This must be similar to the feeling that Columbus had when he stumbled onto the New World. And I have no doubt he had the same reaction as I did – ‘Holy Shit! This place is amazing!’
Like most well-kept secrets in Vienna, Kuishimbo is a subtle, small place that is easy to walk past, unaware of its worth. Upon discovering it a while back, I felt like I was the first to make it here, that I should plant a flag, or pee on the door to mark it as my territory.
But my illusions of great discovery were obviously not true, judging by the stream of people coming and going through Kuishimbo’s doors and packing themselves into its narrow walls. There’s very seldom a seat free, yet rather a patient line of lip-licking people glaring into your Udon noodle soup – the signature dish here.
I sit in the pleasant garden out front, set on the roaring highway of the Linke Wienzeile, next to the Naschmarkt.
Cascades of noodles fall from my clumsy chopsticks as I try to hold onto them, and avoid the splash back of the broth that comes when I drop the heavy egg noodles. The taste explosions on every slurp inspire a determination within me – I will learn how to use these sticks!
Having opened the place in 2003 with his mum, Keisuke proudly explains how they were the first to plant the genuine Japanese cuisine flag in Vienna.
‘When my family moved here, we obviously missed Japanese food and so we decided to open up a restaurant and serve real traditional cuisine from home.’
Keisuke was 17 then, and now, several years later, he, his mum and his wife and their team have made it a favourite amongst foodies who know about good Japanese cooking.
Keisuke’s wife is the one with the big, beautiful smile that my dinner date claims she wants to marry, then and there.
There’s a wall full of noodle dishes listed (in Japanese and German) on your right-hand side as you walk in, and the decision can be intimidating if you don’t know your way around the Japanese kitchen. While we’d recommend you give one of the Udon noodle hotpots a go, which the place is famous for (to give you a few examples: the Nabeyaki Udon (a hot pot with chicken), kamaboko (fish cake), mushrooms, and vegetables such as spinach, rice cake, carrot, and a shrimp or egg on top, or the Curry Udon (a similar mix of ingredients to the Nabeyaki, but drowned in a tasty curry soup)) – don’t be shy to ask the staff to recommend you a dish. Or be brave and select randomly to set out on a culinary adventure.
One thing we can assure you is that whatever you choose, it will be flavoursome and have you burning your tongue on the broth that comes out sizzling. We suggest you bide your time while you wait for it to cool by swigging back on one of the Japanese beers or iced teas on offer.
It’s a wonder how the staff do such incredible things with food in the small kitchen and consistently remain so friendly, but they do. And while they do serve a few selections of sushi and maki, we like how Kuishimbo goes beyond this celebrity of the Japanese kitchen, revealing there’s much more that it offers.
And so goes the dilemma of all explorers – do you tell everybody about it, or keep all the riches to yourself?
It’s so good, we couldn’t keep our mouths shut.