BEST OF BERLIN 2011/2012 – PART II

January 17, 2012

FOR PART I, PLEASE CLICK HERE

Currywurst – German/Alpine

CURRYWURST

despite the notoriety of curry 36 and konnopke – both of which I could take or leave – neither of them can beat my favorite spot.

bier’s curry & spieße / friedrichstr. 142 / mitte

i’ve never been much of a currywurst fan until i tipsily stumbled upon this lovely spot. i still pretty much would file currywurst in the category “drunk food”, but this is good eats. a house-made sauce that actually has flavor and a good kick to it, and isn’t just ketchup sprinkled with lame-ass curry powder.

 

DESSERT / PASTRIES / CAKE

i’m not a sweetie.  just ask anyone who’s met me ‘-)

however, i don’t live on an island, and many of my friends & loved ones occasionally insist on the german kaffee & kuchen tradition, which is about as german as it gets. these are the places i would send them to, or even come along when i’m in a sugary kinda mood.

atelier cacao / linienstr. 139-140 / mitte

right in the middle of everything, but a bit off to the side. artisanal chocolate creations and fantabulous hot chocolate. do try their dark chocolate ice cream.

operncafé / unter den linden 5 / mitte

an incredible selection of cakes, pies, tarts and petits fours that’ll make any red-blooded grandmother or great aunt visiting you in the big bad city swoon. the large terrace is a nice hang-out for families & tourists alike. beware of the pesky little sparrows, who will fight you over the last crumbs on your plate.

werkstatt der süße / husemannstr. 25 / p’berg

edible pieces of art.

DÖNER

it’s strange. i can’t get a decent döner kebab 9 months out of the year, yet every summer, it’s usually not until i am almost ready to leave berlin again before i get my hands on the iconic street food.  perhaps this is because, like currywurst, i consider it drunk food rather than a valid dinner option.  or perhaps because a good döner is hard to find, or sometimes simply not worth the trek. the following are worth it… if you want the good stuff.

imren / boppstr. 4 / neukölln

a few steps away from the hustle and bustle of kottbusser damm, imren runs two places –a restaurant and a snack bar further down the street. the snack bar is where you should be heading – the flatbread is baked right in front of your eyes, the seasoned meat tastes unlike any other döner “meat’ that’s been processed into oblivion – with hints of cloves, cinnamon, and sumac. it’s its own thing … but that’s kinda the point.

hasir / adalbertstr 10 / xberg | maaßenstr. 10 / sch’berg

i’ve never forgiven hasir for their swanky tourist temple on oranienburger, which is what you’d expect from the location: overpriced, underspiced, and its only reason for existing is the sole purpose of feeding busloads of tourists who will never return. but the two locations in xberg & schöneberg continue to do a fine job with dürüm döner.

 

FALAFEL

ah, chickpeas. could there possibly be a more boring ingredient? if so, i don’t need to know. but deep-fry them with the perfect mixture of spices and herbs, and they become something really special. there is only one place that does it right, in my never humble opinion.

habibi / goltzstr. 24 / sch’berg

the line outside the door should tell you all you need to know.  the falafel sandwich here is delicious: the falafel is fried to order, resulting in a hot, crispy-crunchy exterior and a well-seasoned moist interior. add to that any veggie under the sun (well, at least in the glass counter – the deep-fried cauli is my personal fave), your sauce/s of choice, and off you go. if you’re lucky, you can find a seat on the bench outside or at one of the tables and take in the unique scenery.

 

FISH

while i generally save my seafood splurges for the US (especially when it comes to home cooking), there are many fishy things that i crave and that are pretty easy to come by in berlin: grilled, smoked, pickled, cured; herring, matjes, eel, pike perch, mackerel, butterfish, brook trout… i try to make the most of my summers in berlin by frequenting these great harbors of halibut & co.

rogacki / wilmersdorfer str. 145/146 / w’dorf

oh, how i miss a good variety of smoked, pickled or cured fish. rogacki (featured on the bourdain no reservations berlin episode) delivers on all those counts and more. located far west of my kiez, this deli/food court/fish monger/catering place has been around for decades. besides the aforementioned seafood bounty, there are several counters with gourmet cheeses, house-baked bread and a good selection of meats, game and poultry. the big draw for me, though, is the lunch counter in the big hall, where one can get crispy pork knuckle, half chickens, or delicious fried & breaded fish filets and a variety of potato salads, cucumber salad & other sides, all charged by weight. the food is served cantina-style, you grab a tray, stand in line, and you eat standing up at high-top tables while taking in the lunch crowd, which is a great mix of the neighborhood crowd – from working class up to your retired & bejewelled wilmersdorf widow.

fischfabrik / danziger str. 24 / p’berg

a great alternative to your usual pizza/döner/hamburger or uninspired pan-asian lunch, this small space on danziger str. has a great variety of fresh fish that can be ordered whole or as filets; there’s also fresh oysters, generous skewers of salmon & butterfish with a perfectly dressed salad, bouillabaisse, etc. etc. the guys behind the counter are friendly and helpful, know what they’re doing –  and it’s easy on the wallet.

steckerlfisch / various markets – check their website

i have sung the praises of winterfeldtmarkt before – it truly is the perfect lunch location for a saturday. the food choices are endless, and few of them have disappointed me so far. you can get swabian, middle-eastern, generic stir-fry (i don’t recommend it), african, organic lamb sausages, raclette cheese, churros, currywurst, thai, etc. etc.  that said, what really makes me haul my ass over to schöneberg on any given saturday is jürgen fürgut’s steckerlfisch stand: a southern german-style fish grill, offering a variety of whole fish like brook trout or pike perch or mackerel as well as fish filets, shrimp or squid skewers & nice sides like seasonal potato salad or seaweed salad. i am a sucker for the whole grilled trout and mackerel, which come with lemon, diced onion, horseradish & house-made dill cream.

 

FRIED CHICKEN

berlin is neither the german birth place of fried chicken, nor is it particularly famous for it. that said, these joints make one hell of a good point for having some crispy, crunchy, juicy chicken.

henne / leuschnerdamm 25 / xberg

go to there. try to get a table in the beergarden if the berlin ‘summer’ allows.

zur kleinen markthalle / legiendamm 32 / xberg

here’s a dirty little secret. if you can’t get a rez at henne, which happens more often than not…. you can go to kleine markthalle instead, a stone-throw away from henne. because the chicken is pretty much identical to the original place. hell, the beergarden is almost nicer – well, it’s larger at least. they also have a nice red beets & cheese appetizer. what they don’t have is the bavarian landbier i love so much, but that’s pretty much it… it really is a more than worthy 2nd best to henne. enjoy!

angry chicken / skalitzer str. 36 / xberg

after the sushi and the vietnamese waves, berlin’s having its little korean moment. which is rather nice, ’cause i’m all for diversity ‘n shit. i also haven’t had really fantastic korean food so far, but i keep trying. what i have tried are the chicken wings at angry chicken, and they are good. i was hoping for serious heat when i ordered the “furious” version, and it gave me a nice head sweat – not something one can expect just anywhere. it’s your spicier fast food alternative to the other chicken fry kings in the ‘hood.

GERMAN / ALPINE

really well-made german and austrian cooking, like most of the things mentioned in this list so far, are hard to come by where i hibernate, so i tend to indulge in heimats-fare whenever i get the chance. i will admit that i’ve decided to keep my absolute favorite place to myself. hey – we all need our little secrets.

renger-patzsch / wartburgstr. 54 / sch’berg

local, regional, seasonal cooking with a modern touch, a light alsatian influence with a good variety of tartes flambées, this place is my go-to restaurant for delicious food at moderate prices in a laid-back atmosphere. not least of all because offal is often on the menu – whether it’s lamb’s tongue or kidneys, rabbit liver or other delicious delights.

jolesch / muskauer str. 1 / xberg

one of the prime addresses for austrian food in town. they’ve managed to convert me to the serviettenknödel (bread dumpling), a thing i have hated passionately for most of my life. not their version, which is as light as air – almost like a dumpling soufflé. the saftgulasch and wiener schnitzel are also fantastic, and the service is very friendly and professional.

felix austria / bergmannstr. 26 / xberg

your option for really good eats in the bergmannkiez. we’re not talking about the restaurant austria. no, if you want to be truly happy (= felix), head over to this hole-in-the-wall place on marheinekeplatz for excellent wiener schnitzel and super-friendly service.

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BEST OF BERLIN 2011/2012 — PART I

January 3, 2012

everyone and their duck compiles their “best of” lists at the end of the year – so naturally, i decided i’m gonna be totally, like, rad…and start the new year with a list of my personal favorites. might this be because in truth, i am a helpless victim of procrastination and just couldn’t be bothered to post this just a few days earlier? i guess we’ll never find out…

many of the places listed below have been previously reviewed on this blog, in which case i have linked to the respective posts (mostly in german, so sorry!). others are in dire need of reviewing, but hey – there’s a whole new, shiny year ahead of us.  who knows what might happen ‘-)

so let’s dig into part one:

American – Coffee

“AMERICAN” (BURGERS & STEAKS)

while i am well aware that american cuisine encompasses a whole lot more than just burgers & steaks, most berlin restaurants (as well as their customers, for that matter) are not. so there.

the bird / am falkplatz 5 / p’berg

everything that needs to be said about this place has been said. the music’s too loud & of the “shitty rock” category, but i can ignore that for a grand piece of beef. while the service can be spotty at times, the quality of both burgers and steaks remains consistent. the proof? just try to get a rez on the same day you’d like to go. good luck!

hamburger heaven / graefestr. 93/ xberg

not nearly as overrun as the big cheese above, but it’s become quite popular & is a great alternative for a very good burger w/out having to play the reservation game.

tartane / torstr. 225 / mitte

a daily changing menu with a special burger on offer every day & a small standard menu with good eats for pretty much any taste. hipster-factor = not too high, despite its location on torstrasse.

“ASIAN” (PAN-)

there are so many ways pan-asian food can go wrong.  just visit panasia near hackescher markt some time, or any other viet-thai-sushi-50% off place. thankfully, there are exceptions.

toca rouge / torstr. 195 / mitte

a fine example of  very moderately priced, interesting twists on chinese & thai stand-bys, with incredibly friendly staff and an interior as dark as my soul.

dudu berlin / torstr. 134 / mitte

despite the location (waaaay too close to st. oberhip on rosenthaler platz) and a ridiculously high hipster-factor, i found the food there to be surprisingly delish. a very good grilled salmon dish with seaweed salad comes to mind, as well as a very generous sashimi salad.  good ‘beautiful people’ watching, too >snicker<

BERLIN AT ITS BERLINEST

these are a few  places that represent the berlin i love, and love to share with visitors.

clärchens ballhaus / auguststr. 24 / mitte

an old-school dance hall with decent pizza & fantastic people watching.  the dance classes are legendary.

clash / gneisenaustr. 2a im mehringhof / xberg

quite a different kind of dance hall, and a very different kind of customer. i dare you to use the bathrooms sober.

mauersegler / mauerpark / p’berg

mauerpark itself is quintessential berlin history, and if you’re a dirty white hippie who loves drum circles and african dance, you’ll fit right in. mauersegler is a nice bar to hang out, sip beer and munch on various snacks while listening to some of the more interesting and talented bands than what you find outside on the dusty “lawn”.

prater / kastanienallee 7-9 / p’berg

oldest and most beautiful biergarten in berlin. ‘nuff said.

 

BREAKFAST / BRUNCH

brunch is a well-loved tradition in berlin, one i rarely enjoy because my breakfast at home is so goddamn awesome. but sometimes i get lazy or just want to get out.

café morgenland / skalitzer str. 35 / xberg

despite the fact that one has to go on a diet before being able to maneuver the tiny (but well-stacked) buffet area, it’s well worth the trip from other hoods.

CHINESE

like in any larger german city, there are a million and one chinese restaurants in berlin, a lot of them located on kantstrasse in charlottenburg, aka little china. i don’t get too excited about cantonese cooking, so you’re on your own there.

hot spot / eisenzahnstr. 66 / ch’burg

that other sichuan resto that’s not quite as awesome as tian fu. if, however, you’re a fan of riesling, do check out the extensive wine list and ask the very friendly owner for recommendations.

tian fu / uhlandstr. 142 / wilmersdorf

spicy. salty. oily. just like it should be.  order the hot pot or the chili chicken and let your tastebuds sing.

wok show / greifenhagener str. 31 / p’berg

best dumplings in town, and a garlicky napa cabbage salad that’ll make everyone you meet after dinner want to send you to a deserted island. just make sure to bring some of those dumplings along for company, which are also available to buy frozen for take-out.

COCKTAIL BARS

cocktails and spirits have been experiencing a bit of a renaissance in the last decade, with all the insufferable snobbery and self-acclaimed “mixologists” that inevitably go hand in hand with such trends. that said, one can get a damn fine cocktail in all the places mentioned below. just ignore the hype if you can.

reingold / novalisstr. 11 / mitte

definitely in the mixology category. this bar has a great atmosphere and high-quality drinks to match. if you are so inclined, you can discuss the intricacies of tequila or nuances of aged rums & rhums – berlin’s newest obsession – with the superduper-knowledgeable mixologists (no mere bartenders here, thank you very much). or, you can just sit back and enjoy your drink.  that is, if you don’t mind smoke. cuz this is a smoking bar, just so you know.

stagger lee / nollendorfstr. 27 / sch’berg

likely also falls in the mixology category, but with fewer pretensions suffered elsewhere. a small place with cozy leather seats and an atmosphere that’ll transport you to a saloon in the wild wild west, the drinks are fantastic, with the mint julep being the house specialty: served in a pewter cup with house-macerated cherries. i could make a single meal of those cherries. oh my.

rum club / top-secret location

an incredible collection of rums (the owner’s passion), a monthly sushi night and special tiki events await those select few who are invited to enter these holy halls of high-end alcoholism.

COFFEE

unlike amsterdam, where one can get a great cup of coffee pretty much anywhere, you have to be a bit more selective when it comes to a bean-brew that’ll wake you up and make you happy.

double eye / akazienstr. 22 / sch’berg

certainly no longer a secret, this is where you’ll get your perfect caffeine fix – likely after having waited on line for a while. it’s worth it, tho.

röststätte / ackerstr. 173 / mitte

you can buy the house-roasted beans or browse the wide selection of espresso machines in the store next door, or sit down with a delightful cuppa joe and watch the parade of “ironic” jeggings & fedoras pass by.

werkstatt der süße – p’berg

October 20, 2011

i’ve long ago lost my sweet tooth – my preferences definitely lie on the savory side of the spectrum:  spicy, salty, bitter & sour are the flavors that make my mouth sing. in a restaurant, i am much more likely to order the cheese plate than mousse au chocolat (thankfully, i never eat alone, so i get the best of both worlds). i can walk past miles of cakes, pastries & other baked goods without missing a step >yawn<.

there are exceptions, however. the delectable creations from patissier guido fuhrmann at werkstatt der süße, for example.

la dolce vita indeed.

the tartlets, pralines and mousses are light as air, fantastically delicious and truly pieces of art with wonderful flavors. i’ve never had anything that was overly sweet – in fact, the dark nougat bar with passionfruit mousse had a nice, refreshing tartness to it.

a very passionate dessert.

the “chocolate crisp tartlet” is, despite its pedestrian name, the house’s flagship dessert and a personal favorite.

crispy, chocolatey goodness.

you can’t possibly go wrong ordering any one of these wonderful delights – be it as an afternoon coffee treat, taking home a fabulous dessert for your own dinner party for those of us less talented than mr. fuhrmann, or as a sweet gift for your favorite sweetie.

fischfabrik – p’berg

September 22, 2011

wer mittags hungrig im prenzlauer berg unterwegs ist & mal was anderes auf den teller möchte als ewig nur currywurst/döner/hamburger oder uninspirierte viet-thai-sushi-katastrophen wie man sie mittlerweile an jeder ecke bekommt, lenke seine schritte zur fischfabrik, einem kleinen, aber feinen imbiss an der danziger str.

eine appetitliche fischtheke sowie die dazugehörige speisekarte machen einem die auswahl nicht leicht.  fish ‘n chips ist hier ausgesprochen beliebt (und zwar zu recht: der fisch innen saftig, außen knusprig, die pommes ebenso, & malt vinegar ist selbstverständlich auch zur hand); außerdem kann man ganze fische oder fischfilets sowie einzelne spieße bestellen, z. b. mit wunderbarem gegrilltem lachs & butterfisch – fast alles wird mit einem hervorragenden beilagensalat serviert.

ich verleihe keine fische.

sogar die bouillabaisse kann sich sehen lassen, die austern sind frisch & der service freundlich. ab und an gibt es hier auch großartiges sushi, das die umliegende konkurrenz nervös machen sollte….

hingehen.

frischefischefischtfischersfritzfischersfritzfischtfrischefische.

burgermeester – amsterdam

September 9, 2011

there are plenty of reasons to love amsterdam. one can get fantastic coffee, regardless of which random café one stumbles into….

lekker coffie everywhere.

and even the lowly toastie – the dutch version of a grilled cheese and every pothead’s main food group – provides a fine basis for various shleps around town, to name just a few.

goede gouda on toast.

of course, one cannot live on toasties alone. sometimes, a heartier lunch is required. like a good burger – something to behold & cherish, for all burgers are not equal.

thanks to a great source of culinary information for anything amsterdam, the restaurant blog dutchgrub, i had taken mental note of the burgermeester – a local chain with 3 locations neatly spread out within the city center, one in short walking distance to our pad in the jordaan.

mmmmmmm: moooooooooooohhhh.

upone entering the burgermeester, it’s pretty clear where the meat comes from (all ingredients are locally sourced, organic and humanely raised), even though there are other options, such as chicken, lamb or salmon burgers.

because we were hungry, but not that hungry, we decided to share a mini trio – 3 slider-sized burgers of our choice.

burgermeester offers a “burger of the month”, which in this case – since it was the middle of may – came with beef, fresh white asparagus, and hollandaise. sounds kinda gross, no? well, i’m a suckah for asparagus, so i had to get it: delicious. the other two were great, too – a lamb burger with red onion jam (!)  and the “meester” burger with grilled vegetables and dragon mayonnaise. it was in fact so schmecksville that it made us wish we had each ordered our own trio.  oh well.

triple win.

thankfully, we had ordered the “gepoofte aardappel” on the side, which i had cleverly identified as something potato, but figured it’d be wedges – well, it turned out to be a delightful baked potato with crème fraîche and scallions.

you say potato, i say eat it.

i guess we really liked that potato, too.

all gone.

> burp <

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!

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.

leere versprechen…

June 18, 2011

auf der reeperbahn tags um halb 2

also, wenn das die “welt des sex” ist, ist es um den sex schlechter bestellt als bisher vermutet.

 

strange snacks

June 7, 2011

staying at a lovely british lady’s pad this summer.  found this on the coffee table:

mmmmm... tasty rocks!

no wonder the brits have such bad teeth if they’re snacking on rocks.