes, not the pho. Next time for sure.
And secondly, a commenter on Instagram gave me two restaurant tips for authentic Vietnamese food: Com Viet on Münzstrasse and Sen in the Viethaus on Leipziger Strasse. Have any of you tried them? What did you think?)
I kept hearing rumors that a Vietnamese restaurant on Kantstraße, Minh-Trang, harbored the best pho in Berlin. I didn't believe it for a long while, having been burned one too many times by pho broth that tasted like boiled onion water topped with gray curls of beef, by soup bowls slapped unceremoniously down in front of me without the traditional herb and bean sprout garnish, without the caddy of condiments that allow you to adjust the flavor of your pho just the way you like it. And from the outside, Minh-Trang looked like just like any of other depressingly mediocre and westernized Vietnamese restaurants in our fair city. I always passed it by. But yesterday I finally ventured inside Minh-Trang and lo, people were right and looks are deceiving, because the pho was good (for Berlin)!
The menu boasts several different kinds of pho, including at least four different ones with beef. I settled on a beef pho with charred ginger and onions. The broth was richly fragrant and deeply savory - the kind of thing you'd want to drink by the quart. Really, really good. The noodles were silky and plentiful. Sweet crescents of mild white onion and little rounds of sliced scallions floated in the broth. The plate of garnishes was fresh (though I would have liked basil and lime wedges) and the little caddy of condiments had everything we needed - fish sauce to dribble in the broth, hoisin sauce to dip the shreds of beef in and Sriracha (plus sliced chiles) to liven things up. The meat was the only real disappointment; it was just as gray and curly as everywhere else. I have yet to even see a pho in Berlin that has rare beef or brisket slices in the broth. Mystifying, but such is life in Berlin for an Asian-food lover. The rest of the soup was lovely. We dipped and slurped and drank and ate and it was delicious and satisfying. I'm thrilled that we live just a few short bus stops away.
(A bowl of beef pho at Minh-Trang costs €6.50. Thrillingly, the menu also boasts banh xeo, those delicious Vietnamese pancakes, but were out of them the night I was there.)
Tel: (030) 318 01 117