Papaya is a restaurant with several branches in Berlin, but the branch on Kantstraße stands out as one of the most authentic Thai restaurants in Berlin. For a chance to relive parts of your last vacation to Thailand or lazy Sunday in the Thai park, take a trip down Kantstraße and prepare to enter the realms of proper spice.
It's always been relatively easy to eat authentic Thai street food in Berlin, all you had to do is visit the Thai park in Wilmersdorf on summer weekends. Authentic Thai restaurants however are a whole different topic and definitely not easy to find. The fact that behind nine out of ten restaurants that advertise Thai dishes you will find Vietnamese owners and mediocre food also doesn't make it any easier. There are really only a few choices that serve truly authentic Thai food and one of them is Papaya in Charlottenburg. It belongs to a family of restaurants that are scattered all over town, but this branch is the one to visit. It specializes in dishes from the Isaan region, which is located in the North-East of Thailand, but in the massive menu with almost 200 dishes you'll also find plenty of things from other regions.
“ If you are one of those eaters that roam the city for your next spice rush you will be in heaven though
This Papaya branch operates out of one of these venues that could harbour any old-school, Berlin Asia restaurant, it looks nothing like the over-styled Asian Mitte restaurants and I think that's a good thing. It's in fact borderline ugly, but in this setting and with this food, who cares? Certainly not their regular crowd, Papaya is always packed to the last seat, especially since it's one of the go-to places for the Berlin Thai community.
The already mentioned menu leaves plenty of room for feasting and it is recommendable to visit Papaya with a couple of friends to maximize the number of dishes. More is definitely less here, if you know what I mean. Papaya is the real Thai thing and this also means that some of the food is proper spicy. The dishes are conveniently labeled according to level of spice with one to three chili buds. This is slightly confusing though and the level of spice depends more on the kind of dish than the number of chili buds. A meal at Papaya usually starts out blazing hot and mellows out towards the end as the starters are very spicy. This especially applies to the marvellous Papaya salads, a dish that comes in over 5 varieties and in my world ranks as one of the best Papaya salads in Berlin. But be advised, it is very spicy and it might overwhelm you. If you are one of those eaters that roam the city for your next spice rush you will be in heaven though, the salad is fresh, crispy and packed with flavour and the different combinations provide lots of variation, my favourite is the one with crab. Another spicy favourite are the pork sausages, tiny and juicy little things that may look innocent but pack a damn serious punch. Once you've worked your way through these fiery starters you can devote your attention to the main dishes, for example a lovely and creamy curry with the beef or chicken, or a great Pad Thai which is not an easy dish to find executed well in Berlin. One of my favourite main dishes is the crispy fried whole Dorada which is coated with a great sweet and sour sauce. Papaya uses good quality meat and fish, something that's pretty rare for Asian restaurants in Berlin and which also shows in the quality of the dishes.
Interestingly enough the main dishes are not as spicy as the starters, so if you could handle the Papaya salad with two or even three chili buds, you should definitely go for the same spice for the starters. The service is lovely and they cope pretty well with the massive crowds, when it comes to drinks don't expect too much, it's limited to the basic beer/wine/lassi offering.
“ It will for sure satisfy your Thai cravings on one of those gloomy winter nights when you dream of summer and your next visit to the Thai Park
The surge in popularity of the Thai park in the past two years shows how large the craving for the real Thai thing is in Berlin. The Thai park has been around for decades and the Thai families selling food must surely wonder what the hell happened when all of Pberg, Xberg, Mitte and Neukölln started lining up for noodle soup and papaya salad at Preußenpark.
Papaya is a very good alternative for a restaurant if you enjoy the food at the Thai park, it's also a must visit if you're one of those spice craving vagabonds who still dream of their last Thailand vacation or who just defy the Asian understanding of the European capability to handle spice. Don't be afraid though if you don't like spicy food, there are plenty of mild choices and the staff will be more than happy to recommend dishes for you. It is not the most amazing Thai restaurant you'll ever go to if you eat Thai food across the world, but for Berlin it will for sure satisfy your Thai cravings on one of those gloomy winter nights when you dream of summer and your next visit to the Thai Park, laying on the grass, slurping on a noodle soup and contemplating on what dish to buy next.