Looking for the best Asian restaurants in Antwerp? Aching for some good Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai or Japanese food? Want to experience authentic dishes from a bunch of exotic cuisines? Then join Trot Op! on a culinary discovery tour along 16 of the most fantastic Oriental restaurants in Antwerp.
You might have missed it, but we’ve all been locked up at home for more than two months now.* Shops are back in business in Belgium, but restaurants and pubs remain closed until further notice. This of course is no fun, especially for the respective owners. No less than one in four Belgian restaurants could face bankruptcy in the year to come. This leaves us with only one thing to do: we need to fulfil our goddamn civic duty and go on a wild eating and boozing binge as soon as everything opens up again. Yes, a drunken bacchanal of epic proportions is the only way to save our small businesses from annihilation. And I wouldn’t be a true patriot if I wasn’t willing to do my part.
*Update October 2022: yes indeed, everything opened up again more than a year ago – nothing goes past you. Sadly I’m too lazy to rewrite my entire intro (and moreover I think it was pretty good). I wasn’t lazy enough to keep looking for new restaurants to add to the list though. This is why you can now read about sixteen businesses instead of the measly five included in the original article. Good enough to skip an intro, no?
The 16 best Asian Restaurants in Antwerp
In the next few months, I will therefor mainly be writing about Antwerp, and more specifically about all of my favourite establishments in several different categories. This of course, exclusively to grant them my support, and not at all to score an unending avalanche of free meals. For altruism, and nothing else is the cornerstone of my existence (call me, food people).
“Looking for the best Asian restaurants in Antwerp? Join Trot Op! on a culinary discovery tour through the city, and get to know sixteen of the best ones.”
Oriental restaurants already had a rough time before the lockdown even started. This was mainly due to the average customer apparently being an idiot, thinking every plate of fried rice was personally mailed to the table by some AliExpress guy with a violent cough based in Wuhan. It thus feels appropriate to start my culinary tour by talking about these places specifically. Here’s a list of my favourite Asian restaurants in Antwerp. Have fun with it, and Màn màn chī my gourmet friends! That means enjoy your meal in Mandarin. I’m a learned man.
1. Ni Shifu: an authentic Chinese restaurant in Antwerp
*Even after two whole years I didn’t manage to make a picture of Ni Shifu. Therefor enjoy this wonderful image of Shanghai.
Newsflash: the chop choy you ordered at the Golden Palace takeaway last Friday is about as Chinese as the tattoo signs on the average Instagram beach boy. It’s westernised fast food catered to our feeble European taste buds. Quite delicious, but in Beijing you couldn’t lose it to a starving beggar. Luckily there are authentic Chinese restaurants in Antwerp as well. Ni Shifu for example: a tiny place close to the UGC movie theatre. They cook Sichuan food here, which means there’s lots of pepper on every dish. The menu is the size of a roof tile, the rates are democratic and I’ve never eaten anything I didn’t find incredibly tasty here. Pick a couple of adventurous dishes, order some Tsingtao beers to go with it and start slurping those noodles baby! www.nishifu.be
2. Super Natural: varied Asian dishes in the student district
On the edge of the University neighbourhood – on the corner of Keizerstraat and Minderbroedersrui – lies Super Natural. This small and colourful restaurant is run by a sweet couple, and offers a varied kitchen that doesn’t limit itself to one country. Japanese tempura, Chinese dim sum and Vietnamese spring rolls: you can get all of them here and everything is freshly made. It’s not an expensive place at all and the sweet & sour chicken rice bowl is one of the tastiest treats you can present me with in Antwerp. Their homemade ice-tea is yummy as well. What are you waiting for? www.facebook.com/supernaturalantwerpen/
3. 5 Flavors Mmei: the best dumplings in Antwerp
Somewhat larger and in the south of Antwerp is 5 Flavors Mmei. The chef is a master of the Cantonese kitchen and was awarded the title of “Asian of the Year” (yes, that’s really what it’s called) by Gault&Millau a couple of years ago. This place is especially known for its dumplings, which are the best in the city. If you want a taste of all of them, order the dim sum menu. Want to try some other Asian dishes as well? Order the chef’s gourmet menu instead. When I took pictures for the city here a while ago, they put an entire plate of food in front of me, and then watched me closely to check whether I liked it enough (see picture). Nice people. Practise your ni haos and xie xies beforehand, and you might even get a little applause after ordering. www.5flavors-mmei.be
4. Kartini: the most authentic Indonesian restaurant in Antwerp
In the not so distant past I had a gorgeous Indonesian girlfriend. It wasn’t meant to be unfortunately, but she could cook like the best. Today I have to order my Indonesian dishes in a restaurant again, but with a place like Kartini nearby this isn’t really a problem. This is the only (and therefore by definition the best) Indonesian restaurant in Antwerp, and the perfect place to undergo an extensive introduction to the national cuisine. If you want to do this thoroughly, you can order a meat, fish or vegetarian menu, consisting of ten or more smaller dishes. Make sure you’re hungry before you order, the portions are not a joke. www.kartiniantwerp.be
5. Aahaar: a vegetarian Indian restaurant near Antwerp Central Station
As far as I’m concerned Aahaar is the best Indian restaurant in Antwerp, and it’s completely vegetarian as well (with a lot of vegan options on the menu). The interior is quite basic – but ironically very representative of the average New Delhi (link zetten) restaurant. The quality and price of the food are unbeatable though. For €10 – yes, ten euros – you can already join the all you can eat buffet. I recommend choosing some dishes à la carte and sharing them with your tablemates however. Classics from all over India can be ordered here, which means you’ll finally be eating something different than your umpteenth tikka masala. Absolutely recommended for people who want to eat a lot of great food on a budget. It does get spicy at times: be warned. www.aahaar.com
6. Table d’Ho: an introduction to Korean cuisine in Borgerhout
Anyone imagining Korean food almost automatically thinks of a Korean barbecue. There’s much more on the menu though. Korean cuisine mixes the sleek presentation of Japan with the spicy flavors of China to create its very own brand. Table d’Ho in Berchem is perhaps the best place in Antwerp to get acquainted with Korean cooking. You can order individual dishes, or go for a shared menu and eat a number of smaller snacks with your friends. Those who want to go for the complete experience can book a low Korean Maru table. Do book on time though: they only open four days a week and the tables are gone quickly. www.tabledho.squarespace.com
7. Mico & Jon: progressive Asian food in the city centre
Mico & Jon serves what they call progressive Asian food. This means they cook dishes from the memory of the Chinese cuisine of their youth: with respect for traditions, but with a touch of modernity and quirkiness as well. During the lockdowns, they didn’t simply switch to a takeaway menu, but you had to pick up the dishes to finish them yourself at home, aided by the instructions provided on a note. Now you can just book a table again, and you definitely should. Even the desserts are delicious, because Mico is a pastry chef as well. www.mico-and-jon.com
8. Yamayu Santatsu: the oldest Japanese restaurant in Antwerp
If you want visit a real Japanese restaurant in Antwerp, you have to check Yamayu Santatsu. This place is hidden in between the Ossenmarkt student bars, but is of the oldest and most authentic Asian restaurants in Antwerp. Chef Kurasawa has been serving original Japanese dishes in the open kitchen in the centre of the dining area since 1988. Yamayu Santatsu specializes in sushi and sashimi, but there are a lot of other goodies on the menu: several types of noodles, gyoza and a whole variety of meat dishes. The restaurant has been in the Gault &Millau guide for years, and those guys know where the good stuff is. www.santatsu.be
9. Lunsjes: Chinese-Belgian fusion
Lunsjes is a relatively new restaurant in Kasteelpleinstraat. The name is a corruption of the Chinese term Lùn Chī, which translates to “discussions about food”. and that’s exactly what tends to happen here around the dinner table. Lunsjes is run by a Chinese-Belgian couple. What comes out of the kitchen is fine dining, and a mix between Asian and European cuisine. They present dishes with a traditional oriental base, but finished with local ingredients and western techniques. The food is meant to be shared with the whole table. The jiǎozi (dumplings) are superb. In Mandarin you say “Nǐ de jiǎozi hěn hào chī”. No idea if “Your dumplings are looking very tasty” is a bit of an innuendo in China too. www.lunsjes.be
10. Siam Senses: the smallest Thai restaurant in Antwerp
There are plenty of Thai restaurants in Antwerp, but few know how to capture the atmosphere of the typical tiny walk-in places in Bangkok as well as Siam Senses in the Chinese quarter opposite the Central Station. I could add five more restaurants to the list from that street alone, but I’m trying not to turn the whole thing into a novel. Siam Senses serves Thai street food as it should be, and they do it in a minuscule restaurant with only four tables. The menu is quite compact, but they have all the classics: from tasty pad thai to fish cakes and noodle soups. Absolutely worth a visit.
11. Yamato: Japanese street food in Antwerp’s South quarter
Yamato is a cosy restaurant next to the Museum of Fine Arts (it just reopened by the way: go take a look) which stayed somewhat under the radar. It’s run by a Japanese woman and her Belgian husband. They serve a mix of affordable and original Japanese street food. These can be izakaya (Japanese tapas) for example: several smaller plates to be shared together. Their signature dish is okonomiyaki. This is a kind of savory Japanese pancake/tortilla made with corn and white cabbage, which you can order with a multitude of different toppings. There are also quite some vegetarian options to choose from. www.yamatobelgium.be
12. My Tea: the best place for bubble tea in Antwerp
MyTea is a fun new place in Lange Koepoortstraat. In this beautifully decorated restaurant you can order bubble tea in all the colors and flavours you can imagine. This makes me very happy, because when I was in Taipei for two weeks I drank at least a liter of this stuff every day. If you crave something tasty to go with it, you can order some bao. These are soft rolls filled with chicken, pork or tofu, garnished with some pickled vegetables. The desserts are extremely sweet and yummy as well. You can buy some Chinese kitty toys and gadgets while you’re at it, and the walls are full of drawings made by their apparently very talented customers. Very nice place for a quick drink or bite in the afternoon. www.my-tea.be
13. Little BÚN: Vietnamese delicacies on Mechelseplein
Little BÚN – yell that name, the accent is there for a reason – is the little brother of the much fancier BÚN in the south of the city (also an ex Asian of the Year). This tiny restaurant lies close to the many bars of Mechelseplein and serves Vietnamese street food that could have come straight out of the atmospheric alleys of Hanoi: pho, spring rolls, noodles, shrimp cakes, you name it. All produced with local ingredients. Cosy, no-nonsense place for a quick bite. Recently they opened a second, somewhat larger place opposite the MAS. www.bunantwerp.be/little-bun/
14. Okoz: modern Japanese dining in Antwerp
Okoz is another great street food restaurant, this one in a more minimalistic Japanese style. It’s located in Nationalestraat, and if you feel like sushi you’ll have to go somewhere else because they don’t have it. They do sell their own version of the previously mentioned okonomiyaki though. In Okoz, they gave this old classic a modern and photogenic twist. You can personalise your whole dish. Choose from fish, meat or veggies, from several toppings and from a variety of side dishes. The result is (depending on your choices) perfect for a healthy and tasty lunch. They’ve installed a nice Instagram corner as well, allowing you to take pictures of your food to your heart’s desire, without disturbing the normal people. We’re living in wondrous times indeed. www.okoz.eu
15. Tibetan Art Café: Tibetan snacks on De Coninckplein
More in the mood for beers than a few hours of fine dining, but still want to taste some authentic Asian snacks? Go to the formerly infamous but now quite pleasant De Coninckplein. There you’ll find the Tibetan Art Café, which offers the tastiest momos in Antwerp. “What are momos precious?” Well, they’re just Tibetan dumplings: ideal bar snacks and much healthier than your standard bitterballen with mustard. It’s the perfect place to make some Tibetan friends as well. You never know when you’ll need one.
16. Dim Dining: the only Asian restaurant in Antwerp with a Michelin star
Great news everyone! Antwerp now has its very own Michelin starred Asian restaurant. Dim Dining on Vrijdagmarkt received its first star earlier this year, and it was completely justified. The chef is young, the furniture stylish and the cuisine a mix of Oriental finesse and French flavors. A lot of inspiration was taken from Japan, they work almost exclusively with seasonal products and they even have a sake expert running around. Perfect for when you want to go fancy. www.dimdining.be
There you go friends: my first (and after the update second) batch of Asian restaurants in Antwerp. Since I’m always discovering new places, this list will keep getting updates in the future. Do you know any nice Asians (with or without a restaurant) yourself? Did I unabashedly ignore your favorite? Will you still stick to the Chinese take-away nasi goreng from around the corner? Put it all in the comments below.