Best Gumbo in the Congo
September 23, 2011 9:54 PM   Subscribe

Have you had good European or American food outside of America or Europe? If so, where and when? I was watching "No Reservations" on Netflix and was struck by how many Western countries had good examples of Eastern food. I haven't traveled in the East at all, but I can't help but think that the opposite must have happened. Please tell me if you've had great Smothered Chicken and Biscuits in Beijing. I want to hear!
posted by bswinburn to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Depends on your definition of America (USA?). Brazil & Argentina can both offer fantastic European food and less pricey as well.
posted by artdrectr at 10:09 PM on September 23, 2011

In countries which get a lot of expats, invariably some of them open restaurants. In a word: Bali.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:17 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Korea had adopted western style fried chicken and there are a ton of places that do it w hell of a lot better than KFC or (dare I say) even Popeye's. I know a guy who runs a popular food blog here in Seoul, and he put just up a post about in fried chicken in Korea.
posted by holterbarbour at 10:23 PM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Apparently you can get fantastic French food in former colonies and its Caribbean departments--Laos, Vietnam, Tahiti, Guadeloupe.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:25 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

For North American food, the historical best choice in Beijing is a place called Steak and Eggs. It's been there forever. Run by Canadians, I believe. The only place in the city, when I lived there, to reliably get baked goods that didn't taste like cardboard.

There are also a fair number of good German biergartens, decent (but not stellar) Italian, an Argentinian BBQ or three, tapas bars... you name it, it could be found, and most of it was at least pretty good.

The real tricky food to get was Mexican. The Chinese don't do cheese. You could get it, but it was bad (this was starting to change when I left). However, some of the best tex-mex I've ever had (and I'm from Texas!) was at a restaurant in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is pretty much the food capital of the world. There are a lot of really terrific restaurants of every description in Hong Kong.
posted by zjacreman at 10:29 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

If it counts, I've had plenty of great American-style vegetarian/vegan food at backpackery hippie places in countries like Guatemala and Thailand (assuming tempeh burgers and scrambled tofu are American; lots of grey area there). Fried chicken is also insanely popular in Guatemala -- roadside vendors sell it all over the place, with french fries -- but I've never tried it.
posted by changeling at 10:31 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

There are French restaurants with three Michelin stars in Hong Kong and Tokyo.
posted by grouse at 10:36 PM on September 23, 2011

I was amazed by the good bread I found in Shanghai. Decent red wine, too, locally made.
posted by drhydro at 10:39 PM on September 23, 2011

I've had what I thought was excellent Greek food in Taipei, but I have to confess that I don't really know what real Greek food is like. I've also had really good Italian pasta there (in addition to the generic localized Italian you can find in most parts of the world). I had a nice homey breakfast with hashbrowns and eggs and pancakes or french toast (and maybe even Cholula? it's been so long I can't remember) and a little hole in the wall once ... In both Taiwan and Japan, finding stellar European pastries made with real butter and cream and so on is far easier than it is in the US.

I wasn't in Japan for very long and wasn't seeking out American or European food, but I still ran into some. The food at Denny's in Japan is totally unlike Denny's in the US, but in a good way: it's Western food, sometimes actual American food and sometimes "yoshoku" (see Wikipedia), of a fairly high quality. They have steak with mushroom sauce and so on. In general, various yoshoku dishes, like croquettes, may be familiar to European and American diners. Also, you may think the bread in Japan is really delicious (made with milk, eggs, etc.) or you may be weirded out by it. Oh, good crepes too--the dessert ones with fruit and whatnot, not the hearty buckwheat ones. I've also had good German-style sausages and potatoes there.

I have heard you can find virtually everything else in Tokyo (in particular), and seems to back that up, but the above were particularly easy to find.
posted by wintersweet at 10:49 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had Italian food at a little place in Playa Del Carmen Mexico on my honeymoon. There was only the chef and one guy to work 4 or 5 little 2 person tables. We came early apparently (7PM) so he told us all sorts of stories in broken English/Italian. His waiter/busboy had no idea what he was saying. Excellent food. Best food. We ate there every night for a week and he made a whole production of it.

Sadly a Cat 5 Hurricane buried it under literally 52 inches of rain in 48 hours 5-8 years ago. Not to mention the wind. I imagine the entire beachfront was pretty well wiped out and rebuilt.
posted by sanka at 10:55 PM on September 23, 2011

At the high end, there are good restaurants in Tokyo serving pretty much any cuisine you can think of. At the cheap lunch end, there are plenty of non-chain pizza restaurants, which I always enjoyed - though I'm sure the Japanese version of pizza differs from what you'd get in either Italy or the US.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 10:58 PM on September 23, 2011

The best Tex Mex I have ever had outside of North America was at a restaurant called La Fourcette in Dakar. Tex mex and Mexican in Europe are always a horrible disaster but for some reason this place hit the nail on the head.

The best osso bucco I ever had period (and I've lived in NYC and been all over Italy) was at a place called Catanzaro in Marrakesh. Their other dishes were spot on as well.

There are also a lot of very good French restaurants scattered throughout Francophone Africa. The one that leaps to mind is Ksar Char Bagh [sp] in the Palmerie outside of Marrakesh. If Micheline gave stars to Moroccan restaurants, that place would have had at least two.

That said, those are the exceptions not the norms.
posted by telomere at 11:26 PM on September 23, 2011

The most amazing piece of America apple pie (other than my mom's, obviously) I've ever had was in a tiny, single-purpose bakery in Kyoto, Japan.
posted by Mizu at 11:35 PM on September 23, 2011

You can find great examples of pretty much every cuisine on earth in Tokyo. I've had great Italian and German food there. Not to mention Thai and Korean and Indian. The French places have been too expensive, though.

Maybe not Mexican. Anybody know a good Mexican place in Tokyo?
posted by mr_roboto at 11:41 PM on September 23, 2011

Korean fried chicken is so good that they have re-imported it to the US. The chainBon Chon has a couple locations in the US.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:42 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Kro's Nest in Beijing is pretty damn good pizza, maybe not world class, but I definitely like it better than most "best pizza in town" places I've been to in America. I was pretty underwhelmed by Steak and Eggs, though.
posted by skewed at 11:59 PM on September 23, 2011

Oh, and I've been to at least a dozen breakfast places throughout SE Asia that are on par with most Western breakfast joints, at least as far as food quality. Bacon, eggs, potatoes, pancakes, etc., are pretty easy to master.
posted by skewed at 12:01 AM on September 24, 2011

The Calabash in Swaziland started life as an Austrian/German restaurant, I think. It was noted for having a pretty authentic schnitzel. It seems to have rebadged itself as a "continental" restaurant now.

Well, that and the hilarity of being greeted at the door by a strapping Swazi chap in full lederhosen.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:13 AM on September 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Giordiano's pizza in Apia, Western Samoa makes not only great pizza, but probably the greatest pizza I've ever had anywhere. Sheesh, I'm salivating just typing this ...
posted by barnacles at 12:31 AM on September 24, 2011

My favorite Tex-Mex restaurant in the entire world was in Singapore.
posted by nomisxid at 12:41 AM on September 24, 2011

Not to be a negative Nancy but, having traveled around China for more than a year, I've found that the Western food here is only good when you've been craving it for a while and don't remember the taste of authentic burgers, pizzas, etc. There are exceptions, of course (Kro's Nest in Beijing IS good pizza, better than Pizza Hut in China; some decent renditions of whole wheat bread...), but it's easier to just try and make the foods I miss on my own since Western food is more and more overpriced... Plus side, Chinese food is really, really good! (And I only embraced this a couple of months ago).

Unsolicited suggestion: Would love to see some specific names/addresses for restaurant recommendations.
posted by elisse at 1:13 AM on September 24, 2011

I don't know whether tacos count as being Americanized, but when I was in Okinawa, Japan, about 25 years ago, I liked a place called Charlie's Tacos.

The tacos were a little different, I don't remember how, but they were popular among the Marines there.
posted by maurreen at 1:33 AM on September 24, 2011

You can, perhaps not surprisingly, get great French food in former French colonies. French cuisine is still very strong and influential in Vietnam, and I've had some excellent meals there. I also had quite good Israeli food in Chiang Mai once.
posted by retrograde at 2:49 AM on September 24, 2011

Many Indian cities with an upwardly mobile population or a backpacker scene have a "German Bakery". Often they really are owned and run by expats, but they're a phenomenon all their own. The pastries are fine, though I doubt the quality compares with the best patisseries in Europe.

Then again, Mumbai's Theobroma was pretty fantastic, definitely on par with bakeries here in New York. I also remember the yuppie-Indian Starbucks knockoffs (Caffe Coffee Day?) serving a pretty good latte.

In Peru it was really difficult to tell where "western" food left off and "local cuisine" began. Rotisserie chicken - or really a cooking method called "broasted" - is hugely popular as fast food. American-style eggs and toast breakfasts are also popular in the cities. Worst pizza I've ever had, though (very much in the spirit of elisse's "only good when you forgot what the real thing tastes like" comment).
posted by Sara C. at 2:58 AM on September 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had fantastic American-style food in Taipai. It was exciting to me because I'd been living in Asia for a year and had yet to find anything that tasted like the West.
posted by canadia at 3:52 AM on September 24, 2011

There was a good American-style breakfast buffet at the Schloss Hotel in Landstuhl, Germany when I was there a few years ago. It's not far from Rammstein though so that is probably why.

I was a little disappointed, actually, to have an American breakfast on my last day there as I had become quite fond of the German style breakfast buffets we had enjoyed at other places during our stay.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:28 AM on September 24, 2011

What's Bon Chon's chicken like? holterbarbour's article has me salivating, but it doesn't mention Bon Chon. Unlike the rest of them, instead of having to go to Pusan I can pick up Bon Chon a couple of miles from my apartment. Is it worth it?
posted by benito.strauss at 7:45 AM on September 24, 2011

Depending on your definition of "good" is, you can get your fill of American/European food at any of the big western hotel chains around the world.

Seconding that Japan does some very interesting interpretations of American food.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:58 AM on September 24, 2011

There's a decent TexMex place in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and Ecuadorian place in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. In both instances, they were frequented by all the embassy and NGO workers. Then again, after eating plov and Central Asian food for three months my expectations might have been a little low.

To add on to the comment about former French colonies I'll add Madagascar to that list. There is a Mexican restaurant in Tana but it wasn't as great as the Central Asian ones. Mexican seems to be the hardest to find out of the Americas.
posted by Bunglegirl at 8:40 AM on September 24, 2011

Is it worth it

I love Bon Chon, I am particularly fond of their garlic soy drumsticks. As opposed to the spicy, they aren't overwhelmingly seasoned, it has always been served piping hot just out of the fryer so the meat is succulent. I am always disappointed by chain, and even some non-chain fried chicken, because the chicken sits around all day. Fried chicken is like pizza, it loses a lot if you don't eat it piping hot when it is first made. Then again, I have no other Korean fried chicken experience, but it compares favorably to my other favorite, Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:54 AM on September 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know if it's still there anymore, but The Old Vienna in Kathmandu served the best Austrian food ever. I highly recommend their yak schnitzel!
posted by monotreme at 4:12 PM on September 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Lucille's in the Ma'adi area of Cairo isn't half bad. I even had Thanksgiving there and the pumpkin pie was pretty good. Time magazine at one point claimed that the place had the best hamburger in the world. Though there food is pretty good, my carnivorous friends assure me that Time was being a little hyperbolic about the burgers. They even have some Mexican food items--exceedingly hard to find in the Egyptian capital.
posted by Enneking at 5:24 PM on September 24, 2011

The best Mexican food I've had in the eastern hemisphere was in Kuta, in Bali. The best hashbrowns, the best french toast I've ever had came from a cafe in Dali, in Yunnan Province, in China. Both places cater extensively to tourists from other countries, though. Anywhere, though, that you have a lot of tourists/expats, you're going to find a good number of restaurants that cater to them. Hell, when I was in Xian many, many years ago, there was a Kenny Roger's Roasters in the underground mall at the center of the city.

What might serve you better is seeking out what locals do with ideas of western cuisine. For me, I find the Japanese idea of Italian food (nori on pasta, mentaiko/spicy fish eggs on pasta) so repellent that I avoid most Italian restaurants here (aside from places that, well, get expensive), and have just learned to make what I want on my own. Curry here is pretty different from Indian curry, it's more of a stew (curryish flavored). Pizza here is just... not right. Potatoes, corn, tuna, mayonaise, curry sauce (often on the same pizza).

There is, by the way, a good Mexican place in Harajuku, on the way to Yoyogi. Turn left out of the station, get to Meiji street, and keep going towards Yoyogi. It's built into the side of a hill. Great ambience, not cheap.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:53 AM on September 25, 2011

If anyone is still following this thread, I tried Bon Chon (in Allston) last night and it really is great. Sadly the friend I convinced to come wanted the hot chicken, and it was too hot. But it was crisp and not greasy in the least. I'm going back soon to have the garlic soy.

It's not just a hole-in-the-wall take out place, like you might expect in Allston. It's a very nice sit-down restaurant with an extensive menu. On the advice of Chinese girl sitting next to us, we tried the bacon-squid-shrimp pancake, which is apparently a Japanese dish. Thanks, Ad hominem
posted by benito.strauss at 1:30 PM on September 28, 2011

« Older Legal Resources for the Open Source Developer?   |   Audio live streaming options? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.