Some people call the Kantstraße the Chinatown of Berlin, which is basically a ridiculous exaggeration. If at all, it could be called Asia-town, or maybe Asia-street, which makes no sense and should thus be dismissed. Still, most of Berlin’s prolific Asian restaurants and shops are to be found on this street, and this very blog is in fact working hard on compiling reviews on all the worthwhile joints, until now led by our favorites Dao and Aroma. So I was very happy to follow a recommendation for Papaya.
Papaya is a group of restaurant with locations in Friedrichshain and Schöneberg with the one on Kantstraße being the latest addition. The interior is always quite simple but clean and mostly without the use of cheesy folklore decorations. The specialty of this location are three pages in the menu featuring authentic Isaan dishes. Isaan is a region in Northern Thailand, famous for its strong connections with Laos, its extensive silk productions and its very, and I repeat, very spicy food.
Papaya boasts a policy of authentic spiciness, foregoing the usual concern for European sensitivity when it comes to chilis. From my own perspective the dishes where quite hot, verging on the edge to being inedible for me, but I will have to return with someone who seems to have conquered all experience of chili-pain to give the authenticity a real test.
Since there’s more to flavor than chili (at least for me), I proceed to judge the rest and can only say I was very happy with it. Although the written menu does not offer much for the vegetarian guest, it was no problem to exchange the chicken in the special of the day for a very fine tofu served in curry sauce with fresh egg noodles. My lunch partner was equally pleased by his duck dish, although we both agreed that Dao is still a bit better when it comes to complex flavors. But then Dao has a huge menu written in Thai-only, forcing you to either bring a Thai-speaking friend or stick to the known. At Papaya nothing keeps you from ordering fried chicken rumps or Isaan head cheese.
We didn’t go down that road, but I’d be happy to hear about your experience in case you feel like it. A special for me was to enjoy a Thai iced tea with my lunch, fancily decorated and tart-sweet. I seriously liked and also seriously recommend it to add it to your list of Kantstraßen-favorits.