During the hot summer months there’s nothing more satisfying than a light Asian meal. From Chinese to Vietnamese – here are some of Rotterdam’s best places!
Written by Ellen Scholtens
Rotterdammers are addicted to spicy food. Whether it’s a Surinamese bread roll or an Indonesian ‘rice table’ banquet, here in Europe’s largest port city — a place where more than 170 different nationalities call home — we are spoilt for choice as far as Eastern cuisine goes. We’ve roamed some of Rotterdam’s more exotic neighbourhoods and selected a number of restaurants for you to try, ranging from casual eateries through to fine-dining establishments.
Also known as Rotterdam’s Chinatown, and located just around the corner from the Central Station. You’ll find a cluster of established Chinese supermarkets, shops and eateries, alongside new ventures that are popping up all the time, such as hip new noodle bars. Even the Uyghurs cuisine from far off Urumqi in northwest China is represented in this vibrant district. Convivial new places to try include the traditional Malaysian restaurant Kampong Express (try oma’s Hainan Chicken Rice) and Takumi, an orangey-red painted Japanese restaurant where ramen fanatics queue to slurp delicious noodle soup. With so many different broths and topping options to choose from, anyone suffering from decision-making anxiety could go mad here.
Further along there’s the Surinamese snackbar Kiem Foei — or, more accurately, a Javanese-Surinamese-Chinese-Caribbean snack bar, as the menu reflects all these different cuisines. Specialities include saoto (soup) and moksi meti with pork, chicken, sausage meat and fried rice. Soi3 (literally translated as third side-street) is a branch of Delibird, a Thai restaurant in Rotterdam-Zuid (Katendrecht). Go there for soup, noodles and curries in all manner of colours, flavours and levels of spiciness.
And so back again to Chinese cuisine, or rather Cantonese. With your back to the West-Kruiskade you can see Tai Wu across the way on the Mauritsweg, an enormous dining hall with an extravagant red and gold décor, tasselled lanterns and paper tablecloths. With Chinese families seated at their dim-sum-laden ‘lazy susan’ turntables, waiters rushing backwards and forwards and children running around chasing each other, the chaos is complete. It’s just as if you’ve landed in Hong Kong.
The Meent and vicinity
If you are a fan of Asian food then you are sure to find something to your taste in and around this central shopping street. Down-to-earth Deli Tasty serves homemade Vietnamese food, including noodle soups and stir-fry dishes. Simple but delicious are the Vietnamese bánh mì (baguettes) served at Boguette and Pho Hanoi, where you can also order spring rolls and, as the pho in the name suggests, noodle soup.
Gamasot, which means large saucepan, is a charming little restaurant serving Korean food. The menu includes bibimbap, a national dish comprising rice, a fried egg, thinly sliced beef, fresh vegetables and, of course, kimchi.
The new noodle bar Noo.Me, with its Instagram-worthy interior, serves dim sums and yin-yang sesame balls. Vegetables feature on the menu as well with choices including Malaysian ‘no meat laksa’ and the option to replace standard noodles with a courgette version.
Little V is an ultra-hip Vietnamese restaurant with intimate sitting spaces inside and a large terrace outside, located right next to the Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk Cathedral. This restaurant offers a lunch menu with street snacks and, as the evening draws in, cocktails and a good selection of more substantial meals.
Decorated with lamps and bird cages, SãnSãn serves Szechuan food from southwest China and is a good choice if you like your food nice and spicy. The more adventurous might like to try their jellyfish, duck’s tongue and codfish-head dishes.
For fine dining, head to Asian Glories for the best dim sums in town, and Chung, an Asian-fusion restaurant located in a wooden pavilion on the edge of a canal. Umami by Han serves food with French and Eastern influences. (The name Umami refers to the moreish savoury ‘fifth’ taste, and the other four being salty, sweet, sour and bitter.) Its crispy crab and black bean beef are delicious. Try the paksoi with truffle vinaigrette as well.
Witte de Withstraat
Another good location to find great Asian food is in and around Rotterdam’s entertainment hotspot, the Witte de Withstraat. Recently opened Seoul Sista is an ‘all-you-can-eat’ Korean BBQ restaurant where you cook your own fish, meat and vegetables on a grill before wrapping it in a lettuce leaf to eat.
Roes is another newcomer and is a cross between a Rotterdam pub and an Asian eatery. Think steamed bao buns with slow-cooked pork belly in miso, or homemade rendang bitterballen. Some tried-and-tested addresses on the Witte de Withstraat include Warung Mini and Hung Kee (the latter being ideal for barflies and night owls as it stays open until the early hours). There’s also Satébar, which serves satay and other Indonesian specialties, and the Vietnamese restaurant Vivu, serving nèms (large loempias) and noodle soups filled with beef, chicken or crab.
The best kept secret around here has to be our number one Japanese restaurant, YAMA, located just around the corner from the Witte de Withstraat. Every course is a work of art and all the flavours are beautifully balanced. Be sure to get in early and reserve a table (via email) as this small restaurant is almost always full.
In other neighbourhoods…
Small but good and certainly worth a mention are the Indonesian restaurants Toko Toorop (Abraham Kuyperlaan 112 b), Ap Halen (Mathenesserdijk 412 c) and Saté Lab (Pretorialaan 8 a).