In going over my photos during the holiday break, I realised I didn’t write about a couple of pretty great places in Berlin to try and they really couldn’t be more far apart. The first, is the most aptly named restaurant, Veggie Chinese Gourmet that I found via the wonderful Happy Cow website. It’s located right across town in Charlottenburg (the west) and does purely vegetarian Chinese meals although they do a number of mock-meat substitutes. The food portions are enormous and we ended up taking some of them to go. The eggplant dish one over my dining partner who doesn’t really like the stuff.
On the other side of the coin, for my farewell meal with my work colleagues, we had dinner at Berlin’s infamous The Bird. In true American style, they do everything to excess and the burgers are massive, just as the steaks are (starting at 300g and going up in increments of 100g!)
They don’t really do their burgers very well done – believing that it ruins the flavour, and I have to admit the burger was pretty good (except for the fact they used an english muffin for their burger bun!) I’d highly recommend a taste of the extra hot sauce if you’re looking for a chilli challenge. Don’t get the wings drenched in the stuff though as a small teaspoon is enough to burn your mouth pretty well for a while. Bookings are recommended in advance here, as they two sittings a night and seem to be constantly full.
Horvath’s Round 2
I’d eaten at the much acclaimed Horvath’s at the beginning of the year. It’s an unusual find in Kreuzburg, focusing much more on the higher end of the market offering modern twists to Bayerish cuisine.
It’s more of the place you’d take your parents to meet your partner for the first time, rather than as a casual night out. Fortunately Berlin is as happy serving a bunch of geeks (seven of us to be exact) as they are entertaining German families.
We opted for a mix of the the tasting course menu – me, of course, hoping to try as much as we could given the time. The courses end up much more than the six expected courses.
They first brough a bread basket to the table, a mix of wonderfully different styles including one that had notable chunks of black pudding throughout. My favourite, of course, a lighter bread surrounded by a crisp crust lightly dusted in flour.
Just as unusually, their “butter” proved to be a combination of cream cheese, some butter and some toasted pumpkin seed oil. The oil proved less popular at the table as it was surprisingly bitter, not the smooth subtle flavours one would normally expect of a more classical olive oil at the table.
It’s a while since I wrote this up, so the details of each dish are less forthcoming, however I hope you enjoy seeing some of the pictures anyway. Here I think we had a pureed celeric with some fresh celery and apple. As the first dish, it proved refreshing to the pallette.
Round two, a chunk of duck liver with a majoram glaze and a caramellised corn pudding accompanied by some other pureed vegetable stuff (I think). If you look closely you can see there was a very thin sugar crust layering on top that provided both the element of crunch and sweetness to an otherwise very rich dish.
Next followed a really delicate dish confit fish filet with dark berry sauce, and mushrooms. The dish had been finished off dotted with lots of capers and two chunks of a very small sour cream cream. Mmmm. Delicious.
Next up was a softly cooked venison strip. I honestly can’t remember what it sat upon but I do remember it being amazingly tender and very well cooked.
Our next course would make vegetarians envious with generous chunks of aubergine with a generous selection of fresh chanterelles sitting on some more pureed turnip.
Being Bayerish food, one doesn’t expect too many vegetables and predictably changed with the next round, a duck breast accompanied by a selection of pototo and red cabbage.
Some of us then had the additional cheese course, a strong blue cheese that went really well with the small sultanas dotting the plate.
Dessert finished off our meal with an amazingly fresh red carrot sorbet, a soft cake, and a couple of other puddings. Everyone was so impressed by the strong flavours of the red carrot sorbet, someone even asked for the recipe.
With tea arrived a small selection of biscuits and soft caramels but I literally coudln’t eat anymore.
An enjoyable evening and a place I would definitely return to again.
Found at: Paul Lincke Ufer 44a, Kreuzberg, 10999 Berlin
Found literally underneath the railway tracks on the east side of Kreuzberg, Burgermeister is just as well known for the awesomeness of their burgers as it is for being built in a former toilet block.
The queues are inevitable being so popular with locals and visitors, even as I aimed for a very late lunch on a Saturday afternoon (3pm). There’s probably about five or six different type of burgers to order from and you’re warned upon ordering that it can be up to a half hour wait as they’re made fresh to order.
Even standing in the cold, I thought it’d be worth it. I’m sure people have done much worse.
The other thing advised by people to order is the chilli cheese fries – a serving of fries topped with strange melty yellow American style cheese, a generous serving of jalapenos and a chilli sauce. Pretty good.
I ordered the BBQ burger, a beef patty topped with some bacon (the best I’ve had in Berlin so far – smoky, salty, and slightly crisp but not too crisp like in the US) including lettuce, pickle and tomato and BBQ sauce. For a burger stand joint, it’s one of the best ones I think I’ve had.
The experience itself is quite interesting as it literally stands opposite the UBahn stop and you get to watch the business of the area going by. I have no idea if they’re open 24 hours, but they do pretty amazing business as it was constantly busy when I was there and I’m sure would be busier at other times of the day.
Found at: Am Schlesischen Tor
Berlin is probably the paradise city for any vegetarian or vegan place in Germany. Not really a country known for its affection for meat, The Happy Cow lists just as many, if not more, vegetarian places in Berlin when compared to even larger cities such as London.
Kopps is the latest addition Vegan restaurant on offer, the decor following the trends of clean walls, large windows and very modern decor. As a Berlin friend told me, “Very Mitte.”
I happened to chance upon the week they opened, serving a very excellently valued four course menu for only €15 excluding drinks.
To start was a pumpkin soup served with roasted pumpkin seeds. The use of coconut milk in this dish made it taste slightly more tropical than what it probably should have but it was still very, “lecker” (tasty!).
Second round came the red beetroot ravioli filled with a cashew-herb ricotta and a fennel salad. Not only was it really well presented but I really enjoyed the contrast of the slightly sharp fennel against the typically sweet beetroot. A clever concoction and one that I’ll try (though probably with the use of real ricotta instead of some weird vegan substitute).
The main course was an attempted “meat substitute”, including a roasted soya roulade with red cabbage and potatoes. A tasty dish although I found it slightly over-seasoned for my liking.
Round four, and by this time, I was pretty full. However it was definitely worth the effort being a delicious chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce. Given it being a vegan place, I have no idea how they managed to make the mousse so creamy and delicious as I was expecting some sort of gritty, or slightly off tasting mousse. A definite highlight and something you should try.
Found at: Linienstr 94, Berlin Germany 10115
La Cantina at Tausend
One of my work colleagues, Tom talked about this very interesting restaurant hidden away, literally with just a door underneath the bridge that crosses the river into the Friedrichstraße S-Bahn station. It’s best to book ahead for the restaurant, as even just for popping into the bar appears to require some level of planning. Or at least you need to be dressed to impress with most people wearing suits, or stylish dresses for the ladies.
The restaurant isn’t very big although several people seemed to be dining at the bar there. The food focuses on both Asian, and Spanish foods. Not really a fusion, but more a variety that spans both. I’m a little skeptical of places like this, but I can say that it seemed to work okay.
Be prepared to spend. Although it won’t break the bank, the dishes are small and you will need a few to probably fill up. Here we have the aubergine with miso sauce (€7), a light miso sauce infused with sesame. It’s a very good classic Japanese dish that I love and they did very well.
Spicy pimientos in padron salt (€6) never fail to impress. They arrived steaming and fresh, very full of spice. Mmmm. Very nice.
This dish of garlic prawns (€10) definitely came with lots of prawns. They weren’t the big prawns I’ve seen and I’ve had better, more spicy garlic oil at other places in Berlin but it was still good.
A decent serving of sashimi (€17) arrives looking very impressive.
The main courses aren’t cheap by Berlin standards. I went for the grilled miso cod (€28) and it literally comes by itself. As did the US prime beef steak and it’s best to get some sides although this adds up. A serving of herb risotto, or mixed vegetables or green salad at €5 or garlic rice, udon or edamame at €4.
I guess one of the most impressive parts of the evening was sipping on cocktails provided in their lounge. Although amazingly smoky for such an airy room, it didn’t really seem to fill up although we did come on a Wednesday and we left my about midnight – both probably very early standards that you cannot properly measure the place by for Berlin standards.
An impressive light at the end of the bar is enough to light the the entire room. Its rays scattered by the mirrored ceiling into the rest of the very darkly furnished bar. Saying that the bar staff know their stuff is a bit of an understatement. Not only do they have their huge list of signature cocktails but it’s pretty easy for them to whip up something they’ve never made before (at least the classics) and they do it pretty well.
Name: La Cantina at Bar Tausend
Found at: Schiffbauerdamm 11, Berlin
Continuing the great adventures I’ve had with the Happy Cow website, I ended up at a relatively new vegan restaurant located in the heart of gentrified Prenzlauer Berg. They had a few tables outside when I went as it wasn’t so cold, and had probably about eight or ten small to medium sized tables on the inside. Make sure you reserve if you want a spot on popular Friday or Saturday evenings as they are often sold out.
It’s modernly decorated and offer a changing menu both daily and it looks like their regular food changes as well. I guess a focus on seasonal produce and local ingredients definitely make it worth while.
I had the food pretty much from the daily menu. A wonderful yellow pepper gazpacho, a slight adaptation from the typical spanish dish with plenty of chunks of fresh vegetables and a very spicy garlic bread that went well with the dish. It was a huge serve for being an appetiser and a bit more and I think it could have served as a main.
I’m glad that it didn’t though because the tagliatelle was marvellous. My Italian friends would have been impressed by the al-dente-ness of the pasta and combined with fresh steinpilz (porchini) and wonderful truffle flavours, was just an absolute delight to eat. Fresh cherry tomatoes bursting with their sweet goodness provided a nice counter balance as did the fine strips of chilli sitting atop the dish – not advertised but wholly welcomed by myself.
It’s probably on the pricier side of being a vegetarian, but the portions were well worth the price and the flavours alone demonstrated how impressive vegan cooking could be.
Name: Lucky Leek
Found at: Kollwitzstrasse 46, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin
Die Henne – Alt Berliner Wirtshaus
This restaurant is so much of an institution, it’s one of those rare restaurants in Berlin where you must book ahead. They have their speciality and pretty much just does it all on its own – a version of a fried chicken where the chicken is soaked in buttermilk resulting in a super crisp skin that is also just as juicy on the inside.
While they also serve some wurst and either a cucumber salad or potato salad, there’s really not much to choose from if you come here. Don’t bring your vegetarian friends or they’ll be eating side salads chock full of mayonnaise. The main even here is the chicken, so don’t bother coming if you’re not planning on having it. It’s that good. Of course they have plenty of other things on offer, particularly a huge variety of schnapps to enjoy as a post-dinner drink.
Here’s a picture of the chicken that arrives steaming fresh. They do each one fresh, and it takes up to thirty minutes before the chicken comes out from the tiny kitchen, super crisp and juicy on the outside. While it’s good for the wait, bear in mind that it is still a certain type of fried chicken (but a good one at that!)
Here’s the potato salad (above) that comes along with the main dish. Don’t be fooled as these are tiny portions and are really there to help mop up the extra chicken that’ll be left over when you’ve eaten the small piece of bread that comes with.
A really nice venue for when you want something that will be consistently be made and results in a delicious result.
Name: Die Henne – Alt Berliner Wirtshaus
Found at: Leuschnerdamm 25, 10999 Berlin, Germany
Remake is quite the little find, offering interesting experimental cuisine combining flavours and techniques you’d pay much more in other restaurant in even other parts of Berlin. It’s a shame that whenever I’ve walked past it’s been fairly empty and on the evening we went, it was only us and another table. The food deserves much better than that.
We chose to go with a five course tasting mean, something I’m guessing from the freshly printed paper, changes regularly. This excites me because it means you get to try lots of different things.
Unlike many other places in Berlin, we were actually served a bread basket and this time with a choice of either whipped garlic butter (yum!) or a delicious olive oil both strangely accompanied with a piece of beetroot on a stick. Maybe my pallette wasn’t refined enough but I couldn’t tell if there was something else with it.
Our first dish was based around prawns, and my memory failing me a little bit now was accompanied with some sweet potato, dollops of sour cream constrained by gelatine skin that would burst upon contact with a from and strands of pickled ginger. Firstly, great points for serving three of these giant prawns. They could have easily served a single one and the dish would have been fine and the sweetness of the potato was well contrasted with the slight tang of the pickle and the additional richness and sourness from the sour cream. A great start to the meal.
The second round was a simple dish packed with huge flavour, a yellow capsicum gazpacho with scoop of sour cream ice cream. The dish was wonderfully chilly, not too cold to numb the taste buds and the choice of sweet yellow peppers really shone through the coldness. Instead of a scoop of just cream, they opted for an ice cream, in keeping with the cold theme that I think worked really well as well.
One of the reasons we opted for the five course menu was because the four course wasn’t going to have the pork cheeks and for the most part, they are always, always good things to have. In this adaptation and keeping with the theme of three things, the pork cheeks arrived atop small circular discs of watermelon and based with pureed mint pea. At first, I thought was a strange combination but actually on trying it worked really well. Firstly the watermelon wasn’t as overpoweringly sweet as I’d feared, instead acting as a strange but complementing alternative to the apple one is normally served with pork. The pork itself, not the softest I’ve ever had was still packed with flavour and the green pea puree provided a nice colour and texture contrast to the plate. Well executed and flavoursome I would come back for this dish alone.
Following up on the pork dish was the main star, a stuffed spring chicken served with chantarelles, foam and a clump of minced apricot. Despite being quite a generous portion, I disliked this dish probably the most mainly because the chicken skin was cloyingly fatty and not as crisped up as I’d hoped it been. The chantarelles provided amazing depth to the dish but at these same time seemed wasted with the super sweetness brought about by the apricots.
Fortunately dessert won out without being excessively sweet. We had some poached pears, accompanied by a white chocolate mousse and a scoop of ice cream, all the elements except for the strands of caramel adorning the ice cream nicely balanced and provided a fresher end to the meal instead of a cloyingly sticky alternative I’d feared.
I enjoyed the food in this restaurant and while I feel that I like the idea of a changing menu, they definitely still needed to refine a few elements to their existing dishes. Maybe this is why restaurant are best off to sticking to the normal stuff. We did, however, try quite a different set of flavours and combinations I would never expected and it worked really well.
Found at: Große Hamburger Straße 32 10115 Berlin
Coffee Shop List in Berlin
Whilst this coffee shop list isn’t comprehensive, it certainly lists a number of great places. Check it out.
Our Product Owner took us to Pan Asia for lunch one time and it’s a place that’s definitely worth revisiting with great food and great atmosphere. It’s long red tables remind me of Wagamama, and besides perhaps slightly rushed service (a Berlin trait in general), that’s where the comparisons should really end.
Sticking true to its name, the food cuts across several different Asian continents including fresh sushi and tempura from Japan, Thai curries (you can actually ask for it really spicy but it’ll still catered for German tastes, Malaysian style satay sticks and Chinese style steamed dumplings.
You’ll pay a lot more for the food here than if you went to a more focused restaurant, partly because it’s located in trendy Mitte and also because it aims to attract your Berlin Hipster’s who won’t mind paying for the extra. It’s unlikely you’ll stumble across this restaurant as well, hidden away in one of the Hof’s and only really noticeable by the circular sign hanging out front, or by the trail of people you might see wandering in.
Their duck dish below.
The salmon. Delicious.
The food excellent, the drinks spot on, and a much talked about and decadent toilet area that confuses and bemuses at the same time. It’s just one of those places you’ll have to see for yourself.
Name: Pan Asia
Found at: Rosenthaler Straße 38, Berlin