The Vietnamese fusion of Dudu restaurant is beloved by celebrities, hipsters and families alike. Run by Nam Cao Hoai, who arrived in Berlin from Hanoi aged nine, Dudu blends Vietnamese tradition with the finest international ingredients against a backdrop of contemporary design and electronic music.
It’s always busy at Dudu. At lunchtime, the DJs from Mitte sit back-to-back with young professionals and families with children. Everyone has come to sample the authentic food that Nam Cao Hoai and his family have been preparing for the past ten years at their restaurant on the hip Torstrasse. Here, Vietnamese tradition meets international ingredients: tender vegetables, fresh fish, and roasted potatoes combine in a delicious symbiosis.
“Our plates are as colourful as the people here,” says Nam Cao Hoai with a laugh. The restaurant is decked out with stylish wooden benches, and electronic music pulses away in the background. Dudu is the perfect reflection of its owner – both Vietnamese and German parts have their place at the table.
Nam Cao Hoai was nine when he moved from Hanoi to Germany, the last member of his family to do so. They had been drawn to the country for its job opportunities since the early 1980s. “I didn’t even want to come,” he says. He had to master German quickly at school, and the culture was so different. At the age of 14, he began helping his mother in their first restaurant. She’d sometimes work in the kitchen for up to 18 hours a day.
In spite of the hard work, Nam Cao Hoai was warming to the idea of owning his own restaurant, too. The time came in 2008. At the beginning, it was mainly friends and family coming in for a bowl of noodle soup, which Nam Cao Hoai would often serve early in the morning after partying all night. “One morning there was no soup left, and my mother took away my key to the restaurant,” says Nam Cao Hoai with a grin. But those times are long gone. Dudu grew up – just like its proprietor.
In 2015, the family opened a second branch in Charlottenburg, Dudu31. Here the atmosphere is more sedate than at the lively location in Mitte. The restaurant’s versatility makes it a favourite among celebrities – in fact, George Clooney once ate sashimi here. And his colleague Bill Murray always stops in when he’s visiting Berlin.
That’s certainly something to be proud of, but it’s not the most important thing. “No matter what you do in your life, the main thing is to stay true to yourself,” says Nam Cao Hoai.
All photos by Lena Ganssmann
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Torstr. 134, 10119 Berlin-Mitte
T (030) 517 368 54
Mon–Sat 12pm–12am Sun 1pm–12am