First of all, thanks to past contributers for considerable help in preparing the eating itinerary for our Berlin trip.
Ironically, we started with the generally well-known Lutter & Wegner (which hadn’t been high on our list) largely because of its proximity to our hotel. Yes, I’m well aware this is a mecca for Wiener schnitzel, and about 50% of their guests were partaking of such on our visits. But the menu also offers specials and their own takes on other classics, and during our pair of visits my wife took advantage of the former while I focused on the latter. Her starters consisted of two flavorful soups, a rich potato and a foamy asparagus, and then two chops of considerable thickness, the first a Scotch lamb and the second a veal, both grilled to her preferred standard of rareness and both accompanied by a herbed butter, a meaty sauce, and assorted vegetables. I chose the classics, and being of a contrary nature, I avoided the Wiener schnitzel, opting instead the first night for the sauerbraten, which turned out to be a rather dense cut of beef in a good tangy/sweet sauce. My second night I chose the boiled beef, their take on Tafelspitz, and this proved to be an even denser cut of meat awash in a horseradish-cream sauce (with some welcome gratings of fresh horseradish) accompanied by an indifferent pile of boiled cubed potatoes and carrots. Frankly, this dish would have been perfectly at home on the menu of the DDR museum-restaurant, the one that specializes in preunification East-German cuisine (although I would like to put in a good word here for their sundae with sour cherries, one of the DDR restaurant’s more palatable offerings). As with most of the restaurants we visited in Berlin, both service and atmosphere at Lutter & Wegner were welcoming and friendly throughout.
Lutter & Wegner, Charlottenstrasse 56; (49-30) 20-29-54-0.
We found a far better, and probably more traditional version of Tafelspitz at Ottenthal’s with a more tender cut of beef swimming in a light broth and accompanied by hashed browns, cabbage, creamed spinach, and horseradish, all (thankfully) in their separate compartments. My wife’s lamb shoulder, however, was not as successful as the double lamb chops of the previous night, and although the special dessert, a rhubarb strudel, looked promising, by the time we were ready to order it, the waiting staff seemed to have disappeared from the premises, so we did, too, sans dessert.
Ottenthal, Kantstraße 153; (49-30) 31-33-16-2
By far, he best piece of beef I had was at Lokal, not boiled but braised, positioned on a root puree and a bed of spinach and as succulent as could be desired. Continuing her obsession with chops, my wife ordered the wild pig, and this one was as moist and tender as those from L&W. Memorable and interesting also were the starters, a turnip-rhubarb soup and rolled matjes herring atop black lentils. Unfortunately, the same thing could not be said about the desserts, a distinctly unmemorable tray of cheeses and an apple parfait, but nevertheless, Lokal turned out to be our favorite restaurant in Berlin, perhaps also because of its value and its clean, blonde-wood, hip-neighborhood atmosphere, along with its successful dishes and an interesting menu.
Lokal, Linienstraße 160; (49-30) 28-44-95-00
We were also quite fond of Weinbar Rutz. When we travel we prefer the mid-range restaurants that focus on traditional cuisine and local ingredients that are hard to find elsewhere, and that are, perhaps, doing interesting things with both of them. These last two restaurants best fit those preferences for us, and with Weinbar Rutz sharing a kitchen with the Michelin-starred Rutz upstairs we even got a taste of haute-cuisine here. Both our salmon-trout and Oldenburg duck were worthy of stars, and the white-asparagus salad and the raw-milk cheeses we shared would not be easy to find in our homebase. We also appreciated the individual glasses of wine selected by the staff for each of our courses. Neither of these last two restaurants is large, and reservations, certainly on weekends, would seem to be essential.
Weinbar Rutz, Chausseestraße 8; (49-30) 24-62-87-60
And, oh yes, I strongly recommend a visit to Mustafa’s right in front of the Mehringdamm UBahn stop. Its huenchen doenner mit gemuese (mit alles) is clearly a candidate for one of the world’s great sandwiches. Be prepared to wait; others agree with me.