The couple at the next table use the flashlight function of their smartphones to read the menu because the guest room of the Vietnamese restaurant Soy is very dimly lit, like most restaurants in Mitte.
Soy is situated right opposite the Volksbühne theatre, with large windows and a pleasant uncluttered interior and, except for a wall-painting of a Buddha holding a bottle of soy sauce, no ethnic knick-knack. Seating is slightly too dense and with the dim lighting it is quite a challenge to squeeze into the chairs.
Soy labels itself a vegan restaurant with Vietnamese cuisine but some items on the menu do have dairy products and egg, and the menu even offers a letter for labelling fish (we didn’t find anything on it containing fish, so that may be seasonal, or due to the gloomy lighting). Everything can be ordered in a vegan version, though. The Vietnamese cuisine might also better be labelled Vietnamese fusion, for although the dishes (and their names) are inspired by Vietnamese traditions, there’s a far broader range of ingredients and flavours. The dishes come in a variety of different tableware –(against the current trend in Vietnamese restaurants) only few of them are those bowls with a slanted rim that make you wonder whether your eyes are alright (and prevent you from scrutinising your dinner partners’ dishes).
Between the five of us we shared several starters, of which the crispy savoury pancake Banh Xeo was by far the most typical Vietnamese, with lots of herbs, tofu and a fresh dip. We also had Tofu wrapped in betel leaves and some Chinese-style dumplings, both with an interesting taste. As a main course we didn’t try the Pho soup as the archetypal Vietnamese dish, but instead went mostly for rice dishes, such as a curry dish, a rice hotpot with oyster mushrooms, broccoli and tofu, or steamed vegetables and tofu wrapped in algae on rice. They were all very tasty – and with different flavours each –, but none of them seemed particularly Vietnamese to us, especially as they used quite untypical, very European vegetables such as Broccoli a lot.
That day, a busy Saturday evening, there were only two desserts on the menu, but eagerly we ordered both. They turned out to be essentially the same dish: briefly deep-fried sticky rice with either banana or canned mango swimming in a puddle of sweet condensed milk (not vegan…). The (good and strong) Vietnamese coffee, too, came with condensed milk already in the glass, so vegans still have to be careful when ordering. And after this final sugar boost we went to a nearby bar for more drinks.
Summing up, we would characterize the Soy as a quite good vegetarian restaurant (with a lot of vegan options) and with a decidedly Southeast Asian slant. The dishes had all different tastes and most of them were quite delicious. Prices are appropriate considering the location and the quality. We will be back for sure.