The New Bei Otto in German News

Last week Carola Frentzen, the South East Asia correspondent from dpa (Deutsche Presse Agentur) did visit Bei Otto and interviewed our owner, Dr. Kevyn Michel about why Bei Otto moved to a new place. Here is a translation of the in the German language written article, which was published in many German newspapers. The original article can be read here or here for free.

Brass music in Bangkok:

Instead of Pad Thai, prefer fries with currywurst: The Thai royal family ate in the traditional restaurant “Bei Otto”

Kevyn Michel (right), owner of the traditional restaurant “Bei Otto”, and one of his advisors, the German emigrant Hermann Quint, stand at the counter of the new restaurant.

dpa / Carola Frentzen

Rustic wooden benches, blue and white checked tablecloths, wheat beer, and an owner in lederhosen: if it weren’t for the palm trees and the hot tropical climate, visitors could almost forget that they are in Bangkok. For 37 years, “Bei Otto” has been inspiring not only German expats, but also Thais, Japanese, and Chinese with a preference for dirndls and white sausages. “We are more than a restaurant, we are an institution in Bangkok,” says the current owner, Kevyn Michel. The shop in the busy Sukhumvit district was buzzing for decades. In the midst of the corona pandemic, of all places, the restaurant had to move – and is daring to restart elsewhere.

The move was even worth a note to numerous media in the mega-metropolis. Time Out magazine spoke of “shocking news” for foodies in Sukhumvit. The new “Bei Otto” is not that far away: a few days ago it reopened in a chic building a little further north on Phetchaburi Road, one of Bangkok’s main thoroughfares. All the furniture, including heavy wooden tables, red pillowcases, beer mugs, antlers, and a regulars’ table sign, came with them.

Kevyn Michel runs “Bei Otto” together with his German husband Sven

“We gave everything to ensure that the atmosphere is the same as before and that people feel at home,” explains Kevyn Michel, who took over the shop in 2017 together with his German husband Sven. Since the unexpected death of his partner two years ago, the Thai has been running the business alone – but with the active support of German advisors such as emigrant Hermann Quint. “It’s a bit like in Düsseldorf here, in the bars right on the Rhine, isn’t it?” He asks, pointing to the canal that flows right past the outside terrace.

But why this move? A lot has come together, says Kevyn Michel. “The house on Sukhumvit Soi 20 was made of wood and a stately 65 years old.” Termites attacked the building, and the costs of urgent renovation work also increased. When the owner wanted to increase the rent in the middle of the pandemic, the barrel overflowed. “It just didn’t work anymore. Because of the crisis, we already had to lay off a lot of employees: Instead of 70 employees, we currently only have 40, ”says the 48-year-old.

dpa / Carola Frentzen

Kevyn Michel (left) and Hermann Quint are sitting on the outside terrace of the new inn right on the canal.

The name of the inn comes from its founder: Otto Duffner, who emigrated to Thailand, started his own business in the early 1980s. Under his guidance, Thais learned how to sway and the Japanese learned what homemade sausage is. They affectionately called the chef from Königsfeld “Black Forest Otto”. FC Bayern Munich footballers, TV stars and politicians from numerous federal states tried homemade spaetzle, filled beef roulade, pork knuckle and apple strudel.

But after many years of hard work, Duffner sold his business in 2013. At first an Englishman took over – and things went downhill with “Bei Otto”. Quint recalls: “I didn’t go at all for years.”

Members of the Thai royal family are also guests at “Otto”

It was not until Sven Michel and husband Kevyn who took over the restaurant four years later to restore it to its former glory. The celebrities also came back to drink a Helles with Jägerschnitzel and Leberkäse. Even members of the royal family have already dined at “Otto”, the boss proudly explains. “I want “Bei Otto” to stay the way it always was – and of course I want to honor the work and legacy of Sven, who has put so much into our project,” he emphasizes, pointing to the menu. The dishes are the same as those of the founder – and will continue to be prepared exactly according to his recipes.

dpa / Carola Frentzen

All of the furniture at “Bei Otto” comes from the original location in the Sukhumvit district.

Most of the tables are still empty. But the corona restrictions in Bangkok are to be relaxed and international tourism revived in the next few weeks. Then the affiliated German bakery will open again, with grain bread and pretzels. Many Germans in the city have been waiting longingly for this. And the weekly morning pint, the Bavarian breakfast and the regulars’ table will also experience a comeback.

The Oktoberfest at “Otto” – the highlight for all regular customers for decades – Kevyn Michel wants to catch up with as soon as the celebration is allowed again. “Maybe in December,” he says and pulls his lederhosen straight. Then he adds, “In my heart I am 50 percent German too. “

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