Years ago, I entertained myself with the idea of opening my own bistro where everything would be served in bowls. Which is what it would’ve been called, obviously. It was never serious, I just needed it during an extra-stressful time to get my mind off things. However, five years later and here we are: what is a restaurant today, if it doesn’t have a bowl on the menu? My most hilarious example of peak bowl-itis was a spätzle-bowl. What does it even mean, to make a “bowl”? To put all kinds of ingredients into a deep dish and call it a day, at its worst, and using bowl-shaped ceramics for extra saucy foods, at its best. The title here is just a joke, though. Almost none of the dishes – except the first one – in this post qualifies as a “bowl” in the late 2010s meaning of the word. However, I couldn’t help but notice the dominance of bowls, even in this none-bowl focussed post. On with it, then…
I’ve been trying this one a couple of times, and am still not convinced, unfortunately! Because their menu reads amazing, the place is cute and comfy, the owners super likeable, but the food is just a bit.. bland? I’ve never managed to have a proper spicy bowl (!) here, but this time I went for the housemade noodles in peanut sauce and really enjoyed them! The waiter told us it’s their bestseller, and I can see why, though I am still not quite on board with the toppings. The picture above are said peanut noodles, just buried under unseasoned greens, carrots and paprika.
I know, I’ve written about this Kurdish-Iraqui place about one million times and I still can’t help but put up a picture of these perfect, golden-brown falafels so you can once again admire the fried coriander pots in the crust and the big chunk of their own, spicy Lasan sauce. I’ll leave it at that, because I have said everything I can about Lasan already. One thing I have to repeat, though: their bread is divine.
Arabica is an international chain of speciality coffee shops originating in Kyoto, Japan. This Kreuzberg spot is their 37th place and their first in Europe! The interior is super chic-minimal whiteness, the menu typical third wave coffee and they have a short lunch menu. I’ve never really warmed up to the place, somehow, but I did really enjoy this cheese toast for lunch the other day. It’s a shokupan, that white, billowy Japanese bread, often made with milk, covered in Deichkäse, a soft raw milk cheese from North Frisia, and a very fashionable dotted pattern of tonkatsu sauce, which is usually used for pork. The small bowl (!!) on the side had some mild kimchi, that went very well with the cheese. (Kimchi and cheese is one of my not very well hidden guilty pleasures.)
Pauly Saal has a new head chef! The chic dining hall housed in the former Jewish girls’ school’s gym is now under the guidance of Dirk Gieselmann, who used to cook at Auberge d l’Ill, and is planning to fuse his classic French approach with the local conditions. I was lucky enough to be invited to taste his new, 5 course lunch menu (85 Euro) in their quiet backyard. We started with a tomato tartar, then had a porcini consommé, poached egg with asparagus, and an artichokes à la barigoule with einkorn risotto. Everything is perfectly prepared and uses only high quality ingredients, albeit I missed the quirkiness of their former chef a tiny bit. I might have to get used to this new turn to classic French that’s apparent in the local fine dining scene, after years of cooking Brandenburg roots in their own juices. The quality here is in the detail and in the complex preparation modes. Not to forget the dessert, rosé champagne sorbet with elderflower and an almond bavaroise (some also call it Bavarian cream) with rhubarb and marinated strawberries.
Mon–Thu from 18:00, Fri–Sat 12:00–14:00, from 18:00
Last, but not at all least is this Syrian restaurant in Schöneberg by famous Syrian chef Malakeh Jazmati who has been cooking in and around Berlin since she arrived here three years ago. Today, she’s written and published a cookbook, has built up a renowned catering service, is doing her own cooking show and has opened a restaurant where she serves her own favourite Syrian dishes and a mix of other things like Cordon Bleu and Fahita. The Syrian food scene in Berlin is just growing and she plays an important role in expanding the menus from quick take-away food. This is one of the only places I know where Fattet Makdous, eggplant with yoghurt sauce and fried bread is served and it is divine. As are all the mezze, of which you should definitely order the mixed plate to try as many as you can. Unfortunately the dessert, halawet el jibn (one of my top 5 desserts of all time) wasn’t available the day we went so I have an excellent reason to return asap.
Ooooh, Paris! I have not spend enough time in Paris, a day here, a day there, mostly just as a stop-over when going some other place, really. This time, we were staying for almost 4 days, we were going to eat all the things at all the right places so we had all our eating opportunities planned, from breakfast to lunch to dinner, we even had a day where we had breakfast, two lunches, one of them a menu, and a dinner with five courses planned for later in the evening. We were doing this thing right, we were prepared, we were ready.
What you need to know, though, is that Paris restaurants don’t appreciate if you prefer to not have meat in your dishes. It’s 2019, but they will still act surprised you would rather not eat that foie gras. Well, you’ll certainly always get a starter (salad), and a cheese plate (pieces to taste), but a main? I was worried about that before going, so I made sure that we inquired at every place when we made the reservation whether they would be able to accommodate a vegetarian diet. And I was fully prepared to accept if they didn’t, and already cancelled the idea of going to “classic” places like Benoît. So I didn’t stumble into this naively, I thought. However, it was a struggle. You can read more below.
Rant over, and back to the beauties of Paris. The boulangeries especially, the high quality of food in general, the gorgeous facades and boulevards, the fun fashion stores (Frankie, Gang of Earlybirds, Merci), the bars, the savoir vivre, etc.pp. I managed to eat at more than fifteen places, eleven of them are described here, we even saw the stunning Citron, a restaurant by Jacquemus at the very new, very hip Galeries Lafayette Champs-Élysées and ate at the now very grown up Rose Bakery at Le Bon Marché (just had an expensive carrot salad, since I went to brunch and two more boulangeries before). You can easily spend all your time in Paris wandering from one resto to the next, nibble a bit here, taste some things there, and never even think about getting in line for the Louvre. We’ll do that next time, for sure.
Du Pain Et Des Idees
Famous for making the best croissants in the city, this place looks like what you would imagine when you think of a classic French boulangerie. I ended up having the pistachio chocolate croissant, because they sold like crazy and come in an intense green, that is quite far off from what you think pistachio would look like. The croissant part is great, but I would definitely go for the classic when I come again, the pistachio looks fancy, but isn’t entirely worth it.
34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010 Paris; Mon–Fri 07:00–20:00
Le Clown Bar
This was the place everyone wanted to go, where we made a reservation about three weeks prior, and then it ended up being quite… disappointing. Clearly, the bigger the hype, the bigger the expectations. However, this was also the place of the first revelation how little Parisian restaurateurs value their vegetarian guests. It took us several attempts to convince them to make a vegetarian main, even though we were assured it wouldn’t be an issue when we called to book the table, and in the end I received a mix of vegetables with sauce, that was fine, but clearly not supposed to be a well conceived dish. It was my first one in Paris with akacia flowers, a floral addition none of the current cool places can do without, it seems.
What was worse though was the service. No, Paris isn’t known for its friendly waiters, but Clown Bar took this stereotype up several notches. We ended up not spending loads of money (56 Euro per person), because they literally did not pay attention to us, so we neither got a second bottle of wine, nor coffee or digestives, not even water. Later, it took us ages to get the bill, and even though my friends mains were really quite good, they couldn’t really make up the overall lousy impression the place left us with.
114 Rue Amelot, 75011 Paris; Wed–Sun 12:30–14:30, 19:00–22:30
Le Mary Celeste
Leaving Clown Bar, we crossed the street and went around the corner to meet friends at this bar. And even though we just left the restaurant, the menu at Mary Celeste sounded interesting enough to make us order more food: the devilled eggs pictured above, as well as a clafoutis for dessert, which was excellent. We all liked the vibe in a place, and we all love a cocktail bar that has a bar food menu! Something that’s still so under-represented in Berlin. I mean, who doesn’t like to eat with a few drinks?! This bar was recommended to us by many, and it didn’t disappoint.
1 Rue Commines, 75003 Paris; daily from 18:00
Ten Belles Bread
Still a bit tired, we walked from our hotel to this bakery on our first morning in Paris, and received the coffee we desperately needed along with a breakfast bun with onions and cheese, as well as two scones with butter and jam. Heard a lot of good things about their sandwiches as well, but we had a lot of food coming up so we skipped them. Great casual place to start your day!
17-19 Rue Breguet, 75011 Paris; Mon–Fri 09:00–19:00, Sat–Sun 09:00–17:30
Ash wanted to check out the local Chinese food scene, so we went to this place for lunch. We started with some extra delicious century eggs and an excellent dish of broad beans and mushrooms, and then ventured into the less exciting with a lackluster mapo tofu, and a noodle dish. However, the eggs, the mushrooms, and beans are still on my mind, weeks after!
On a side note, the next day, we got in line at the mega hyped soup place called Trois Fois plus de Piment, and oh wow was that disappointing. The noodle dish we got was very spicy, indeed, but that was it – it lacked salt, sour, sweet, basically anything besides hot chili flavour. Dunno if it was a glitch, because people love this place, but we didn’t even finish half of our two bowls and left.
17 Rue le Peletier, 75009 Paris; daily 12:30–14:30, 18:30–22:30
This was a spontaneous visit, the service seemed a bit sloppy and the place almost empty, so we hesitantly ordered just one crêpe to share (12 Euro), and I didn’t even take a pic because I was like: how recommendable can it be. Oh well, so much that we ordered another one and even though we just had lunch and dinner was just around the corner, we pondered ordering a third! The toppings are delicious (pictured here is the chestnut cream with ice cream, the other one we had was rhubarb), but the star is the crêpe itself. Don’t know how they do it, but it’s better than any I ever had, perfectly cooked, perfect flavour, perfect in every way.
109 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75003 Paris; daily 10:00–23:00
Another very hyped place, with recommendations from many people, and even more food guides, with a great interior and a menu that reads very interesting. However, no vegetarian mains and no hurrahs from the kitchen if you order one (although they also said it wasn’t an issue when you called to make the reservation). This one ended up being the most disappointing, because my main dish was just every vegetable side available in the kitchen that night, on one plate. And not just that, the waiter even said that when he put it in front of me. At least Clown Bar arranged it in a way that it looked like it was a dish. Le Servan’s veggie main looked like I went to a buffet and paid 22,- for one plate.
32 Rue Saint-Maur, 75011 Paris; Mon 19:30–22:00, Tue–Fri 12:00–14:00, 19:30–22:00
I’m not well versed in gluten-free baking, just because I don’t have to be, but my friend is and recommended this place very much (and even had us get some lemon tarts to bring them). We tried the pain de sucre (pictured), which comes in bar-shape, and also the rest of their breads has more of a focaccia shape, which means they have much more crust than usual loaves. Probably because without gluten, the crumb is usually very soft or sponge-like and more crust balances that? Flavour is good though! But really outstanding were the choux buns, I couldn’t have guessed they were gluten-free.
14 Rue Ternaux, 75011 Paris; Tue–Sat 08:00–20:00, Sun 08:00–18:00
Another day, another high end restaurant. We had gotten the table the day prior because of a cancellation, and I honestly wasn’t very hopeful that this experience would be any better than the other two chic and hip restos we ate at before. We arrived in pouring rain that we more or less managed to avoid, entered the spacious restaurant and were guided to our table by a super friendly host who answered “of course” when I enquired about the vegetarian menu. My shoulders relaxed a bit. We ordered an infusion instead of wine (because, rain), and received a big jug filled with herbs, strawberries, rhubarb and blossoms in hot water, which created a slightly sweet, herbaceous drink that made us very happy. On to the menu, which comes at 60 Euro per person: from the first to the last course, this lunch was a sheer delight of soft flat bread, poached leaf vegetables, roots, mushrooms and fresh peas. Above is what I thought was most delicious: broad beans and fresh peas with acacia flowers in acacia butter. Fun fact, we got the almost same dish at Châteaubriand later that night, but it wasn’t even half as good as here. Main reason: the intense sweet and green flavour of the fresh peas with the mellow floral butter. This one was my favourite meal in Paris.
80 Rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris; Mon 19:30–23:00, Tue–Fri 12:15–14:30, 19:30–23:00
So, if you go for dinner with really good friends, to celebrate your one good friend’s birthday and also because it’s your own birthday the next day, and another really good friend shows up, who you haven’t seen in ages, and two bottles of champagne arrive, as well as several courses of food, and you’re placed directly next to a party of 8 who love to laugh out very loud constantly – how much do you remember of the food? Did the food even have a chance, to begin with? People go to Châteaubriand for the atmosphere, they say. The food is good, although not outstanding, but the place itself is great, the waiters are attentive, you will get a vegetarian menu that is not just side dishes (75 Euro), and the champagne is delicious. What more can you ask of a place in Paris, really?
129 Avenue Parmentier, 75011 Paris; Tue—Sat 19:00–23:00
It was my birthday so I really wanted all the sweets. After a brunch at Holy Belly (fine, but not extraordinary nor worth the wait in line), a pistachio chocolate croissant at Du Pain Et Des Idees (look all the way on top), we arrived at Bontemps and I was delighted by the sight of all the intricate, beautiful cakes! And even more by the fact that this patisserie has all their cake flavours in small, one-bite versions! Which is great if you can’t and also don’t want to decide for just one. Because every single one is an absolute delight, it was my favourite sweets I had in all these days. I was obviously partial to the rhubarb, but the chocolate ganache, the framboise, and the lemon were also outstanding, as were the strawberry and also the orange. Just thinking of these make my mouth water. 100% recommended.
57 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris; Wed–Fri 11:00–19:30, Sat–Sun 10:00–18:00
Sometimes, people complain about the lack of local diversity on this very page. I wouldn’t 100% agree (look how spread out the over 450 places on this map are), but it’s true, I am focussed on the areas I frequent daily, where I live and work. For one, because Berlin is actually humongous, stuff is far and commuting can take too much time to just go for a quick bite. And I’m often lazy, it takes planning and willpower to go check out a place in northern Reinickendorf. That doesn’t mean I enjoy traveling the city and I ensure you, I’m much more mobile than your usual Berliner, who needs strong incentives to leave the Kiez (that’s why we don’t have friends who live in other districts). Because all the Bezirke have their own distinct flavour, especially those beyond the park (my own wording). Breakfast in Grunewald feels like you went on a weekend trip (with the M29 bus), and dining in Charlottenburg feels like dining in another city. That is because Charlottenburg actually was its own city, until 99 years ago! So I want to encourage you to roam the city, like I did when I went to Wilmersdorf for breakfast and then to two places in Mitte! Told you, I’m lazy.
This is a fantastic place with over 20 years of history and a prime spot for people watching and immersing yourself into the local Wilmersdorf culture. I came here to have breakfast with a friend, and had chosen to take a walk in Grunewald prior so I felt very much like I have my life in order. It’s a Kaffeehaus, open all the time and reigned by waiters in white shirts, black vests and starched, white aprons. The menu is a mix of Austrian and Italian classics, with weekly, seasonal specials from Gazpacho to chickpea soup with lemon grass. The scrambled egg you see on top is perfect, as is the minimal decoration with a tomato and one leaf of parsley. You can easily spend all day here, watch people stroll by and read a book or three.
This one was actually only my second choice that day, on which I wanted a full on, lavish breakfast dish to start my weekend. However, Okay Café was hopelessly crowded so we chose this coffee shop by the Kanal. Unfortunately, they don’t serve breakfast dishes here anymore but just a choice of sandwiches. Fortunately, their coffee and food is very delicious, so it’s easy to get over the fact they don’t scramble eggs. And witnessing the ups and downs of daily canal life is a free add-on.
Tues–Fri: 09:00 – 18:00, Sat 11:00 – 18:00, Sun 11:00 – 16:00
Oh this place, so refined, so pretty, so dainty, in a way. This refers to the interior, where every piece seems to be especially chosen just for this spot, to the service, which is much friendlier than your usual Berlin experience, to the menu, where simple yet striking lunch plates accompany some boozy drinks waiting for your aperitivo mood. Pictured here is their salad, hearts with very finely grated cheese and linseed. It’s a really good salad, slightly upscale in price, but not expensive for what you get. Next to it is a deep red blood orange lemonade.
I haven’t been here for forever, even though I used to love it for the exceptional architecture and interior, as well as the straightforward menu. But at one point the food turned lackluster, the place was too crowded and staff overwhelmed. I went back on one of the first hot days to have a salad in the sun and was very pleasantly surprised! Yes, the staff still sports a, let’s say, Berlin understanding of friendliness, but the architecture is obviously still stunning, and the food was what I remembered coming here for before! No fuzz, but no antiquated understanding of what a salad is either. It’s a satisfying and filling lunch, I would definitely come again.
This one’s a real goodie. It doesn’t look much different than the rest of the cool and hip places up and down Torstraße, but the food is definitely better than at most spots on this busy and ugly road. Pictured here is the tofu miso ramyun, which I enjoyed loads, and we also had the kimchi pancake and the veggie mandu, everything very recommendable. Coreen is the young, hip child of Hanok, the classic, beloved Korean restaurant out west (on the other end of Ku-Damm), which is always filled with huge Korean groups, in case you need more credit. Check it out, I liked it a lot!
Lucky me, I was invited to join the annual Terroir symposium in Toronto, Canada, to speak on behalf of my side-hustle, the Feminist Food Club. I joined Soleil Ho, a gifted food writer (and the current restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle), chef and activist who I have admired from afar for a very, very long time, Petra Mutch, a passionate food entrepreneur and activist, and moderator Marie-Claude Lortie, a Montreal based food journalist and restaurant critic, to talk about how to achieve gender balance in the industry. I arrived a couple days earlier to take in the city, meet some people and get accustomed (thank you, cannabis dispensaries). During these days, I mostly just walked the city, watched a show at Second City, read books and fought jet lag by buying loads of ice cream. I haven’t had enough time to explore all worthy parts of Toronto, especially not the less central parts where I have heard is where the best food is to be had (I read about an awesome Egyptian brunch at Maha’s in the east; and a white rabbit candy soft serve in Markham!) So this list is referring to central, mostly downtown Toronto only and is by no way including everything you should eat when there, but it’s a good start.
Glory Hole Doughnuts
Let me start with a donut. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you might know that my love for donuts is, let’s say, limited. But! I’m willing to try again, and again. And this was a good one! It’s a Toast and Butter donut, which means it’s topped with whipped brown butter with sweet breadcrumbs and cinnamon, so it’s quite easy to love. I had it at this small place on the Western end of Queen Street before I took on a long walk all the way downtown (or, where the skyscrapers are) and it gave me enough of a sugar rush to make it. They have a ton of other special flavours like raspberry pistachio, Ferrero Rocher and dulce pretzel that I would’ve loved to try…
1596 Queen St W, Toronto; Mon–Fri 09:00–18:00, Sat-Sun 10:00–17:00
Bang Bang Ice Cream
The first couple of days, I ended up eating mostly sweet things, maybe a jet lag induced craving or just my personality. On the first day, I indeed waited around this shop for 45mins until it finally opened at 13:00, to get that ice cream. The wait was so worth it! I planned trips back to this place for the rest of the trip and couldn’t have been more crushed that in the end, I did not make it back. Mostly because they only open from 1pm (does no one want ice cream for breakfast in CA?), but also because I was pretty busy attending the conference and then having a wonderful day out on a farm. However, I still regret it. For this one time visit I chose burnt toffee which was so incredibly good, had a spot on texture that was neither to dense nor too light, crunchy toffee bits in it, a slightly charred flavour, and came with dripping caramel. And you know how much I love our local hero, Jones Ice Cream, but I have to say, this one was just as good, if not better – especially when it comes to creativity with flavours. Read this: cinnamon toast, Genmaicha-Matcha Tiramisu (that’s ONE flavour), key lime pie, London fog, campfire marshmallow, passion fruit milk, and totaro (a taro ice cream with coconut shavings marketed as Totoro’s fav!). Anyhow, if you’re in Toronto, DO NOT MISS THIS.
Later in the trip, I also made it to Death in Venice, who make good ice cream, but pale in comparison once you’ve tried Bang Bang.
93A Ossington Ave, Toronto; Tue–Sun 13:00–22:00
One fine Toronto morning, I walked around the neighborhood I stayed in and stumbled over this bakery and stopped to get a look at the display for a snack and found this: an egg cup – a toast shaped as a cup (or, muffin?) filled with an egg and topped with herbs. All baked together into this very handy, very delicious breakfast to-go. The egg had just the right texture, not too soft to flow all over your hands, but not too done so it’s crumbly and unpleasant. And it was still warm! What a delight! I also tried the almond croissants here and they weren’t half as good as this cup, so I dunno about a full on recommendation but do get that brunch in a toast cup, if you can!
323 Roncesvalles Ave, Toronto; Mon–Fri 07:30–19:30, Sat 08:00–18:00, Sun 09:00–18:00
Planta is a group of renowned, plant-based restaurants in Toronto and Miami. And since I am always interested in vegetarian / vegan food, I was looking forward to trying Planta, even though it was just their burger place and not the dinner restaurant. And, well, it was disappointing. No, I don’t like burgers that much, but I do enjoy them when well done. However, this one suffered from what so many veggie burgers suffer from: the texture. On recommendation from the staff I went for the Southwest Burger with a mushroom and lentil patty, pickled jalapenos, aioli, avocado and tortilla chips. Unfortunately, everything was the same kind of mush, the salad and tomato were not worth mentioning, and not even the fries could save it.
4 Temperance St, Toronto; Mon–Sat 11:30–19:30
Later that same night, after a whole day of conference and a delightful after party at a bar, some women I had met that day had decided to go to Le Swan for dinner and I talked my way into joining them. This is one of the restaurants of Jen Agg, renowned Toronto restaurateur, outspoken feminist and just overall a very impressive figure I had started to follow on social media several months ago. Le Swan is a French diner, a combination of bistro classics with comfort food, serving Vichyssoise as well as pork chops, fried onion rings as well as Salade Nicoise. The interior is delightful, as is the playlist and the food! I never thought I was a fried onion rings person but I was wrong! These sweet and aromatic little rings are excellent, especially ordered as a side to a grilled cheese. I admit the above photo is a bad representation of how good the sandwich actually was. It’s not burned, but charred, the cheese perfectly melted, the ketchup a great addition. I seriously wished I didn’t ate almost all of that subpar Planta burger! Because then I would’ve definitely ordered one of their milkshakes made with bang bang ice cream. I know it doesn’t look like much in this image but trust me, this place should be very high on your list for Toronto.
Jen Agg also owns Grey Gardens at Kensington Market, where I had a delicious spoon full of ravioli the next night, a cocktail bar called Cocktail Bar on 923 Dundas St, where we had an excellent drink, and she’s about to open another one, Bar Vendetta, a pasta and wine bar. Really, if you only ate at Agg-owned spots during your trip, you’d have done everything right.
892 Queen St W, Toronto; Mon–Thu 17:00–02:00, Fri–Sun 11:00–02:00
After a superb day out at the farm with Terroir Hospitality, I returned to the city looking forward to a dinner with Soleil Ho and Joshna Maharaj, who I had met months earlier in Berlin. Her work and activism is super impressive, to say the least, and is complimented by her positive and open vibe. We chatted about food politics, the strive for equity and representation over plates of delicious food, starting with polenta fries with truffle aioli, something that I love anyhow. We then shared pierogies, as well as a salad, and went on to a deconstructed apple tarte tatin for dessert. I thoroughly enjoyed all the dishes as well as the attentive service in this place.
1 Richmond St W, Toronto; daily 11:00–22:30
Vegan restaurants are stressful to me! Why, you ask? Because I can technically order everything on the menu, and I’m not used to making a choice anymore, but rather go for the one thing on the menu (wait for my Paris article…). I will happily take on the challenge though, especially if it’s for lunch with Nancy Matsumoto, a Toronto based journalist. She suggested Rosalinda, an airy, pretty vegan Mexican place in Downtown. While the bowl I had for my main course was pretty much a bowl filled with veggies, and nothing that’s gonna stay in my mind, the dish pictured above did: it’s a young coconut ceviche for which the very thin strips of coconut are served in a apple and celery broth with herbs and pickled shallot. Some of you will know that coconut is topping my (very short) list of produce I don’t really like, however, I am particular in my taste, so I do like young and fresh coconut if it’s of good quality. And this light and subtle yet refreshing dish definitely left an impression with me.
133 Richmond St W, Toronto; daily 11:00–23:00
It was my very first time in Shanghai, China and it couldn’t have been better: we did a ton of walks through the districts, marvelled at the many pink and white magnolia flowers that had just bloomed, and planned our days around where we would eat for lunch and dinner. We ate so much and we ate so well! Mostly at places serving various Chinese cuisines, so we could enjoy the many very seasonal vegetables and dishes only available in the weeks of early spring. We’ve also visited the Jing’An temple, the Yayoi Kusama exhibition, the Arts & Crafts museum (where I should’ve bought that glass statuette of my Chinese zodiac sign), wandered through gardens and roamed many, many, many malls. Mainly to walk off the last meal and create space for the next…
There is one aspect of our travel we all benefitted from immensely: we visited a friend now based in Berlin, who was born and raised in Shanghai, namely Ash Lee of Chungking Noodles. I don’t speak any Chinese and came to realize that it’s quite tough to navigate without knowledge of the language. The few times we did try we stuck to foreigner-friendly places with an English menu and just accepted that what we received often wasn’t what we ordered. Which can be an issue if you’re not in the mood for meat or fish, but overall we were quite successful.
Hence, many of the places and dishes in this list aren’t really accessible to people not speaking Chinese, Ash usually did the ordering for us. Most snack places, like the ice cream and tea stores have English menus where you should point at the item you want instead of ordering it verbally. (We thought a laser pointer might be handy when the menu is only on a board behind the counter, like at HeyTea). Many things are done via wechat, from ordering cabs to bubble tea, to actual payments. Some stores will be surprised you want to pay with cash, but just insist on it. A good thing to try would be an instant translating app (that works offline), I would definitely bring that the next time.
So here’s where we ate and why I liked it. It’s only Shanghai, we did a trip to Hangzhou at the end of our tour which has lovely temples, gardens, and a culinary history museum but the restaurants we picked weren’t outstanding so I don’t have particular recommendations.
Xin Le Noodles House 心乐面馆
Falling out of the plane in the morning after such a long flight was rough… so first thing we did after storing our luggage was meet with friends and order a ton of noodles, sour plum lemonade and some stir fried pea shoots at a casual eatery close by the French Concession district. I was veeeery tired, but I managed to eat up all these noodles with sauce. Which, admittedly, didn’t help with the jetlag. Afterwards we schlepped ourselves through the streets, happy to find a Happy Lemon lemonade stand where we purchased a gigantic cup of lemon kumquat iced tea that pushed us through the day. 120 Jinxian Rd 进贤路120号, Shanghai
La Famille 南麓浙里
Miraculously still awake, we followed Ash to this slightly upscale but still pretty casual restaurant specialized in Shanghainese cuisine, which is a more mellow and slightly sweet type of cuisine. The emphasis is placed on the original flavour of the ingredients used, it’s sweet and slightly sour, and has loads of veggies to try. At La Famille we had spring bamboo shoots for the first time, one of the many very seasonal vegetables we’d taste, and probably my favourite. The fresh, braised shoots are pictured in the back on salad leaves. In the front is a salad that was one of my favourite dishes of the whole trip: a quite thick leaved salad with very young walnuts. The textures of these were so interesting, almost meaty in quality. We did not find out what the Western translation of this salad might be, I’ve also only had it in this restaurant and saw it packaged in one fancy supermarket. But it will remain on my mind forever. Julu Road No. 768, 1F
Instead of lunch, our first meal of the second day was a mountain of shaved ice at Ice Monster, a chain that might’ve left Shanghai after we did, not entirely sure about that. If you see the monster around (Beijing and Taiwan have a couple), make sure you try it. The shaved ice is flavoured through and through and, if you order the boba tea version, comes with tapioka pearls! Portions are giant and super delicious!
Benzhen Sichuan Cuisine 本甄精品川菜
After loads more of walking around and around, we were ready for the full chili-serving everyone kind of expects when traveling to China. Ash ordered all the chili and Sichuan peppercorn filled dishes for us, from vegetarian Mapo tofu (soft soybean curd cubes in a chili and beancurd sauce), to cabbage with (ton of) dried chili, to frog stew and a dish called “find the chicken”, which is basically chili but also has some parts of a chicken in it. Eating this mouth-tingly and heat-inducing spicy is exhausting but also very joyful, you won’t be able to stop even though it kind of hurts. Mala, numbing spiciness, is very important in Sichuan food, and I made the experience that if you have a lot of that and your mouth is kind of numbed out, many things start to taste very sour. Which is an unexpected add-on, I’d say. We had a private room in this restaurant, which is handy if you wanna sweat in peace. The place was packed at peak dinner time around 6pm, so if you come a bit later it should be less of a problem to get a table. Hubin Road No. 150, 3F, Shanghai
Shanghainese soup dumplings, xiao long bao, are iconic but not readily available as a vegetarian version so I sat this one out while my friends stuffed their faces with the dimpled, soup filled balls. This eatery is very casual with a huge number of people swiping through. The feel is quite canteen, dumplings are served quick and aplenty. I enjoyed a noodle soup with mushrooms and gluten balls (the brown slime in the image) and all the braised gluten (top right, Shaniu in Berlin has a great version of this). The broth of the soup was so earthy delicious, I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything. Would love to have a bowl of this ready for breakfast any morning. 2428 Xietu Road, Shanghai
Zakuzaku ice cream
There are a ton of malls in Shanghai, some stand alone, some just to adorn a metro station and many of them filled with tons of food options. One of my favourite ice cream kinds of all kinds is soft serve, and the one at this metro adjacent mall is amazingly creamy – Zakuzaku is a brand from Hokkaido, Japan and actually does cream puffs, but why not do soft serve on the side? There are three Zakuzaku places in Shanghai, so keep your eyes open. Metro City, Zhaojiangbang Road No. 1111, Shanghai
Xinjiang food was entirely new to me. Xinjiang is a huge region in northwestern China, bordering countries from Russia to India. It’s also home to Muslim Chinese, mainly the Uyghur people (who I know from my trip to Uzbekistan), and this influences the food. Hand pulled noodles is a big thing in Xinjiang, whether it’s Uyghur style or other minorities’ dishes, you can find it under the name laghman or, Chinese, lamian. Ash chose Jiang for us, a modern place inside of a mall. We had the most delicious cold, spongy tofu with chili sauce, egg and tomato (a personal fav of mine, that some people dare to call basic), and noodles in a sour sauce that easily made it to the top dishes of our trip list.
I have not found any Xinjiang place in Berlin, but there are two Uyghur places in Munich, that might be worth checking out. Jiaozhou Rd, Jingan Qu, Shanghai
喜茶 Hey Tea
So, Shanghai (as much of East and South East Asia) is great for leisurely beverages – there’s a ton of lemonade and tea shops around with everything from passion fruit lemonade to yakult green tea (so good!) and obviously bubble tea. You can constantly sip on some refreshing beverage and we made use of this luxury a whole lot. The current star of the bunch is a gigantic chain called Hey Tea, that despite around 9 people making tea and fruit beverages, is so busy, it’ll take about 25mins from ordering to receiving your tea. Most of them are huge, more like a meal or snack than just a beverage but it is a delight you should not miss out on. It can be hard to order without knowing Chinese (my best results were always when Ash ordered for me), but just go for it. And definitely try the green tea with lightly salted cheese topping, which is really just unsweetened cream. They also have tea flavored soft serve (with boba, if you like)!
10 days of daily Hey Tea got me in the mood to try the last remaining bubble tea shops in Berlin, but the results have been disappointing (despite everything made at ComeBuy, which is just as slow as Hey Tea, even though they don’t even have a third of the orders.)
Fu He Hui 福和慧
We had one really fancy meal while in Shanghai at the No. 30 of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant list, adorned with one Michelin star: Fu He Hui is located in a modern building with very minimal decor, almost Japanese in feel. It’s part of a restaurant group under renowned chef Tony Lu and it’s the only one in the group serving exclusively vegetarian menus. We start with edible leafs, then intricately arranged spring bamboo with mushroom broth, a pumpkin filled with rolled pumpkin and sticky rice, white fungus in seaweed broth, and finally a giant (vegetarian!) soup dumpling with an almost too generous topping of fresh truffle. Pictured here is the dessert, black sesame ice cream in the form of a stone, placed on a stone dusted with matcha. We also went for the tea pairing which was my personal highlight of the meal. Not only because their tea cups are stunning (and there’s a different one with every tea), but also because the tea is just super interesting and unusual, while not overpowering. 1037 Yuyuan Rd, Changning Qu, Shanghai
Softree is a Korean soft serve ice cream brand with a ton of extravagant ice cream options on their website (tomato ice cream? soft serve topped with grated Italian cheese??). Their main offer in Shanghai is their signature organic and very milky soft serve topped with cotton candy (no kidding). I did not go for the cotton candy, but I had a portion of their ice cream and it’s deliciously good. We specifically went into this mall just to have this ice cream and yes, that’s how you do it. K11 Mall Middle Huaihai Road No. 300, Shanghai
As said before, I was super impressed with Xianjiang food and happily agreed to visit another renowned place to enjoy it. This one’s located in (another) mall and is also represented in the cover photo of this post. Here, I especially enjoyed a dish I’m usually sneered at for because it’s so simple: egg, tomato and fresh noodles. I can’t help but love it and I wish there was a place in Berlin to have it (except from my home, because it is ridiculously easy to make, they say).
If you happen to go to Tarhar or the area, you can easily walk from there to one of the most interesting sites we have visited: Longhua Temple has what I thought was the most exciting art work, one of them being golden statues of the 500 arhats, all of them with individual facial expressions. We only found out later it’s the largest and most authentic temple in Shanghai! 2701 Xietu Rd, WanTiGuan, Xuhui Qu, Shanghai
Alright, on to another special Chinese cuisine, that of Yunnan, a southwestern province bordering Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. Like Xianjiang, I’ve never had it before and was super excited. We went to Slurp! on a night without our super supportive Ash and the language barrier was no issue (which is why she recommended it to us…). This place is teeny-tiny and packed, but even if you have to wait it’s very worth it. We ordered the mashed potato with mustard greens and chilis, mint salad with pickled pear, and noodles with very fresh tofu (and chilis), a famous Yunnan dish I have amateurishly recreated many times at home since. Everything was super delicious, fresh and spicy, slightly lighter than other Chinese food and adorned with many fresh herbs. Do De Li on Berlin’s Kantstraße is serving one of the signature Yunnan soups called Crossing the Bridge, and I will definitely check these out asap. 70 Maoming N Rd, Jingan Qu, Shanghai
金花 Jin Hua – “Golden Flower”
My friend Daliah Spiegel, who I know from Vienna, moved to Shanghai to open an Austrian restaurant and brunch place and after doing that for a couple of years just recently closed it to renovate and reopen it as a Yunnan restaurant in cooperation with the team from Slurp!. I didn’t know about that before and was very pleasantly surprised after stepping into her newly decorated spot after getting soaked in the rain. She served us lotus roots, fried goat cheese (a Yunnan speciality) and a salad with pickled leek flowers. Yunnan food uses fresh chilis, herbs and lime juice, so it’s that perfect combo of sour and spicy and herbilicious. 408 Shaanxi North Road, Shanghai
Speak Low Bar
You will enter this speakeasy through a secret / not so secret door in the back of a bar tools store on Fuxing Road, to discover two delightful rooms where skilled bartenders wait for your order. (There’s apparently a third room only accessible to members / trusty clients). All of the drinks we tried were very elaborate, one came in a pyramid of wooden cubes with the lower one filled with dried ice, another was served in a whole pineapple and came with a paper parasol. It’s bordering on kitsch, but the drinks are excellent so it’s more of an entertaining add-on than an annoying gimmick. 579 Fuxing Middle Road, Shanghai
Hai Di Lao
We couldn’t leave without eating hot pot, so on our final day in Shanghai we went for the full experience, including complimentary manicure while waiting (were too late for that), a buffet of sauce to make your own, covers for our phones, jackets and ourselves (aprons). This four part hot pot was made of tomato, mushroom, fish and chilli broth and we ordered a ton of stuff to put into. From blood cake and duck feets for my friends, to tofu, lotus roots and cabbage for myself. In between we got the hand pulled noodles with a very exciting pulling performance by a dancing chef. All in all a delightful experience I’d like to repeat any time.
In Berlin, you can have hot pot at Lucky Star and, irregularly, at Liu in Mitte. 4/F, 1 Dapu Lu, near Xujiahui Lu, Shanghai
Are you frolicking in the sun while reading this? Reveling in the great expectation that is a long, free weekend with tons of sunshine and warm weather? Ohh, me too! Nothing quite like Berlin awakening from six months of depressing grey and remodeling itself into the green oasis we all love and need. After ten days in Shanghai, where I ate excellent food from morning till night (guide still to come), I’m readjusting to the local circumstances by being extra careful where to exchange money for food. So this one’s mostly old faves (plus a new highlight all the way at the end of the post). Starting today, I’ll be on the lookout for new food spots, and will let you know about the success of my discoveries asap, hopefully. Until then, enjoy the weekend!
Companion Tea & Coffee
This one’s such a pretty shop, and their lunch menu is so easy going yet quite delicious, I wish I was around the corner more often to hang in their booths. This is the lunch sandwich, with some ferments, fresh veggies, cilantro and cucumber on sourdough bread. If you’re there, don’t forget to order one of the teas and the pandan layer cake.
However, it’s so pretty, people love to use it as a free working space, making the atmosphere borderline office. Which, on the other hand, is great to get some book reading done.
The Smells Like collective is celebrating and exploring food heritage, culture and identity in regular meetings and had its first public outing just two weeks ago with a feast! They cooked up a plate full of goodies from Punjab, a region divided by the border between Pakistan and India. I got the very first plate and enjoyed the intense flavours of the five heart warming single dishes and their well rounded composition so much, I wish this one was a regular thing. Keep your eyes open for whatever is coming next from this very exciting project, and follow their Instagram!
I’m super happy that so many of you like Crazy Kims, the almost new Korean restaurant next to Markthalle Neun. I came back for a huge roll of Gimbap and many banchan just after I returned from a trip to Shanghai. Every meal here has to start with a plate of the veggie mandu which are covered in a sheet of extra crispy potato starch.
This place is not only fun to look at with its many quirky wall decorations, but also delicious to eat at. These are the Szechuan noodles with an egg on top, and also spring onions, mustard greens, radishes and pineapple. The latter wasn’t totally necessary, but this might be my personal issue, stemming from years of German party food, that likes to combine canned pineapple, ham, and cheese on toast.
Lausitzer Platz 12A
10997 Berlin Kreuzberg
Mon–Fri 12:00–21:00, Sat 12:00–22:00
Da Jia Le
I knew it’d be difficult to have Chinese food in Berlin after 10 days in the land of its origin, but I still stand by my take on Da Jia Le being one of my favourite Chinese food places in this city. We usually order the same things here, the aubergine hot pot, the tofu skin salad (always!), the spicy potato stripes and a rotating set of tofu dishes. It’s reliable, satisfying and I just really like the atmosphere in that giant hall.
Long awaited, finally it’s happening: the brick and mortar restaurant of local das brunch-superstars Sophie and Xenia von Oswald, Rocket & Basil has opened its minty doors to the public. They’ve just been up and running for about a month and are already a big hit with hungry morning-people. After I finished my omelette, I enjoyed their pancakes, pictured here, with banana, barberries and a load of pistachio. The savoury dishes are covered in fresh herbs, there’s never a shortage of saffron, and you should always order an extra side of spicy tahini sauce with everything (except, maybe, the pancakes). Their leisurely food style, the excellent Cremant, and the refreshing interior make this spot certainly the most coveted of the season. They also do lunch, by the way, and have a range of baked goods that I still need to try…
Here’s to spring! All the petals and blossoms really pitched the mood in the city, everybody is slowly getting rid of winter feels and into their sunny madness. What could be a better time to look at the renewal happening in the foodie scene? Admittedly, my willingness to keep up with the speed of current openings (and closings, for that matter) is very, very limited. So many people are opening so many restaurants right now – I’m often just overwhelmed by the sheer number of places calling for attention. Fret not, I invested the time to wade through the streams of opening announcements and filtered out the ones I deem most interesting, just by affiliation, description and / or plain, old foodie gossip. Let’s see which ones will make it onto our regular radar, shall we?
A couple years ago, most of Berlin’s bubble tea places were brought down by a media campaign based on a feeble study alleging that the bubbles might be causing cancer. Despite plenty disproofs of this claim (which was, to be frank, also motivated by racist stereotypes), the bubble tea business was irrevocably harmed and only a few places still offered the tapioca pearl drinks. However, people might be over it and we might be able to re-enter a phase where there’s more choice to quench your thirst than naturtrübe Apfelschorle. An’s Tea House looks very much like an artisanal bubble tea place, and after 10 bubble filled days in Shanghai in March, I am delighted to see not only yakult green tea, but taro milk tea and several jelly teas! Can’t wait to go and try.
Torstraße 41, 10119 Berlin Mitte, Mon–Fri 12:00–20:00, Sat 12:00–21:00, Sun 13:00–19:00
Martin Gropius Bau is an Italian-renaissance-style exhibition building nestled in a street with a ton of history (next to it was the head quarter of SS and Gestapo, there’s still a stretch of the original wall, and opposite stands today’s ministry of finance in one of the only 3rd Reich buildings left, in which also, curve ball, the GDR was founded in 1949). For many years the Martin Gropius Bau’s museum gastronomy was not worth mentioning. Until now, when a remodelling of the whole building also opened up its café for a new owner. Open since March, it’s a collaboration of local baking queen Cynthia Barcomi and Shani Leiderman (fun fact, the two met at one of the meetings of my beloved side hustle, the feminist food club!) Let’s see how they fill the space with new life!
Niederkirchnerstraße 7, 10963 Berlin Kreuzberg, Wed–Mon 10:00–19:00
Another museum gastronomy that’s been in a bit of a hibernation is this Dan Graham designed pavilion in the yard of KunstWerke, an exhibition hall for ultra-contemporary art. It’s just now re-opening under the guidance of Bon Bock, a culinary residency program that’s venturing into café-ing with baked goods by Tausendsuend and Albatross, as well as soups and sandwiches. I always thought it was a pity that this stunning architecture felt quite neglected in the past years so it’ll be a very good reason to return to the artsy Hof in the center of Mitte.
Auguststraße 69, 10117 Berlin Mitte, Wed-Mon 10.30–18:00, Thu 11:00–00:00 (depending on events)
This is the first vegan AND zero waste restaurant in the city, which wouldn’t be any guarantee of success if the food wasn’t anything to write home about – however, I’ve already heard quite good things about it even though this place literally just opened. Born out of a crowdfunding campaign, they’re focussing on weekday lunch and weekend dinners with a Norwegian head chef serving their own sourdough bread, salads, freshly made pasta, and much more.
Torstraße 180, 10115 Berlin Mitte, Mon–Thu 12:00–16:00, Fri & Sat 12:00–16:00, 18:00–22:00
A new ice cream place! I love that the ice cream season is starting again, so yay! It’s in Steglitz, it’s all organic, and it’s named after a cat! What more can you ask for?
Schoeneberger Strasse 11, 12163 Berlin Steglitz, daily 12:00–20:00
It’s been a delight to watch the growing appreciation of Thai food in Berlin, Dalad Kambhu just received her very first Michelin star for her work at Kin Dee, and here’s a new place worth checking out for delicious and spicy Thai dishes. It’s a similar concept with a menu to choose from and dishes to share and I can’t wait to try it (despite it being in Friedrichshain, sorry not sorry).
Gryphiusstr. 10, 10245 Berlin Friedrichshain, Tue–Thu 18:00–23:00, Fri–Sat 18:00–24:00
Malakeh Jazmati has finally opened a restaurant: she had to flee Syria and came to Berlin via Jordan, where she used to have a TV cooking show. Once in Berlin she started out with a catering service, published a cookbook and now has her own place where she serves her Syrian dishes. I’ve already heard many people raving about the deliciousness of the food there and want to go there as soon as possible.
Potsdamer Straße 153, 10783 Berlin Schöneberg, Tue–Fri 15:00–23:00, Sat–Sun 12:00–23:00
Okay, spoiler: I already ate here. BECAUSE how could I not. I’ve been to all of their Das Brunch events and have known about them wanting to open a place and closely followed their renovations on this brick and mortar shop. It’s a lunch and brunch café off Potsdamer Straße, where they work their signature Persian inspired cooking into a full formed menu. The pancakes are delicious.
Lützowstraße 22, 10785 Berlin Schöneberg, Tue–Fri 08:00–17:00, Sat–Sun 10:00–16:00
Aand, I also already ate here – but just for a super quick, basically snack-like dinner before a concert and well, I gotta go back to have the full experience. It’s Levantine food made on a very, very high level with some menu items that are still quite rare in Berlin like makdous, oil-cured aubergines filled with walnuts. Definitely bring more than one friend to be able to order all of it, and definitely don’t just walk in, this place is already packed and a table reservation is very, very recommendable.
Husemannstrasse 1, 10435 Berlin, Tue–Thu 17:00–22:30, Fri–Sat 17:00–23:30, Sun 14:30–22:00
The pizza hype ain’t over! Because why should it be. For me, we all could do with a little less “best, bester, bestest” clamoring around the round treat and instead just enjoy the fact we’re getting additional pizza-enthusiasts, since the more is usually the merrier (and all that hierarchization can be quite annoying). Just make good pizza, folks! I don’t care whether it’s “the best baked dough outside of Napoli”. End of rant, here are your new pizzaiolos: from the team of Parker Bowles comes Dookie with its new home at Prinzenstr. 85d, opening this Friday. Then there’s Futura, where a former Standard baker serves pizza in a street off the gritty Frankfurter Tor in eastern Friedrichshain, Bänschstraße 91. And last in alphabetical order is the new pizza place of Italian super bakers Sironi of Markthalle Neun fame, opening soonish in Schöneberg. Let’s go eat!
Someone remember the 10-day-long -10 degrees during the day one year ago? Or are you all already spring-blissed out? I’m wary, I wanna enjoy, but then, climate change… However, I still eat quite winterly, because I want to! I was a bit off the last days because I worked on other projects, I still ate and that’s why this Eats has six places for your consideration. From concrete congee brunch to seasonal cardamom-almond-cream treats. One of them is time-sensitive, so make sure you have some time this Sunday.
Still quite new, definitely quite shiny – Baldon is a restaurant at the newly opened Lobe Block, a very concrete structure in Wedding close by Gesundbrunnen and Humboldthain park. They’re currently doing weekday lunches, brunch on Saturdays and once-a-week dinner. The space technically looks more like a gallery than a restaurant, even with a very open kitchen. I went two or so weeks ago for brunch on a weekend and it was packed, wow. The menu read a bit complicated and I needed some time to decide whether I wanted an open sandwich or granola and in the end went for this pretty bowl of congee – rice porridge topped with all kinds of pickled, fermented and raw veggies. I enjoyed it, although the porridge was a bit on the watery side. One can taste the effort that goes into sourcing the ingredients and treating them well. Let’s see where this space is headed. Baldon, Böttgerstraße 16, Tue–Fri 09:00–16:00, Thu from 18:00, Sat 11:00–16:00
I had heard a lot already about this small French Japanese patisserie hidden somewhere in Schöneberg, so no wonder it was really quite crowded (also with a lot of tourists taking selfies with the pretty creations). It felt as if the staff was a bit overwhelmed, but still very polite and eager to serve everyone in time. Most of their little cakes are made with gelatine, so I didn’t really have a choice but the lemon tarte (and a Cannelés), which was fine but I heard the other things are much, much better. I tried the sesame brittle from a green tea number that was really nice. All of their petit masterpieces look stunningly shiny, it’s a great place to get impressive gifts!
Café Komine, Welserstraße 13-15, 10777 Berlin, Wed–Sun 12:30–19:00
Anytime I get a chance to have lunch at Bone Berlin, I’ll take it. Unfortunately it’s not as often as I’d like because the Markthalle has a no-dog-policy. However, if you haven’t eaten with them, you’re missing out! Their menu always has at least one thing I wanna eat, the flavours are intensely on point and the pricing is more than fair. Pictured here is a hummus bowl in the center with fried veggie (makali) which was extraordinary. On the left is a pumpkin salad with a very refreshing dressing that had a lot of zest in it, and on the right is a very heart warming curry. Loads of respect to these guys, the lunch business is not an easy one and they’re excelling week after week. Bone Berlin is inside of Markthalle Neun, Mon–Fri 12:00–16:00, Sat 10:00–16:00
Oooooh this plate! It makes me happy just looking at the picture. The women running this restaurant on Karl Marx Straße make their own Gözleme and, pictured here, Manti. These lil dumplings (in this case filled with potato) are so delicious, it’s insane – the vegetarian potato filling is mushy, the wrapper has a wonderful springy consistency, there’s enough garlic in it to kill any flu-viruses still lingering in your body, and the yoghurt sauce on top with the paprika butter is just too indulgent. It’s a fantastic dish that is so very well made. Little tip, don’t get there half an hour before closing, they will probably have run out of fresh Manti.
Mon–Tue & Thu–Sat 11:00–22:30, Wed closed, Sun 12:00-22:30
I know I’ve talked about Hallesches Haus a lot but I have to repeat it just for the sake of the beautiful light on this beautiful dish. We went on a random weekday, the sun was very much out and the place crowded as ever. We snatched seats on the community table, got our lentils with oven roasted carrots, walnuts and radicchio, and then this warm afternoon sunlight fell on the plate, sculpting all of its ingredients into a stunning arrangement of veggie-focussed goodness. Fresh tarragon and a wonderful dressing made this plate even better. In the pretty glass is water kefir with lemon, everything’s very on point here: interior, menu, drinks and even the lighting!
Mon–Fri 10:00–19:00, Sat 10:00–18:00, Sun 09:00–17:00
I’m pretty sure you’re only here because you wanted to know what is pictured up on top, that bun with whipped cream, right? You had to scroll all down here to find out about Semla-season. Semlor is a baked treat from Sweden, traditionally only served on Fat Tuesday, the last day before fasting season, when one would end up devouring all the soon-to-be-forbidden delicacies. It’s a cardamom bun filled with almond paste and whipped cream and it is divine. The only place serving this in Berlin is Okay Café in Neukölln, as far as I know. So no wonder there’s usually a queue of Swedish people crowding the pavement in front of it hoping to get one or three of them. Okay Café has extended Semla season to three Sundays and Fat Tuesday, they started two weeks ago and the final two dates are coming up. I went twice already and you know where to find me this weekend.
They offer the classic Semlor, a vegan one and a weekly special. Pictured here is the special with blueberry whipped cream from last Sunday. You can reserve your Semla, or just queue, both works since they dish out about 400 of these lil buns. See you Sunday!
I went to Hamburg for the weekend! This deserves its own shout-out, since we Berliners are famously lazy when it comes to the neighbouring city by the Elbe. Only 1.45 hrs by train and still too far away for most of us to go there regularly for a day or two. There’s not even a rational reasoning behind this, yet if you ask a random person living in Berlin when they’ve been to Hamburg the last time, I bet it’d be close to my answer before this trip: two years? Or maybe even three? It’s been some time, let me say it like that. Which is even more tragic considering that the Hamburgers are coming over regularly. I see my Hamburg based friends more often in Berlin than the other way round. One of them thought it was superweird we were walking through the Schanze together, since we’ve only ever met in Berlin. Anyway, I WENT. And I ATE. A ton of new places were added to the city, some old favs vanished and I was excited about the very long list of tips I had received from friends and followers. I will have to go back though, because just when I returned I found a lovely hand-written letter with even more tips in it, and I feel like I missed out on a couple of places (Hobenköok, HEAT, Balz & Balz…). So, I guess a trip in spring is coming up. Spring… 2020? Going north at least once a year is now on my agenda.
Here’s where I ate this time:
I started the weekend with a real highlight, that ended up being my favourite meal of the whole trip. Bistro Carmagnole is helplessly booked out, you should get a table at least a week prior before going (even for just two people). But I get it, it’s one of these rare casual, buzzing places with a pleasant service and really good food. I’d even have trouble naming a place in Berlin that’s similar – I do recognize a grave lack of restaurants mixing a laidback atmosphere with excellent food, we do seem to get one or the other over here. We started the meal with very good olives and French 75, and then I enjoyed braised celeriac with fresh walnuts, Comté cheese, grapes and a buttery sauce (15,70 Euro). Pricing is really fair, especially considering the stellar service. We also ordered pommes dauphin, potato croquettes, and seriously, why are these so rare on menus these days? It’s basically more sophisticated fries and just too indulgent. We finished the meal with fine cocktails and left the place around 1.30 am, after a very enjoyable night. Congrats Hamburg, you’ve got a real gem here. Juliusstrasse 18, 22769 Hamburg
This was an excellent start into my Hamburg adventure. The next day, after a very basic breakfast at the very pretty Café Johanna, I met a friend for coffee at tornqvist. The coffee there is excellent, very well balanced and refined (and expensive, wow), but the place itself is … difficult. The giant bar in the mid-size café seems out of proportion and we had to squeeze past many coffee connoisseurs to the back to get to a free space. Every design detail seems to come with a story and the staff is nice but also under some weird kind of pressure to serve coffee as a fine dining experience. It seems overly intentional, and at that, unfortunately a bit cliché. For instance, there’s no sugar and the staff will lecture you if you ask. (2011 called and wants its speciality-coffee-arrogance back.)
TBH, we ended up at tornqvist, because Hermetic was impossibly crowded, but after 20mins at tornqvist we decided to come back and sit out front bundled up in scarfs and hats. Instead of a coffee I went for a white tea and a piece of their signature cheese cake. Some say it’s even better than our local hero from Five Elephants. I wouldn’t readily agree after this particular piece because I ate it at 8 degrees and it was a bit too cold to fully develop. But it is very indulgent and delicious. The shop itself is a bit all over the place in terms of interior design, very crammed and diy, but I honestly prefer that to a place that puts more value on the look than the customer experience. However, it’s definitely nicer in the summer when you can sit on the terrace. Sternstraße 68, 20357 Hamburg
Unfortunately, the rest of the day wasn’t blessed with good food. Next, we had a table at Standard, which has been recommended to me over and over again and I was quite excited (pictured on top). The concept is Italian, it’s all about the aperitivo: you order drinks and get antipasti and small dishes with it. It didn’t add up for me, though. The drinks are a tiny bit pricier than usual to cover the cost for the Stuzzichini, the food you get with it. Unfortunately, neither my rose wine was good (the cremant I had later was better), nor any of the food we were served. Mediocre olives were followed by a standard pumpkin soup and some grilled veggies with black lentils. We left with a bill over 40 Euros for two people and to be very frank, I would’ve rather paid for fewer quality dishes I chose myself than being served with what we got. The service was a bit confused, but okay.
Our next destination was a place that literally just opened: Simbiosa took over the rooms of the former Brachmann Galeron. I ate here years (a decade?) ago and always enjoyed it a lot. It used to be a simple but delicious Swabian place attracting loads of artists and theater people with their Käsespätzle. The new tenant is more on trend, they’re serving vegan Israeli food. The place was completely booked out, we snatched two bar seats by the window because of a no-show. Since it’s super new, the service wasn’t up for the crowds, they were polite, but overwhelmed. The food was a disappointment, though. The falafel were bland, as was the hummus, the bread was a total miss for me, and the green bulgur salad was watery and tasteless. I liked the tahini, the baba ganoush and the grilled aubergine were fine, and the tomato dip was also okay. But all in all, considering so many people are trying to get a table, it’s not living up to this demand. BUT, it’s really new, so there might be improvements coming, and they might’ve just had an odd night with the kitchen folding under the many orders. Let me know if you had a better experience.
After a rather subpar food tour on Saturday night, my Sunday lunch appeased me again. Badshah is an Indian canteen-like food place just off Hauptbahnhof and it’s woah, delicious! Thalis are a mere 6 Euro or so, and you should definitely also get the Samosa. The counter is filled with many, many sweets of which I tried nothing because I bought an apple cinnamon bun at Mutterland prior which I wanted to eat on the (overbooked) train (that missed a waggon). I should’ve, though, the bun wasn’t all that. However, Badshah! It’s not pretty, but as usual in my view, good food trumps everything else. Unfortunately, the much famed Okra dishes were out when we were there, but the spinach dish I chose instead was also super tasty. The rice was well spiced, the samosas very well fried and the chickpea sauce that came with it was fragrant. I will definitely go back when I’m in the city next, crossing my fingers to get the okra dish. Bremer Reihe 24, 20099 Hamburg
After a couple months of doing this new format of weekly reports on what I ate (and whether I liked it), I’m really happy with it. Hope you’re too! However, things can kinda get lost in the continuous stream of super short reviews and so I wanted to start a seasonal round-up of favourites, dishes that stayed on my mind because they were so good. I decided to choose the five plates I remember the most and would happily eat again any time (and will hopefully do so soon). Also serves as a reminder that it shouldn’t always be about the next new thing, but caring about your favourites. I tried to choose those that aren’t on my usual rotation or on the current Best Places map. Here, they’re just sorted by alphabet.
Congee at Companion
It’s been some time since I had this bowl of congee (pictured on top), and it’s still on my mind! Maybe because congee – rice porridge, for which the rice is cooked until it falls apart into a thick soup – is considered very healthy. And if only for its heart-warming and wholesome appeal I’m ready to agree. Here at Companion it’s made by Kaylin Eu of Ma-Makan fame, and is topped with roasted onions, chilli and ginger, mushrooms and seaweed giving the dish all kinds of umami levels. It’s a great dish for winter breakfast (or lunch) and I’ve been lightly craving it ever since.
My friend schlepped me here and I didn’t know what to expect – for sure I didn’t foresee this extraordinary dumpling dish: Haejung, owner of the place (and former manager of Rocco und seine Brüder and still owning the vintage shop Kim’s around the corner at Lausitzer Platz), serves her mandu covered in a potato starch net. Aka: these juicy dumplings are covered with a very crispy (kross, as we say in German) blanket! Might look weird when they put it on the table, but it’s such a delicious surprise.
Okay, this was an easy one: I love soft serve and there’s not enough of it in Berlin, especially not in winter or for dinner. Gazzo is a still fresh pizza place (sourdough only) with a buzzing atmosphere. They also make their own soft serve from buffalo milk sourced in Brandenburg, top it with olive oil, sea salt and chunks of short bread and it is divine. I’m usually very much for sharing, but in this case I insist on my own portion so I get the most of it.
You will have to make a reservation to get your hands on these mixed Syrian mezze but it’ll be very worth it. Especially for the refreshing yet creamy and grainy Kishke, a mix of yoghurt, bulgur, garlic, cream cheese and cucumber and the excellent hummus. The mains are equally worth it, however, the mezze left more of an impression with me and I would willingly squeeze on a community table any day of the week to enjoy them.
This soup’s broth has stayed on my mind for almost two months now – its delicious balance of sour and savoury and spicy impressed me loads. It’s made by the Thai woman who has the longest lines of people waiting for her soups at Thai Park, she just opened up her own shop in Wilmersdorf. I sincerely hope she can translate her park fame into a consistent business as a shop. This very first soup I ate there is making me very optimistic.