Besides numerous sushi restaurants, Cologne boasts a large number of eateries that bring the best food from Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, China, Japan, Korea and Indonesia to the Rhineland region. Here are seven of the best Asian restaurants in the city.
Restaurant, Vietnamese, Vegetarian, $$$
Within less than six months of its opening, Chum Chay has shot up to be one of Cologne’s favourite Vietnamese restaurants. Tucked away in a small courtyard off one of the city’s busy streets, the small joint is an oasis for those who appreciate authentic cuisine. Chef Toni Pham’s cooking has previously drawn crowds to the restaurant LU, but his new venture focuses solely on vegetarian and vegan dishes. Guests are greeted with a cosy interior of unplastered mustard walls, solid wooden furniture and bamboo plants and a menu that brings all-time classics and new creations together. Think banana blossom salad, red curry and a carrot and ginger ice tea.
Nestled in a quiet courtyard near the Belgian Quarter main drag Aachener Straße, Warum Bayu lures with top-notch Indonesian food. Mild, spicy, sweet and sour flavours combine on the menu of both meat-based and vegetarian dishes and allow a glimpse of the culinary variety that the island nation has to offer. On the list of their specialities are ‘Ayam Goreng Kecap’, which is a crispy chicken in a spicy sauce of garlic, chilli and cinnamon, and ‘Kacang Tahu Asam’ – fried tofu and veggies with a peanut and tamarind dressing.
Ask a local for their favourite Korean restaurant, and they will probably point you towards Bulgogi Haus. It’s a 20-minute tram ride towards Nippes in Cologne’s north, but if you’re a fan of Korean BBQ, you might quickly come to the conclusion that it’s worth the trip. Each table is fixed with a charcoal grill which turns dinner into an interactive event, much like Raclette or Fondue. A flat price of €21,90 pays for an overwhelming meal of mandu (Korean dumplings) and soup, followed by their speciality Bulgogi (marinated beef), Ssam-Gyup-Sal (pork), duck, octopus and prawns, all accompanied by various sides from Kimchi to Kimbab.
Lindenthal is up there with Cologne’s poshest neighbourhoods and in the midst of a residential area, the Zen restaurant has settled down to bring modernly-interpreted Japanese food to the city. The concept revolves around the Zen philosophy which shows up in a classy yet contemporary interior and an exclusive food menu. The chefs have mastered the art of sushi – try the cherry blossom roll with tuna, yuzu, lettuce and wasabi-mayonnaise – and sashimi but also impress with salmon carpaccio, sliced beef in a yakiniku sauce and battered and fried eel.
Bangkok often ranks at the top of Cologne’s best Thai restaurants which is not much of a surprise considering the cosy interior, attentive staff and extensive menu of the best dishes Thai cuisine has to offer. Both omnivores and vegetarians are spoiled for choice with options such as grilled beef in oyster sauce and ‘Gaeng Phed Tofu’, a vegetarian dish of veggies in a red curry sauce with eggplant, bell pepper, bamboo sprouts, Thai basil and tofu.
Not far from Cologne Cathedral is Great Wall, a candidate for Cologne’s best Chinese eatery. The restaurant does not necessarily wow with its sparse interior, but the food is authentic and lists some all-time favourites from Szechuan-style beef to Peking duck. While the menu boasts a myriad of meaty specialities, some of which are not for the faint-hearted – beef in pig’s blood, innards or jellyfish salad anyone? – vegetarians don’t have too much to choose from. They do an excellent, and very spicy, mapo tofu though.
The Belgian Quarter restaurant takes you on a journey to Myanmar. On the menu are countless set meals and individual dishes waiting to be explored. If you can’t decide, ask the friendly staff for recommendations. A head start of what to expect: the chefs cook up a great vegan fried tofu dish with sesame and soy sauce, mixed veggies and rice and a beef curry with chickpeas, okra and rice. Baked bananas and pineapples drizzled with honey are for dessert.