This is the time of the year we all are on the move. Whether on culture, shopping or Christmas market hopping, you might find yourself in nearby cities and countries that you can take in a day. What to eat on these fun-packed trips? Let’s go to see Vienna today.
Do you know where Chinatown is in Vienna? Well, it is not as visually distinct as Chinatowns in London or New York, but comparable to the density of Asian shops, restaurants or institutions in the area. Taking a closer look at the online map, you will see it. Right at the fresh produce source on the right and left side of the famous Naschmarkt market. The closer to the market you get the more obvious it is.
… not only with pizza or wurst is person nurtured…
Why am I talking about Asian food in Vienna? Because not only with pizza or wurst is person nurtured if not intended to invest too much money or time. And I am not entirely thinking of dodgy Asian holes or nameless eateries. Nor take-away sushi or kaiseki. There is a segment of comfortable, casual Asian soul food or comfort food, served in laid-back bars and canteens and their only aim is to feed you up.
Wherever near Naschmarkt during the day you are, either discovering the Haus des Meeres with your kids or indulging in Secession gallery, try, for instance, a tiny Japanese noodle bar Kuishimbo on Linke Wienzeile Street. It is so modest and unobtrusive, you overlook it easily by walking next to it. However, from the further distance a spectacular Majolikahaus by a renown Viennese architect Otto Wagner, in which it seats, will definitely catch your eye. I can say that by entering the Kuishimbo door, you find yourself in Japan instantly. Narrow in shape, utterly wood cladding, with a couple of bar stools and menu items in Japanese, this place offers some fresh homemade dishes like okonomiyaki („Japanese pizza“), bowls of donburi, udon noodles, Japanese curry and rice, and various tofu and vegetable sides. As simple as that. Kuishimbo can be a bit of a culture shock if you are not familiar with homelike Japanese food or do not fancy cramped rooms. But definitely, it is an experience to look for.
For more space, regular seating and bathrooms head to Shokudo Kuishimbo, an evening spot of the same proprietor. Expect the same fresh fare and fast service like in „daytime“ Kuishimbo, but in more laid-back and communal environment. I definitely recommend a grilled eel donburi, but you should try their miso soup, too. It is the best miso soup I have ever eaten outside Japan and do not forget to offer it to your children. They may fall for it like our son did here. (When I realize I fell for miso soup in my thirties, I envy these lucky kids their future. I am always moved when they ask for miso soup, bún bò nam bộ in regular restaurants or ask for seafood for Christmas…)
Furthermore, some bao bars popped up in Vienna recently. Steamed buns are great if you do not feel like having a big meal or want to take your food and eat it elsewhere. I personally like more creative and distinctive fillings and creamy sauces. Nothing too dry, nor plain. My TOP 3 buns are by o.m.k., Bao Bar and figar Bao. Bun. All of them in inspirational interiors and cool neighborhoods. Be it Bao Bar if anywhere close to Mariahilferstrasse or MuseumsQuartier, Belvedere or Karlsplatz within walking distance of the figar Bao. Bun on Margaretenstrasse or o.m.k. or figar Bao. Bun on Taborstrasse, if you head across the Danube Canal and towards Prater. I wish we had more of these bao bars in Bratislava. As a cool alternative to ubiquitous burgers and hotdogs maybe. We could do that. We are quite good at the steamed dough, I can even imagine some pork „szegediner“ buns or roast duck and red cabbage buns just to name a few as food for thought.
Anyway, if you not very particular about authentic Asian cuisine or prefer original and innovative, I would just suggest the direction towards the „fusion“ food. Among many of it in Vienna, I am quite fond of the Mochi group. Take a vibrant atmosphere, busy open kitchen, fancy drinks, a bit of fresh design and cosmopolitism and there you have it. Mochi. Not only they serve killer food and drinks, but they also donate to charity, tour all over Europe (in glorious Thir Wine Bar in Czech Tábor in October) and support cultural dialogue and community. During the last Japanese film festival they offered combo tickets: after seeing the film Ramen Heads, they served a bowl of ramen at their Mochi Ramen Bar. By the way, the Ramen Heads will blow your socks away, you have to see it whether you fancy ramen or not.)
The Mochi and o.m.k. as a refreshment stop comes especially handy if you are in Vienna by ship, as the Twin City Liner docks near at Schwedenplatz. But in case you plan to spend your time at the Danube Island (Donauinsel), get out of the U-Bahn one stop earlier at Vorgartenstrasse and visit the Mochi Ramen Bar as mentioned above at the Vorgartenmarkt market. The food shops and stalls at the market are always a good idea, and this one is especially pleasing to all senses. Do not hesitate to ask to sit at the bar and watch the chefs perform. And definitely order a batch of gyozas, they are one of the best in the Central European region.
But if I had to judge which ramen is better, the one from Mochi Ramen Bar or Karma Ramen, I could not tell. Both comparably satisfying and filling. (Though I prefer stronger stock and funkier taste.) I would choose strictly according to the location and its convenience. The Karma Ramen on Rechte Wienzeile near the Naschmarkt is situated right around the corner to U-Bahn stop Kettenbrückengasse. When I went to Karma Ramen right at the opening time at 18:00 I even caught the train to Bratislava at 18:45 from Main Train Station. Fast food at its best. And running by the corner to the U-Bahn check the respective wall of the Karma ramen building at Falco Steps. It always displays a fantastic street art. (As to the street art, Vienna is a street art wonderland, if you love murals, check Vienna Murals or Walls of Vienna.)
Hey, day-trippers out there, would you give a bowl of ramen or donburi a try next time you are in Vienna? Would you go for a couple of steamed buns at the bao bar instead? If you do, you might find something new (about yourself) and find out that that was the thing you just needed. And do not forget to buy some cute bowls and ingredients at the Asian shops to cook miso soup, ramen or soba at home. It is a soup season and time to cosy up! In the meantime, I will check up on some cool Korean and Vietnamese places in Vienna to keep you inspired!