Archive for the ‘favorite’ Category

japanese nirvana – raku / las vegas

August 3, 2011

wenn man von neonlichtern, dem klingelingeling der slot-machines und überhaupt dem ganzen bunten kitsch auf dem strip so richtig die schnauze voll hat, heißt es taxi nehmen richtung wüste bzw. chinatown.  nun ist chinatown in vegas nicht, wie in anderen US-metropolen, hübsch begehbar oder auch einfach nur hübsch. es besteht aus wenigen versprenkelten asiatischen restaurants entlang der spring mountain road, die ansonsten nur autohändler, möbelläden und doofe strip malls zu bieten hat.

auch das fantastische aburiya raku befindet sich in einer dieser strip malls, gut versteckt in zweiter reihe hinter einem parkplatz.  wer nicht weiß, wo es ist, findet es auch nicht.  und das ist ein echter verlust, denn das essen ist großartig & darüber hinaus bezahlbar.

das restaurant ist eher klein, es empfiehlt sich also zu reservieren, am besten 24 stunden im voraus.  außer einer sehr guten sake-auswahl gibt es sapporo vom fass, ausgeschenkt in einer elegant-bauchigen karaffe.  von der karte zu wählen entpuppt sich als schwierig, weil alles gut klingt & es dazu noch eine tafel mit den tagesangeboten gibt.

ganz klar war, dass der täglich (!) im hause hergestellte tofu probiert werden mußte, der hier in 2 varianten serviert wird:

frischer tofu mit meersalz, frühlingszwiebeln & bonito-flocken

dieser tofu hat nichts mit dem geschmacksfreien pamps zu tun, den man im supermarkt kauft.  cremig & einfach märchenhaft.

tofu in dashi.... mmmmmmmmmmmm.

die andere hälfte des tofu wird frittiert und in einer wunderbaren dashi-brühe mit pilzen, frühlingzwiebeln, lachskaviar und seetang serviert.  für diesen unglaublichen tofu alleine würde ich fast noch mal den absurd langen flug auf mich nehmen.  zum glück gibt es aber noch viele andere leckereien auf spießen gegrillt und nett angerichtet.

sashimi salat

kurobata-schweinebacke & kobe flanksteak

gegrillter kräuterseitling

gegrillter bauch von der gelbflossenmakrele

von der poetischen gestaltung der waschräume kann sich so mancher laden eine scheibe abschneiden…

blüten statt klofuß-umpuschelung.

ein geheimtip ist das raku unter amerikanischen gourmands schon lange nicht mehr – für mich war es mit abstand das beste, was 2009 kulinarisch zu bieten hatte.  hinfliegen!

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hey-ho & a bottle of rum – st. pauli

July 11, 2011

im freudenhaus kommt freude auf. wer eine seitenstraße der reeperbahn einschlägt, findet ein mekka für liebhaber der härteren spielarten.

come in and find out.

nein, man muß nicht im schwarzledernen gimp-outfit komplett mit maske und quietschrotem ball-knebel aufschlagen.  das wäre eher unpraktisch, gibt es hier doch eine gigantische auswahl harter spirituosen, die einem das herz aufgehen lässt.

voll voller flaschen.

eine karte mit ca. 3 seiten single malts, 3 seiten rum, gin … habichnichtgezählt bereitet schon vor der ersten bestellung schwindelgefühle, zum glück ist aber der freundliche, hervorragend informierte herr hinter der theke jederzeit bereit, empfehlungen auszusprechen, zu beraten & zu erklären.

für mich als relative newb(unny) in sachen single malts war es zum beispiel ausgesprochen hilfreich zu erfahren, dass der von mir vollmundig als absacker georderte ardbeg ‘lord of the isles’ wesentlich mehr gekostet hätte, als ich zu dieser späten stunde investieren wollte.

stattdessen beschränkte ich mich auf einen 15 yr. ardbeg; der zweite drink – eine empfehlung des freundlichen keepers – war ein umweltfreundlicher irischer whiskey namens green spot ‘-)

es wird sehr großzügig eingeschenkt, der laden hat eine wunderbare spelunken-atmosphäre & verstaubten scotch-snobismus sucht man hier gottlob vergebens.  im gegenteil: man fühlt sich willkommen und möchte am liebsten mal eine woche im freudenhaus verbringen und sich durch die rum-liste trinken.  von mir aus auch im gimp-suit, dann aber ohne maske oder knebel.

cheers.

best damn thai food in berlin. seriously.

June 27, 2011

edd’s thailändisches restaurant?  please.  mao thai?  no way, josé.

nope — for the freshest, most delicious, and authentic thai food, head on over to winterfeldtmarkt on saturdays, and find the little stand owned by the talented and lovely ms. rattaporn moeckel.  choose any of their daily specialties.  you’ll love it, regardless of what you end up ordering — be it soups, curries, or chicken saté.  their wonton soup is made with delicate, pillowy wontons stuffed with ground pork and spices, bobbing around in a flavorful broth.

larb -- spicy ground pork salad.

my personal favorite by far, however, is their fiery dim sum.  people with “farang” palates can get a whimpier version, but really – what’s the point?  these are incredibly delicious dumplings bursting with thai flavors:  spicy, salty, sour, and a touch of sweetness.

dim sum = delightfully sumptuous.

a recent special was this incredible steamed fish topped with a custardy coconut curry.

a basket full of happiness.

ms. moeckel can be hired for catering, and if i were to throw a party in berlin, she’d be my first choice.

go eat there NOW.  do make sure to get there before 1 pm, otherwise most of the tasty treats will have been ravished by other, earlier birds.  damn, i hate those early birds.

the berlin bites burger bonanza

November 17, 2010

it seems like these days you can’t swing a cat without hitting the window of a recently opened or soon-to-be-opened burger joint.

haus or house – what’s it gonna be?

granted – the lowly hamburger has always been a popular fast food, but the sudden explosion of  burger places in berlin is a fairly recent phenomenon.  let’s avert our eyes from monstrosities such as this

papa… no! nooooooooo!

some things are better left unthunk. good heavens.

on offer at a local chain hitherto mainly famous for being a horrific excuse for a “sushi” restaurant that apparently didn’t want to feel left out.

to select the good, bad, and ugly, i took the heavy burden upon me to visit a few of them, ranging from established places to newbies, so you don’t have to waste money on sub-par patties.  i basically stuck to ordering cheeseburgers, because a burger without cheese is like pizza without cheese, and i sometimes got fries on the side, but they were a minor point in my final judgment.  sooo – let’s start with the worst of the bunch and work our way up to the ultimate burger nirvana, shall we?

V. ketchup & mayo / oranienstr. / newbie

i simply couldn’t resist the rather grandiose advertisement promising ‘finest burger cuisine.’  the namesakes – ketchup & mayonnaise – are available at the counter in large vats with no restrictions and no extra pay.  bonus point.  the menu offers a variety of burgers including vegetarian versions, but really, why bother?  we’re talking beef here, after all.  and omg, those patties are bad.  it’s like biting into a slice of meatloaf: densely packed & strange-tasting, no amount of free ketchup and mayo could make up for this awful, pasty mouth feel.  i don’t recall whether the patties are fresh or frozen, but really – who cares at this point?  epic fail.  stick to the fries instead which are actually some of the best i’ve had at any of the burger joints visited.

IV. marienburger / marienburger str. – duh / old school

this place has been around for a while, and has a fairly large and passionate fan base.  the people working the grill that day were ink & metal-augmented, which is a rare sight in the overly gentrified pregnant hill these days, and very friendly and swift.  orders are taken at the counter and called out later by name.  it’s tiny, and there is very little room to sit save for a narrow counter at the wall and a couple tables outside.  ketchup and mayo are on the tables free of charge.

looking good, baby. but beauty is only skin deep…

unfortunately, the patties are frozen, fairly flat (but much larger than your usual mcdirt size), the toppings generous & fresh, the buns toasted.  bonus point for that one.  no floppy buns for me, please.  alas, the mouth feel is once again too dense for the perfect burger, but certainly edible.  damage per burger: €3-4

IV. drachentöter / am falkplatz / newbie / update: CLOSED (huge surprise. not.)

it sure takes some ginormous balls to open up a burger place right next to the bird (reviewed below), undoubtedly the benchmark for any burger joint in berlin with obsessive fans, and it’s been around for a good 4 years.  i just had to find out what kind of a nutcase was running this operation, and how their burgers stood up to the competition next door.

it’s got a bistro atmosphere with 80s style pastel colors, which somehow just didn’t seem right for a burger joint.  surprisingly enough, the people who run this place don’t seem crazy at all and are rather friendly.  you can choose from a variety of burgers with cutesy german first names, and made with fresh meat.

this burger may slay the dragon, but not the bird.

the buns are toasted, there’s some sort of ‘special sauce’, and the toppings are fresh.  unfortunately, the patty has a similar texture to the marienburger – too dense.  overall not bad, but just.  not. right.

the fries are second best to ketchup & mayo. damage per burger: €3.50-6

III. bbi – berlin burger international / pflügerstr. / newbie

neukölln’s first address for your burger cravings.  a hole in the wall just off of sonnenallee, this place offers burgers made with a mix of  90% beef & 10% lamb = 100% fresh, and you also have the option of ordering any of their burgers in a mini version, which is about a 4 oz serving and perfect if you’re hungry, but not that hungry.  you order at the counter leaving your name, and wait till you’re called & eat at a tiny counter on the wall or at one of the few tables outside.

international (?) burgers in neukölln

this is where i noticed what seems to be a relatively new fashion:  potted rosemary as a centerpiece (i’ve seen this at a bunch of places now). not sure if this is a burger joint thing or just the latest trend, but whichever it is, i like it.  it creates the illusion of ‘atmosphere’ and style while sitting across the street from a bookie, and your only view is the M29 bus stopping right in front of your table every 10 minutes.

raw cheese… now, that’s just wrong.

the patty is flavorful, if overdone – my ordering med-rare was refused by the cook for some reason, and the cheese wasn’t melted on the patty, which is a massive bummer.  the salad topping consists of an interesting mix of spring greens, not your usual watery shredded iceberg, which adds a nice touch.  damage per burger €4-6

II. hamburger heaven / graefestr. / newbie

hamburger heaven indeed.

this is the place to have a burger if you are craving good meat – after all, you can choose between regular, halal, organic, and free-range (the priciest at €8 or 9).  the tiny booth, tucked away in a side street near kottbusser brücke, is usually run by the owner who can be a tad bit slow when more than a couple of orders are up, reinterpreting the notion of “fast food”, but he is super-friendly, and the quality of the resulting burger more than makes up for the wait.

cheeseburger heaven, even! oh yeah, baby.

both the ketchup and mayonnaise are house-made fresh daily (!), the ketchup being tomato-y to the max, and the mayonnaise having a nice, eggy taste to it.  your choice of cheese is appropriately melted, and the burger is grilled to order – yes, you can get your patty med-rare if you ask for it. the fries are pretty awesome too, a small portion is definitely enough.  you can park your lardass on one of the few picnic benches and tables (decorated with the aforementioned rosemary planters. weird.), or stand at the single table near the window.

hands down best newcomer burger in town.  highly recommended.  damage per burger between €4-9, depending on your ecological conscience.

and now, the top banana, the big cheese, the winner!  the bestest, juiciest, most delicious piece of ground meat on a bun in all of berlin & perhaps the rest of germany:


I.  the bird / am falkplatz / old school – the be all and end all in burgerosity

what can be said about this meat lovers’ paradise, this cavern of carnivorous delight, that hasn’t been said already?  two expats from new york opened this place in 2006, and they have since set the standard for all burgers to follow.  orgasm on a bun, that’s what it is.

the ghetto deluxe w/american cheese. ’nuff said.

the meat for the patties is ground up freshly every day from quality meat cuts (the steaks served here will make you believe you are not in germany anymore), not cooked beyond medium, regardless of how much your german ass begs for a patty ‘well-done’ … talk about a misnomer.  your MEDIUM-RARE burger is loosely packed and NOT over-handled, it’s beefy, cooked just right – tho they do tend to err on the rarer side, making those sweet meat juices running down your chin and hands.

bite me. burger with an attitude.

the cheese is a generous helping of molten, gooey deliciousness, the buns (english muffins, which has led to some controversies but i frankly find they handle the massive beast better than those cottony fluff buns) are toasted, the toppings kept simple – tomato, onion, lettuce leaf, pickle on the side.

the fries are hand-cut, and of varying quality.  nobody cares about the fries here, tho.  seriously.  damage per burger €9-13 – cheap it is not.  good it is.  fantastic, to be exact. yoda out.

henne / xberg

October 22, 2010

how could one possibly go wrong with fried chicken?

well, perhaps one could, but most definitely not at henne – a berlin institution that’s been around for over a century, and that has witnessed the wall go up and down practically in their FRONT LAWN in the meantime.

what hasn’t changed is the dark and dusty wooden interior, or the recipe for a fried half chicken:

where'd the wing bone go? >burp<

crispy, crunchy, golden-brown skin & juicy, tender meat.  in fact, the chicken is so cripy and crunchy that i’ve been known to eat the entire wing tip, bones and all.  because, well … did i mention how crispy-crunchy-delicious everything is?

yes, sometimes the cooks can go a little overboard with the salt… but please – don’t cry about it and have another sip of the deliciously refreshing bavarian mönchshof landbier on tap (which is actually served in traditional biersteins.  that fact alone should let any red-blooded american’s heart beat faster, no?)  alas, the staff is not dressed in dirndls and lederhosen – we are in prussia after all – but whether you’re enjoying an early summer evening in the tiny beergarden or somewhere in the cavernous rooms, you get to share the large, rustic tables with random strangers, which creates a rather convivial atmosphere, especially after a few rounds of landbier.  be advised that it can get rather hot in the upper back room, so i don’t tend to go there unless the weather is nice & you can sit outside.

apart from the golden chicken, you can order a pair of sausages, but nobody does that.  neither should you.  for sides, you’ve got the choice between potato salad and kraut salad (sadly, they’re both store-bought and thus a tad bit overpriced, but nonetheless tasty, at least the potato salad).  either salad is delivered pretty soon after the drinks, which is good, as the wait for the chicken can be long:  30-45 min., depending on how busy the place is… and it is ALWAYS busy.  considering that fact, the service is impressively swift, and generally very friendly.

after dinner, check out the awesome selection of various liqueurs – a number of traditional berlin spirits such as mampe halb and halb (i have no clue what it is, but it’s tasty), persico, ginger cream or cinnamon or walnut liqueur.  trust me, you won’t find this on any old diner menu.

when you go, make sure to call AT LEAST 3-4 days ahead, especially if you’ve got a party of more than 2 or 3 people – the phone is almost always busy, and reservations go fast.

mister minit / potsdamer platz

May 20, 2010

Ich weiß selbst nicht so genau, wie ich es fertiggebracht habe, ausgerechnet mein teuerstes Paar Schuhe (nein, für Manolos wird es nie reichen, aber Riccardo Cartillone mußte dann doch mal sein, in eisengrau… hach!) SO zu verhunzen und mißhandeln, daß ihnen schon von weitem mitleidige, mir hingegen verständnislose Blicke zugeworfen werden…

Aber da, wo ich den überwiegenden Teil des Jahres wohne, gibt es sowas wie Schuster oder Schneider schon gar nicht mehr:  is ja alles billig, geht eh sofort kaputt, kauf man halt was neues Billiges.

Ich habe zwar anläßlich meines heutigen Besuchs in Erfahrung gebracht, daß es einige Filialen in NYC gibt, dort bin ich aber auch nicht dauernd & nur für ein paar neue Absätze fahre ich da bestimmt nicht hin.

Besonders schön an Mister Minit finde ich, daß man dort unangemeldet aufschlagen, die an den Füßen befindlichen Schuhleichen auf den Counter legen kann und dann besockt auf einem der Hocker Zeugin der Anklebe sein darf.

Soweit ich weiß, ist das in allen Filialen Gang und Gäbe — Herr Sahin B. von dieser Filiale jedenfalls fühlte sich von meinen Lumpenschuhen offenbar so herausgefordert, daß er nicht nur neue Absätze befestigte, sondern auch mit viel Mühe versuchte, dem lädierten Leder den letzten verblichenen Glanz zu entlocken… was ihm erstaunlicherweise nach einigen Minuten zärtlichen und gleichsam resoluten Wichsens (nur Drittklässler dürfen hier kichern) sogar gelang.  Wenn es in diesem Rahmen nicht eher unüblich wäre, hätte ich fast noch Trinkgeld gegeben.

Stattdessen überredete mich der Schuhflüsterer, statt 13,99 für ein paar neue Absätze lieber 20 Euro zu berappen:  dafür gibts dann noch ein weiteres Paar geheilt, sicher in nicht allzu ferner Zukunft.

chopstick express / PA

October 24, 2009

Chopstick Express – how do I love thee!  Let me sing the praise of your food, so that it shall reverberate from Mt. Nittany to Port Matilda.  Hear me, Happy Valley, for I have found Sichuan Heaven right on my doorstep!!!

Ignore the American-Chinese menu offering the same-old, dumbed-down day-glo HFCS glop of deep-fried somethings over rice.

Instead, turn to the Chef’s Specialties and thank me for the rest of your life.  Like me, you will dream of the soft, pillowy deliciousness that is Ma Po Tofu, and you will crave it like crack-cocaine.  You will suck down the Cold Sliced Pork despite the heaping piles of fresh and fried garlic, and the frightening amount of chili oil.  You will revel in the highly addictive Hot & Spicy Pork like there is no tomorrow.  You will slurp down the last Stir-fried Green Bean, even though you stopped being hungry half an hour ago.

braised cod in chili hot pot

braised cod in chili hot pot

diced chicken with hot peppers

diced chicken with hot peppers

stir-fried green beans

stir-fried green beans

cucumbers with garlic

cucumbers with garlic

Bring at least two friends, thus enabling you to order a stunning array of dishes to share, and – despite your original plan to NOT stuff yourself to the gills – roll home, barely capable of uttering another word, except maybe for a delirious “sooo – Chopstick Express again tomorrow???”

berkis / sch’berg — hellenic heaven

October 17, 2009

i’m a bit torn about posting on berkis, because it really doesn’t need the extra hype – it’s been packed since opening in late june of this year, having expanded from a humble souvlaki / gyros imbiss stand to a full-fledged, if tiny, restaurant.

the hype is well-deserved, proven by numerous greek patrons who congregate on any given day, munching away happily.

prices are low to moderate, especially compared to its nearby competitor, ousies on grunewaldstr – probably one of the best greek restos in berlin & my old go-to place in schöneberg until …. well, until i discovered this place by accident, stumbling out of slumberland one night.

a huge selection of meze, ranging from the ususal suspects tzatziki, tarama, or melitsanosalata to lesser known dishes such as fava, xtapodi (grilled and marinated octopus), or kolokithokeftedes (zucchini-feta-fritters), leaves nothing to be desired.

choriatiki, kolokithokeftedes, melitsanes tiganites

choriatiki, kolokithokeftedes, melitsanes tiganites

in fact, one probably ends up ordering so many appetizers that there is no room left for the “main attraction:”  perfectly spiced, authentic souvlaki, which – as is common in greece where they are considered a snack food – are served with your choice of lamb, chicken, or pork and are smaller compared to the gigantic ones at your regular neighborhood greek joint.  the meat (‘happy’ free-range meat at that) is grilled just right, with a great balance of salt, lemon & oregano… insert drooling icon here, if you will.

lamb & pork souvlaki with fries (duh)

lamb & pork souvlaki with fries (duh)

another happy fact is that the ever-elusive loukoumades, delicious fried dough balls drizzled with honey and topped with a few pinches of cinnamon, can be found on the dessert menu. come next summer, i can be found here again as well.  polí oréa!

berkis greek food & art             winterfeldtstr. 45            10781 berlin

dolce pizza… how sweet it is

August 26, 2009

first off – i am not someone who will travel through town for pizza,  no matter how great.  i like pizza for what it is, but it’s not something i will seek out.

that said, having lived just around the corner from the dolce branch on maaßenstr. this summer,  i think I can safely pronounce their pizza as the best berlin has to offer.

mind you, this is not a fancy sit-down place – although there is an area with benches outside generally occupied with a crowd happily munching away – but when evening plans dictate an early, simple, cheap AND tasty dinner, it’s the way to go.  one of their rectangular slices is 2 €, and it’s usually enough to prep for any drunken reveries you might have in mind.

mmmmmpizza!

mmmmmpizza!

the crust, made with imported italian flour, has a nice crunch and chewy bite to it, the sauce is tangy without being over-powering, and the mozzarella cheese actually tastes like cheese.  toppings vary from the mundane – sliced fresh mushrooms, salami, or chorizo – to the slightly more extravagant, like anchovis, zucchini and capers, or tuna & scallions.

the pizza funghi happens to be one of my faves, elevated from the ordinary by sprigs of fresh rosemary.

thanks to the place’s massive popularity, the turn-around is quick, and so one often gets the pizza straight from the oven, bubbling with hot, molten, cheesy deliciousness.

there’s olive oil, chili oil, red pepper flakes, and oregano on the counter to “customize” your slice; be careful with the red pepper flakes – they are really spicy, and will turn your lips into a burning ring of fire.

the only thing that really pisses me off about the place is that it closes at 11 p.m., which means  no late-night pizza for me.  damn you, dolce.

fyi:  dolce pizza is not related to the dolce ice-cream place next door, whose owners have been the center of controversy for homophobic comments this summer.

dolce pizza                        maaßenstr.                              10777 berlin

maria bonita / p’berg

August 4, 2009

a mexican, a texan, and an australian open up a restaurant…

what may sound like the first line of a joke is, in fact, brilliant news for american expats, embassy staff, exchange students, and tourists who’ve been desperate for REAL mexican food in berlin, which up until now simply didn’t exist, save for some sub-par ‘tex-mex’, chain-type tourist traps.

a happy, predominantly north american crowd has been gathering at this hole-in-the-wall joint on danziger str. since its opening a few weeks ago, sipping coronas (the other beer choice is schultheiss, and even foreigners know to steer clear of this sorry excuse for a ‘brew’).  there’s a small bar at the window with a few bar stools, and 3-4 tables outside with picknick benches, offering a great view of the latest street construction and evening traffic.

the slightly dingy atmosphere is secondary, and it certainly doesn’t deter anyone from savoring the flavors previously lacking in berlin.

the small menu offers a number of mexican classics such as tamales, enchiladas – my favorite dish that night, served with a tangy salsa and queso fresco, chile relleno, fish tacos with crunchy fried morsels of (some sort of) white fish and a spicy mayonnaise, tacos with argentinian beef, and a very nice, chunky guac.

enchiladas with salsa & queso fresco

enchiladas with salsa & queso fresco

tamales, beef tacos, and fish tacos w/spicy mayonnaise

tamales, beef tacos, and fish tacos w/spicy mayonnaise

while certainly not the most photogenic food i’ve encountered, i’ve been reassured by my fellow american diners that this is indeed the real deal.

i wouldn’t be surprised if this place had to move to new premises by next summer due to its high popularity:  the night we were there, two dudes took a couple of barstools outside and used a block of cement plates as a table.

maria bonita * danziger str. 33