Down With Currywurst. These Are the Dishes Making Foodies Flock to Berlin
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because Berlin is mastering everything from the kebab to omakase.
By Duncan Forgan
With its blend of decadent grandeur, ethnic diversity and hip energy, Berlin has become one of the world’s coolest places to live. Therefore, it’s fitting that the contrasting factors that make the city such a magnet for outsiders are feeding into a unique, ever-evolving dining scene.
“I liken it to a jumbo jet,” says Berlin-based food writer Per Meurling. “It has taken some time to get down the runway. Now we are finally getting airborne.” If anyone should know, it would be Meurling. The Swedish-born founder of the Berlin Food Stories blog, a compendium of candid tips and reviews that has become the premier resource on restaurants in the German capital, has eaten his way around his adopted city for almost a decade.
The city’s scattershot tapestry of highbrow, middlebrow and lowbrow culinary options is one he finds thrilling — especially when you deviate from the city’s standard tourist fare. Don’t get him started on currywurst.
“It’s just a shitty dish,” Meurling says of Berlin’s iconic and regrettable drunken snack par excellence. While sauce-slathered mystery meat gets short shrift, he has a lot of love for some of Berlin’s more overlooked guilty pleasures.
Berlin’s Best Donor Kebab
Meurling admits that he has an addiction to donor kebabs, perhaps one of the most heavenly meat sandwiches ever invented. The German capital has no shortage of self-professed “donor institutions,” and after scouring Berlin’s streets, Meurling points to one as reigning supreme: Imren, “a sanctuary of quality kebab culture,” he says.
Boppstr. 10 10967 Berlin
+49 163 8545512
Deep-Fried Pork Ribs
Berlin, with its longstanding large immigrant communities, has had great ethnic food for quite some time, but it wasn’t always the gourmet hub it is today. That’s changed, in a big way, and few restaurants convey this better than Duc Anh at the Dong Xuan Center, the pulsating commercial heart of the city’s Vietnamese diaspora. The suon heo rang muoi (deep-fried pork ribs) have been tossed with a sweet and sour chili sauce that Meurling describes in his blog as so unreal, “they will make you forget most other Asian ribs you’ve tasted.”
Herzbergstr. 128, 10365 Berlin
+49 30 55152038
Khwan, a specialist in smoky Thai BBQ (khwan is Thai for smoke), is getting some serious buzz in the city, says Meurling. Head chef Daniel Lambert may not actually hail from Thailand, but while at the helm of London’s Smoking Goat, he fell in love with the cuisine.
The growing sophistication and daring of the city’s restaurant scene is earning it kudos as a serious foodie destination, and top-tier chefs around the world are starting to take notice. The renaissance is, in the view of Liv Fleischhacker, a writer who runs the bar blog Berlin Drinks and conducts tours for Berlin Food Stories, a by-product of Berlin’s post-millennial influx of émigrés from around the globe.
It might change your perception of eating, just like it did for me.
Per Meurling, Berlin Food Stories
“What has happened in such a short time is simply incredible,” she says. “You have people from all over the world coming to Berlin to build things and add a value to the city in a way that’s priceless.”
Revaler str. 99, 10245 Berlin
+49 (0)1522 5120139
30 Dishes, Three Hours
Ernst, a 12-seater venue helmed by Canadian chef Dylan Watson-Brawn — an alumnus of Copenhagen’s legendary Noma and the three Michelin-starred Nihonryori Ryugin in Tokyo — is one of the hardest spots in Berlin to score a reservation. According to Meurling, it’s completely worth the hype.
“It might change your perception of eating, just like it did for me,” he warns. Dinner resembles culinary theater (Watson-Brawn serves 30 dishes over a three-hour period) that is also an homage to local fare.
Gerichtstrasse 54, 13347 Berlin
Wed-Sun, one seating at 8pm
Contrary to popular belief, Berlin does not have a butcher shop slinging pork knuckle on every corner. That’s OK, because what the city does have is Kumpel & Keule, an artisanal butcher with an in-house grill and some of the best sausages and hamburgers in the city. Founded by Germany’s youngest butcher-meister and a food activist, Kumpel & Keule serves up meat that is socially sourced and seriously delicious.
Markthalle Neun, Eisenbahnstrasse 42, 10997 Berlin
Mon, Wed, Fri-Sun 10am-6pm
Tue 10am-8pm, Thu 10am-10pm
Cocktails With Cachet
What better way to finish off a food tour than with something sweet? That’s where Coda comes in, with elaborate fine-dining desserts served alongside elaborate cocktails. Meurling recommends it as a spot for a casual (if inventive) cocktail or a six-course dessert menu.
Friedelstrasse 47, 12047 Berlin
+49 (0) 30 91496396
Tue-Thu 7pm-1am, Fri-Sat 7pm-2am
Overall, the choices on the menu in Berlin are astounding, which is why the bespoke tours offered by Berlin Food Stories serve such a valuable purpose. Journeys range from set itineraries encompassing a selection of Meurling and Fleischhacker’s top spots to odysseys tailored to the requirements of clients. “The food scene here can be many things to many people, and that’s a big part of its appeal,” says Meurling. “We are as passionate about a doner kebab as we are about fine-dining Japanese omakase: If it’s good, it’s good.”
- Duncan Forgan, OZY AuthorContact Duncan Forgan