A collection of restaurant reviews from a trip to Berlin in December 2011; I hope you'll find something that appeals here
by fizzytom on July 6, 2013
This lively Indian restaurant has two branches but we visited the one on Kreuzberg's bustling Bergmanstrasse. We were lucky to get a table without booking on a busy Saturday night though that did mean having to sit near the kitchens. The staff speak excellent English (as I learned from hearing them engage with a group of mixed nationalities) but they also tolerated my attempts to conduct the evening in German. The good news for those with no German is that the menu is also available in English should you need it though as the Indian names are used, dishes should be recognisable anyway. This contemporary restaurant is quite large but the arrangement of the tables and some conveniently placed tables have created smaller more intimate spaces. My only complaint in this area was that the lighting could really have been better: straining to read a menu over a tiny candle is not ideal.If, like us, you visit during Happy Hour you'll find a nice €2 discount on a selection of cocktails (their list is huge but only a few qualify for the discount); I had a mojito which was expertly made and hit the spot. With my meal I drank mango lassi which, while nice enough, was not, I suspect, made on the premises which was a tiny bit disappointing. Heading straight into the mains I ordered the gosht palak (mutton with spinach €11.90) while my partner had the jhinga masala (king prawn cooked with garlic, ginger and 'exotic spices', €13.90). There was lots of choice but we were happy with our final decisions. The menu is split into easy to navigate sections though, unlike a menu in a typical Indian restaurant in the UK, there weren't endless permutations of every sauce with meat, prawns, chicken etc. I'm pretty sure, though, that if you really want a combination that's not listed the chef will do that for you. Likewise, I'm sure they'll be able to accommodate your request if you want a particular curry hotter or milder. All main courses here (except, the biryani which is a rice based dish anyway) come with basmati rice and a salad which makes those prices look less severe than at first glance. The salad we got was a lovely colourful combination of mixed leaves, slices of orange, tomato and olives - a welcome change from the tired shredded lettuce and carrot most English curryhouses present.My mutton dish came with a vibrantly coloured green sauce which was garnished with fresh coriander leaves and a scattering of slivers of ginger which really added some freshness to the dish as well as looking good. The mutton was very tender, probably the result of being cooked slowly, and there was plenty of it. The king prawn dish was also much enjoyed; my partner had asked for it to be made spicier than the menu described and while they got the heat level just right, there was no compromise on flavour with the sauce having a lovely warm cumin flavour to it; it was even dressed with a good vinaigrette. If you find yourself in Berlin in need of a good curry then I can certainly recommend Swera; Kreuzberg is easy to get to (Platz der Luftbrucke or Gneisenaustrasse are the nearest U-bahn stations) but the other branch is at Pariser Strasser 18 just off the Kurfurstendamm (nearest U-bahn Adenauerplatz). Veggie mains start at just €8.90 while chicken or fish curries start at €9.90 and considering that the rice and salad is included I'd say this is a good deal.
by fizzytom on July 27, 2012
Voland is situated at Wichertstrasse 63, five minutes walk from the U-bahn station at Prenzlauerberg. The numbers on Wichertstrasse are a bit odd which means that although you might think you have a long way to walk, it's not actually that far. Prenzlauerberg is on the U2 line, about fifteen minutes from the Potsdamer Platz in the direction of Pankow. The restaurant appears to be housed in what was formerly a pub and I think the atmosphere suffers somewhat from that arrangement because the bar dominates the space and, rather than creating intimate little corners, I felt that it made us feel quite isolated. There were a few items here and there to try to create a Russian theme but there weren't any where we were sitting and the things I'd have liked to have been able to look at were shrouded in almost total darkness. A few Christmas lights and decorations were a half-hearted attempt to inject some seasonal spirit but overall I was disappointed by the look of the place and the atmosphere. I did like the music, however: a fantastic selection of Russian gyspy classics. Perhaps the menu was also available in English but ours was in German and I was able to translate. As far as the dishes were concerned we knew more or less what to expect because we're familiar with this type of food but it might be useful for those who are not familiar with it, if they were to add a note to say which of the countries the individual dishes are from as several of them are very typically Georgian and others most definitely Russian in origin. Many typical dishes like soljanka (a spicy Russian soup), pelmeni and vareniki were included on the menu but I was disappointed that my all time favourite Russian dish, 'herrings in a fur coat', was not. The waitress took our drinks order and was happy to come back for our food choices which, as I had to translate into German for Himself, took rather longer than she'd anticipated. I ordered a large glass of Georgian wine which seemed to surprise the waitress, probably because outside of the countries of the Soviet Union and its satellites Georgian wine is regarded with some scepticism. Personally I wouldn't go out of my way to get my hands on a bottle of Georgian wine but it seemed only right to go down that road and, besides, I spent a very enjoyable few nights in the main Georgian wine growing region in 2006. Himself drank Baltika, a Russian beer that is now so ubiquitous in the UK you can buy it in Wetherspoons pubs and Morrisons but he likes it and that's the main thing. Finally we came to a decision. A sharing starter of blini with caviar, and main courses of 'Kasha Seljanskaja' for me and 'Pork a la Poltava' for Himself, both very much peasant dishes, the complete opposite of the starter. The blini were delicious; hot little pancakes, much nicer than the uniform little discs you buy ready made in the UK. They melted in the mouth and the combination of them with the chilled orange spheres of salmon caviar was wonderful. I loved the pop of the caviar and could have happily eaten the whole thing twice over. I did think that the presentation could have been better; the salad garnish looked a little sad. My main course looked challenging and I wondered whether I'd made the right choice. I had concerns that it might be too heavy and therefore unfinishable but in the end my fears were not realised. It was served in a plain deep bowl, a generous helping of delicious comforting kasha* in the bottom, combined with strips of salty bacon, peppers, porcini mushrooms and onions and finished with a layer of chopped boiled egg, a common ingredient in Russian peasant dishes no doubt because it's filling but cheap. It was served with a small bowl of soured cream (smetana) which I used very little of because it was so rich but it did add a little extra moisture to the dish when I got near the bottom. It was a good dish but at €8.50 for something that you'd pay next to nothing for in Russia, it was a tad overpriced.(*Kasha is a commonly eaten grain in eastern Europe. It can be barley, rye, buckwheat or millet. I was eating barley kasha on this occasion and it had a very slightly malty flavour with a hint of nuttiness.)We hadn't really known what to expect from the pork dish but we hadn't reckoned on it looking a bit like a lasagne. The menu said the pork had been bread-crumbed but this seemed unnecessary given that it was served in a spicy smetana-based sauce which made the crumbs soggy. It had been finished with cheese undeer the grill. Himself said it was excellent but said he wouldn't wanted any more as it was quite a heavy meal. This dish cost €10.20.If I'm honest I was fit to pop but it was my birthday meal and I wanted to finish with a dessert so we shared a portion of sour cherry vareniki. (Vareniki are the Ukrainian version of what are known in Russia as pelmeni and Poland as pierogi, crescent moon shaped dumplings with either a savoury or sweet filling and served with soured cream). These vareniki were great though half the portion would have been sufficient as they are always so heavy. The cherry filling was deliciously sharp and did cut through the heaviness of the dough to some extent. The syrup they were served with with was tangy and tasty too.The total for a starter for two, two mains, one dessert, beers and wine came to a very reasonable €51. On the whole we enjoyed the food though the presentation could have been better. The restaurant interior could do with a spruce up, if only an overhaul of the lighting to enhance the atmosphere and make it cosier. Although it didn't turn out to be the extra special experience I'd hoped for it was still an enjoyable evening.
Having arrived in Berlin early in the afternoon we were looking for somewhere to get a fairly cheap lunch and didn’t want to eat big. We’d come down from the Brandenburger Tor, along Unter den Linden and had then cut onto Kronenstrasse; it’s a smart area and not one in which you’re going to find really cheap places to eat. Finally we came across La Mama and, not wanting to look any longer, we nodded silently at each other and went in. All the tables at the front of the restaurant are high ones meaning you have to sit on high stools or high seats along the wall. We didn’t realise until later that there’s more seating around the corner so perhaps you’d be able to get a table at a more conventional height (definitely more practical for people with young children or people who maybe aren’t fully mobile). Usually I would go elsewhere if faced with this seating arrangement as I don’t find it very comfortable but it was cold outside and I was hungry. The style is very contemporary with a few nods, such as hanging hams and bunches of herbs, towards Italian cuisine. There’s sometimes that awkward moment in Europe when you don’t know whether it’s self service or table service. A staff member said hello as we entered but appeared to be sitting at a table on a break; certainly she didn’t get up to show us to a table so we assumed we should find our own. There were paper menus on the table and we made our choice quickly – a 'pizza al tonna' (tuna pizza €7.50) and 'insalata grande mista' (a large mixed salad €7.00) to share as we were hungry but would want an evening meal later and we were having a late lunch – but nobody came to take the order; you might think that having seen us come in and sit down the waitress might have been helpful enough to tell us we needed to order at the counter but she didn’t. In the end I went to the counter and ordered there. There was a chef working behind the counter and I spoke to him at which point a waiter came bounding across and took over. I think the staff here really need to up their game. Regulars may know how things work but this is a city packed with tourists who don’t. Beers are kept in a big tin bucket on the counter and you have to get a waiter to open one, alternatively if you want one from the tap you pour it yourself (€3.20 for a half litre of pilsener). I asked for a Diet Coke which turned out to be available only in the 25cl bottles and with a raging thirst I polished off one in seconds. The salad was good with an interesting variety of ingredients that you might not usually find in a salad. However it was served in a bowl with a very large rim making it difficult to eat anything that needed to be cut, namely the leaves. The salad was served almost dry with the meanest drizzle of vinaigrette and we had to ask for oil and vinegar to mix our own dressing over the salad. One positive, however, was that the salad came with a couple of slices of delicious crusty bread. The pizza was very good and we polished it off in no time. The base was well cooked and just the right thickness. The toppings were generous - tuna, spring onions (scallions if you're from the US), white onion and red onion - and the sauce was well seasoned and tangy. For my taste there was a bit too much cheese but that would be only a minor complaint. There's a varied list of pizza, pasta and main course salads as well as smaller items like bruschettas. This modern cantina style Italian is pretty good value for the location and we enjoyed our meal. The pizza seems about the right price but the salad was large and filling and excellent value with the bread. Nearest U-bahn station is Stadtmitte. The restaurant is on Kronenstrasse between Friedrichstrasse and Charlottenstrasse.
by fizzytom on March 13, 2012
What a dilemma: over one hundred beers and only one lunch-time to drink them in.The ‘Haus der 100 Biere’, or Mommseneck, just off Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz, is actually a restaurant but it appears to promote the many beers stocked there ahead of the food it serves. We had seen this restaurant on the first day of our stay in Berlin and we'd been quite excited by the idea of there being so much choice, and especially because there were some exotic beers we’d never tried before and others that we’d tried during our various travels and would have liked to drink again; however, we had decided not to rush in because we preferred instead to try some of the local microbreweries. On our last day, however, we were sticking close to the Potsdamer Platz because we needed to leave for the airport in the middle of the afternoon and had left our bags in the lockers at the Potsdamer Platz station. We wanted to eat a decent lunch because we wouldn't be getting back to the UK until late and didn't have long enough in Brussels airport to grab something between flights. The 'Haus der 100 Biere' seemed like an obvious choice. We had so far managed not to have a typically German meal and this would allow us to leave Berlin without feeling bad about that. We arrived around 12 noon, earlier than I'd normally want to eat but as it turned out we did the right thing by going at that time. Just as we were closing our menus, a large group of Japanese tourists came in with their tour guide and proceeded to monopolise the staff. This is a large modern restaurant but the space was arranged in such a way that made it more intimate with large plants breaking up the space and creating small clusters of tables. The section where the large tour group was seated was quite regimented with long tables running parallel to each other, no doubt for the convenience of the staff. A corridor leads from the street into the main dining area and doors at each end kept the warmth in and the cold out. If you keep walking through the dining area and past the bar, there is a conservatory type lounge area with smaller tables, much more suitable for those just going in for a drink. An English menu was offered but we managed fine with the German one. I would suggest that if you only have very limited German you make use of the English menu as some of the dishes are referred to by name and not given a description - presumably they feel that the dishes are so well known that they needn't explain them. This is a very meat-heavy menu and while vegetarians will not go hungry, neither will they be excited by the choices available. Himself chose the 'Berliner Eisbein' (€14.90) - a boiled pickled ham hock served with pease pudding, sauerkraut and parsley potatoes. I always like a schnitzel and ordered one with a mushroom sauce (also €14.90) (a Jager- or Hunters' Schnitzel); it was served with sauteed potatoes that had been cooked with little salty pieces of bacon. Both portions were large, the kind of large that has you feeling partly defeated as soon as the plate is put in front of you, but a morning walking in the nearby Tiergarten combined with icy cold weather had summoned quite a hunger. My pork schnitzel was excellent; the meat was cooked perfectly and the sauce was delicious, well seasoned with plenty of flavour though it was so rich and creamy I couldn't eat all of it. The potatoes were very tasty, with crispy edges but soft insides; a smaller portion on a plate with less meat would have been better for me because the combination of salty schnitzel sauce and salty bacon on the potatoes soon became too much. My plate was described as coming with a side salad and this would have been much appreciated but what came was little more than a garnish on the side of the plate. Sometimes it's hard to believe that only a couple of years ago Himself was a vegetarian. An Eisbein is a dish that can fill even the most confirmed of carnivores with a sense of dread: to me it looks like an invitation to fight laid out on a plate and for that reason it's not a dish I'd ever order for myself. It was a hefty piece of pork, and, just as it should, it had a thick layer of fat around the outside. While this wouldn't have been something I'd have wanted to persevere with myself, I was quite happy to let Himself do the hard work and get to the meat inside, finding me a tasty piece to try. It was delicious but too salty for me and the sort of thing I'd only want a very small amount of. The pease pudding was very good, full of flavour and exactly how a homemade pease pudding should be (much nicer than the mass produced stuff I buy for my sandwiches). The warm sauerkraut was also tasty but again I was glad not to be eating this dish myself because there was a lot of sauerkraut on the plate and I would have preferred something more palate cleansing like simple fresh vegetables. The beer list really does include one hundred bottled beers. The country of origin, alcohol content, size and price are listed along with a picture of the bottle which is great for beer enthusiasts as it's very often that you remember what the bottle looked like and not the name. There are well known beers such as Cobra, San Miguel and Guinness but there are a lot of locally made beers and a large number of Belgian beers that you might not have seen before.Some countries just have one beer (Namibia, Ghana, Japan, Sri Lanka) while others have several representatives. There's a good mix between dark beers and porters, and lighter beers such as lagers and blonds.Carefully avoiding the ominously named French beer Belzebuth with it's 13 per cent alcohol content, Himself ordered a safer Berliner Burgerbrau (50cl, €4.40), a light beer wth a 5 per cent content and I asked for a Floris Passion, a fruity Belgian beer flavoured with pomegranate and with a modest 3.6 per cent alcohol (30cl, €3.80). We were happy with both beers in terms of taste and temperature. We were also impressed that both choices were available as we wondered whether they would be able to always have those hundred beers available. As well as all the bottles there are plenty of draught beers such as Berliner Kindl, Bitburger and the wheatbeer Weihenstephan. They also offer all the variations of Berliner Weisse in which perfectly good wheatbeer is adulterated with fruity syrups (I say that only with mock disdain as some of the variations are quite palatable). Wines and spirits and a full range of soft hot and cold drinks are also available and the menu for those is as comprehensive and varied as for the beers; they don't do things by halves here.The 'Haus Der 100 Biere' is a bit of a novelty really. The food was decent but even for Berlin over-priced and it wouldn't be too critical to describe the place as a tourist trap. Even for local beers you will pay a premium so unless you are really interested in trying one of the more unusual beers, I'd suggest giving this place a miss. In terms of speed and friendliness of service Mommseneck, as it is more correctly known, does well. It's a clean and comfortable restaurant with a bit of character in spite of being large and modern. We left neither disappointed nor really pleased. We were, however, absolutely stuffed and feeling like we'd not eat again within a week. One for carnivores and beer lovers only.
by fizzytom on March 4, 2012
We hadn’t intended to eat Indian food more than once during our four day stay in Berlin, it just happened. We wanted to cram in as much sightseeing as we possibly could and didn’t want to spend lots of time choosing places to eat so when, on Sunday lunchtime we spotted Artee, a cheap and cheerful looking Indian restaurant situated near to the New Synagogue, the Pergamon Museum and the Old National Gallery, we didn’t need to give it much consideration. The lunchtime specials advertised in the window seemed like good value and we could see that a good few tables were already occupied which we took as a positive sign; we went inside hoping that those diners were not all first time visitors vowing never to return.The restaurant interior is a little shabby which might be why they keep the lights quite dim; it’s not grubby, though, and that is more important to me. The place is decorated with elaborate murals and there are illuminated pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses hanging on the wall. The restaurant has quite an odd layout compounded by the fact that a narrow passage runs from the front door to the restaurant proper and when you get to the end it’s not clear where you should go; fortunately an elderly gentleman sitting in the shadows wordlessly indicated which way we should go and a waiter soon arrived at the table we’d chosen in the window. Neither of us paid much attention to the menu except for the lunchtime specials section but this is a run of the mill restaurant serving the type of dishes you’d expect to find in a UK "curryhouse". We both opted for mutton dishes, a mutton dal for me (€.650) and mutton vindaloo (€6.00) for the Curry Connoisseur. As each came with a choice of rice or naan bread, one of us chose the rice, the other the bread and when the food came we found that this worked very well as a portion of either was ample for two. I know a lot of people turn their nose up at mutton thinking it is old, tough sheep but mutton is merely meat from a sheep that’s more than a year old. You do see mutton on the menu much more in Germany than you do in Britain and I think it’s a meat that is great for curries. Both dishes we’d ordered contained lots of meat, much more than we’d anticipated for a cheap and cheerful lunch and the pieces were generous and meaty with very little fat. My dish had been labelled as mild on the menu but I’d asked for it to be served ‘mittel scharf’ – medium spicy – and knowing that curries in Germany tend to be less hot than the ones we’d usually have in the UK, Himself had asked for his to come extra hot. We were both still disappointed. Certainly for me the consistency of the sauce was too runny; I would have preferred for something a bit more substantial. While neither curry delivered the hoped for heat, at least they could not be described as bland. The flavours were good with individual spices being easily picked out; all that was missing was the fire.A half litre of beer came in at €3.50 and a very good salty lassi was priced at €2.50. This was not the best curry we ate in Berlin (that one will be reviewed in due course) but it was a substantial enough lunch and reasonably priced for the location. This is cheap and cheerful stuff and the set lunches are good value as long as you don’t expect fine dining.
by fizzytom on February 25, 2012
Having a December birthday is a bit of a pain for several reasons. One is that when you want to go out for a birthday meal the restaurants have switched to a Christmas set menu and tend to be full of screaming office girls and lecherous bosses. On our first evening in Berlin we had a restaurant in mind but when we got there it was closed for a private party. We walked and walked up Potsdamer Strasse and just when we thought we might have to settle for a stand up dinner of currywurst we discovered 'Dalmacija'. As a lover of all things Balkan I knew it was fate. My adopted home, Slovenia, includes lots of Balkan dishes in its cuisine and it had been three long months since my last cevapcici: I had to eat there. Dalmacija is a very welcoming and homely restaurant with only minor nods to Croatia in the decoration in the shape of landscape pictures and the odd piece of ceramics. It's your typical, slightly dated, central European restaurant that remains popular on the basis of the quality of the food served up and the friendliness of the staff. It was a busy Friday evening but there were still tables available so we were able to get in without a reservation. There's no standing on ceremony, if there's a table available you take it and needn't wait to be seated. We were offered a menu in English but managed fine with a German one partly because we were familiar with the Balkan specialities already. The menu choices lean heavily towards meat though there were some fish dishes and enough meat free items to make up a reasonable meal. After a little deliberation we were ready and a charming waiter (most likely the owner, I'd say) (with a wonderfully Balkan moustache) came to take down our order of cevapcici (the name means 'little kebabs', they are little sausages of spicy minced meat) and raznjici (skewers of pork). I asked for ajvar (a spicy relish, made from red peppers and aubergines) to go with my cevapcici, a request which seemed to impress our waiter (who also indulged my very suspect Croatian). Starving by this point, we opted to have them with fries and rice respectively and we shared a mixed salad which came, as is usual in Balkan countries, almost immediately (we always force ourselves not to demolish the salad before the main course comes which I think makes waiters worry that we don't like it). Himself ordered a Jubiläumspils while I went for a bottled beer, Croatian Karlovacko priced at Euro2.90 and Euro2.30 respectively the drinks were agood price for a restaurant, I thought. Although it was a quite a busy evening, with people continuing to arrive well after 10.00pm, we didn't have to wait very long for our food. Cevapcici is not a dish that can be presented very beautifully but a plate of cevapcici looks delicious however you present it and I couldn't wait to tuck into mine. It was served very authentically with a pile of chopped raw onion and and a little dish of ajvar. There were seven little cevapcici and they were obviously handmade (in a few despicable places in Slovenia they use readymade ones - shame on them). There were loads of fries so I was pleased I had ordered seven cevapcici instead of ten which is usual (only a few places state on the menu that you can order five, seven or ten, though many will serve you less if you ask them). These ones were not too spicy and had a lovely flavour from the grill. The raznjici were good too; three skewers of lovely tender pork grilled to perfection. The rice was also good, white long grained rice that had that naughty taste only butter can give. With the cevapcici priced at Euro9.40 and the raznjici Euro9.50 the food cost a lot more than we would normally pay in Croatia, Slovenia or any of the Balkan countries but, then, we were in Berlin where we should expect to pay more. For a shade more than Euro24 for drinks and food this wasn't a bad price for a hearty dinner in a major European capital and we very much enjoyed our meal. This is a cosy, comfortable local restaurant that people seem to visit time and time again because they know that the food is good and the welcome is warm. It may not be the most stylish restaurant in Berlin but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it if you happen to be in this part of Berlin. Nearest stations are: Kurfürstenstrasse - U1 Mendelssohn-Bartholdy-Park - U2
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