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While there is no official Chinatown in Vienna, immigrants from the Middle Kingdom have left their traces in the Habsburg metropolis, leading a new wave of Chinese restaurants and bars.
For those growing up in Vienna two or three decades ago, international food choices were limited, but regardless of which district you lived in, there always seemed to be a Chinese restaurant around the corner. Not unlike going to a McDonald’s, those places always had a sense of familiarity with them: the dishes and their tastes remained consistent, their ingredients drowned with similar artificial flavour enhancers. While those antiquated places still persist, and remain popular especially with older generations, there are plenty of modern places that take you on a real tour through the culinary culture of this vast country.
Staying well away from MSG and other artificial enhancers, Ostwind has a reputation for serving authentic Sichuan cuisine. If you know nothing about Chinese food, be prepared for the formidable spice level that some dishes carry. But don’t worry too much as Austrians aren’t really used to anything spicier than a mildly peppered goulash, so Ostwind tunes it down for European costumers. “A hundred dishes, a hundred flavours” is a saying in Chinese, and Ostwind’s menu reflects this variety well with their Dim-Sum, boiled pork blood tofu, stir fried kidneys or Gongbao chicken – the latter being Angela Merkel’s favourite dish since her trip to China in 2014, proudly commemorated in bold red letters on the menu.
According to its owner, the Chinabar isn’t a traditional Chinese bar, simply because there is no such thing in China. Regardless, the outcome here is a mix between an Asian street food cart and a hipster wine bar, run by a quirky staff and frequented by local hipsters – making for an interesting experience, to say the least. While the interior looks fairly generic, the idyllic outside seating area located right on Burggasse is one of the best places to spend a warm summer evening within the inner districts. Try the out-of-this-world fried calamari and order some of their starters to share, as is tradition in China.
If you’d have to point out one restaurant that brought modern Asian cuisine to Vienna, it would have to be Ra’mien. While the food is still delicious, we’ll set our focus on the bar downstairs, where mixologists stir up some mean cocktails while their changing DJ line-up fires up the crowd with funk and hip hop. Be prepared for a wild night at this popular meeting point for the local Chinese and Asian community – and don’t let the barmen trick you into playing one of their drinking games if you have anything planned for the next day.
MAK, the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art, is one of the most important museums of its kind worldwide. Founded as the Imperial Royal Austrian Museum of Art and Industry in 1863, and originally established as an exemplary source collection, today’s MAK Collection continues to stand for an extraordinary union of applied art, design, contemporary art and architecture. MAK’s Asian department has grown steadily over the last 70 years and now offers a spectacular selection of Chinese, Japanese and Korean art. Particularly impressive is the main area, where ceramics and porcelain are on display. Also, don’t miss out on the Qing-Dynasty temple, painted on silk. Parts of the exhibition are viewable online but if you are in town and interested in Asian art, check it out in person.