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Berlin Review


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Berlin Review

pace | Feb 8, 2010 07:28 PM

Back from Berlin and want to thank linguafoods and Trip Klause for your time and great suggestions by reporting on where we ate and what we thought.

First, we loved Berlin and wished we could have stayed longer! And, we were very happy with all the restaurants we went to. The ambience, service, and friendliness of a restaurant are as important to us as the food, and we were very pleased with all of those aspects as we ate our way through Berlin.

While there are jokes floating around these and other food boards to the contrary, in all the places we ate we found restaurant staff to be extremely friendly, happy to chat, and downright jovial!

If we had one complaint it is that we found the food – across the board – to be too heavily salted. In all fairness, I should say that we never add salt to food we eat in restaurants and use very little salt when cooking at home. So, while it might just be us, we thought the food was on the salty side everywhere we ate.

I am including the specific dishes we ordered, because we were very pleased with each.

Of the restaurants we went to, our favorites were Weinbar Rutz and Renger-Patzsch.

At Rutz, we had dinner upstairs and ordered the 4-course “surprise menu” with wine pairings. They were very accommodating about substitutions, when I asked that my meal not include any meat other than poultry. (Note that they do not serve the upstairs menu downstairs, nor the downstairs menu upstairs.) The place is visually striking, with its full glass wall downstairs that has floor-to-ceiling shelves on which empty wine bottles are treated like pieces of sculpture. A flight of pink stone-looking stairs (are they alabaster??) lead to the upstairs restaurant, which is dimly lighted with a candle on each table. The upstairs room is shaped like a “U” and is open in the center, allowing a view of the downstairs bar. We were seated along the front window wall, where -- outside the glass wall -- there’s a narrow balcony with concrete flower boxes planted with grape vines.

Each of the four courses consisted of about 4 wonderful small items, presented on narrow, rectangular white plates. Sorry I can’t recall everything we were served, but it was all terrific! Here’s what I can remember, but some courses included one item more than listed below.

1st course: sliced duck breast, foie gras, elderberry sorbet, aspic

2nd course: pike perch over cubed Jerusalem artichokes, potato and sauerkraut mash

3rd course: venison and pumpkin 3-ways (for the meat-eater)
vegetable dish for the non-meat-eater – spinach pasta topped with fresh spinach leaves, beet root puree, golden beets, baked feta cheese

4th course: apple strudel, port wine ice cream over honeyed apples, cubes of green apple aspic, chocolate/coffee cake

The cost for this 3-1/2 hour feast was 62 euros pp for food, 43 euros pp for wine. I regret that I cannot say what the wines were, but they were German and French, all white wines except for the venison course, sweet wines for the duck and dessert courses, all moderate pours – not huge, but not stingy.

The room at Renger-Patzsch looked stark and bright to us at first, but we fell in love with the place’s black and white photos (taken by the restaurant’s namesake) and its overall ambience – wooden benches, wainscoting, and table tops, frosted hanging globe ceiling fixtures, pretty bar upfront. We had read that seating is at communal tables, but there are two- and four-tops and all parties were seated individually while we were there. We got there at 8:30 PM and the room started getting busy at about 9:30 PM.

For a starter we shared the vegetarian Alsatian tarte of leeks, walnuts, and blue cheese (8 euros). It was so good that I wish I had one right now! It was very large and we were only able to eat half, then took the rest home. It would still be a lot to eat if ordered as an entrée for one person.

For mains, we had the beef shoulder (in red wine sauce with carrots, parsnips, dates wrapped in bacon, and potato rosemary cakes – 14 euros) and the quail chops (with porcini risotto and grilled vegetables – 15 euros). The quail was excellent, but the risotto was a little undercooked.

So, having said that those were our favorite restaurants, we also loved Reinhard’s and
Lutter & Wegner.

We had a fantastic dinner at the Reinhard’s on the Ku’damm. First, 6 Fines de Claires “G” oysters (15 euros) and 6 Tsarskaya oysters (17 euros) to share. Then, Barberie duck breast with cassis sauce, green beans, and an entire BOWL of creamy potato gratin. Yum, one of the best entrees of the visit! Our other main was beef bourguignon with mashed parsley potatoes and vegetables (17 euros). For dessert, we shared what was called a “chocolate parfait.” When we asked what was in it, our waitress explained that it had “Christmas spices,” which turned out to be cinnamon and nutmeg.

We had a late, light lunch at Lutter & Wegner, which is right across from the Gendarmenmarkt. We loved the room, with all the modern art – paintings and sculpture – on every surface, even the room’s columns. Lovely, with white tablecloths and warm service. We started with Celeste consommé (7 euros) and cauliflower veloute with smoked duck (7 euros). Next courses were beef tartar (16 euros) and what was called a smoked sturgeon “parfait”, although it did not at all resemble what we call a parfait. Attractively laid out on a plate were slices of wonderful smoked sturgeon and salmon along with quail eggs.

We also enjoyed Marjellchen and Leibniz-Klause, which seemed similar to us in that the dining rooms and menus of both were more traditional than modern.

At Marjellchen, where the room was very cozy and the service very accommodating, we started by sharing fried and breaded mushrooms in garlic cream, too large a portion to finish. One of our second courses was the cold appetizer of Pomeranian duck breast (with apple rings and cream). The other was calves liver with mashed potatoes, onions, and baked apple rings. As good as all that was, dessert turned out to be the highlight of the meal – “Tipsy prunes”, which were prunes in a sauce of brandy, rum, sugar, and crunchy oats, served with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. OMG good!! (Sorry, I did not write down prices at this meal.)

At Leibniz-Klause we started with broccoli gratineed with gorgonzola (delish – 11.50 euros and worth every bit of it) and oxtail soup (6.50 euros). Our mains were chicken fricassee (white wine sauce, peas, mushrooms, white asparagus) with buttered rice (13.50 euros) and pork stinko (riesen eisbein) with sauerkraut, horseradish, mustard, and mashed peas (15 euros). For dessert we had apple strudel with vanilla ice cream (6.50 euros) plus chocolate mousse with whipped cream (7 euros). (This was late in the trip and we were past sharing a dessert!)

We had a very nice lunch at KaDeWe’s Silberterrasse Restaurant. We did not have starters there. One main was Kalbsschnitzel (2 huge pieces) with warm potato salad with bacon (17.90 euros). For the other we had “graved lachs” – a beautiful salmon plate (with the edges dredged in finely chopped dill), the best potato fritters, honey mustard dill sauce, raw vegetables, and lettuces (14.90 euros). This dish was actually listed on the menu as an appetizer, but was large enough for a light main course.

We also had a pleasant light lunch at Literaturhaus Café. Rigatoni with rabbit ragu and a tomato, mozzarella, and olive pesto sandwich on ciabatta. It’s a calm, quiet and relaxed café on a pretty side street.

My least favorite dinner of the trip was probably at Austeria Brasserie. While the food was good, I just didn’t think it was up to the same standards as the restaurants listed above. The service was very professional and very friendly. The room was rather stark and bland. (I feel badly writing this because there was nothing really wrong with the place. The food was good and our waiter could not have been nicer. I just didn’t love it like I did the other restaurants we went to. Plus, when we were there, all the other diners were also tourists, a situation I really do not prefer.) We started with cucumber salad (6 euros) and lobster bisque with a seafood ravioli (9 euros). For our main courses we had a ½ cooked lobster (27 euros) and a “ladies portion” (150g) of filet with bérnaise sauce and potatoes (18 euros). For dessert we shared a 3-cheese plate – goat, cow, sheep – accompanied by grapes, walnuts, and mustard fig.

As for wine, we ordered only German wines and followed Klause’s suggestions – and as a result, we were very pleased. We had mostly red wines with our meals. As aperitifs, we discovered sekt and aperol sekt. Despite reading in Time Out Berlin that German red wines are not very good, we found them to be very enjoyable. We liked the 2007 Kasleberg Spatburgunder from Salwey (there’s an umlaut over the first “a” of each word, I just don’t know how to make the correct marks with my keyboard), the 2007 Mathias Gaul Pas de Deux , and the 2006 Mathias Gaul Spatburgunder, from Pfalz.

We also discovered German bitters. Our favorite was Borgman, followed by Underberg. Also tried Radeburger Bitter, which was a little too strong for our taste.

I believe that’s it! Thank you again for your help in finding memorable restaurants and meals in Berlin. We can’t wait to return!!

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