Sunday, February 3, 2013

Berlin Dining Scene

Geoff and I love food. Geoff loves experimenting with new restaurants, and I always have my favorites no matter where we live, that I frequent on a regular basis. Between the two of us, we have tried a good amount of places here.

In Berlin, my favorite/highly recommended restaurants are:
  • Goodtime, which is a fairly expensive Thai restaurant with great food and great ambiance. My favorite location is the one in Zehlendorf. But, it runs quite pricey there. For an entree with a pot of tea, that can cost you over 20 Euros per person. I've also been to the Goodtime located in Mitte, and that was nice as well.
  • Since Goodtime is quite expensive, I have found a cheaper option that is equally tasty and located right in my neighborhood. Papaya is also a mini-chain, but the location on Kleistpark is by far my favorite of the two locations I've been to. The food there is so flavorful, exquisite, and spicy that, this summer when I was traveling in actual Thailand, I was craving the Thai food from Papaya. Papaya is not cheap compared to a lot of Berlin places, but definitely a cheaper option than Goodtime. An entree with tea will run you around 15 Euros. My favorite dishes from here are Ped Pad Ki Mau (fried duck with Ki Mau soy sauce, basil, chili, fresh peppers, etc) and Penang curry.
  • Addendum April 21, 2013: There is another nice Thai restaurant called Sida that is great for a group (if you make reservation early) and has good food across the menu. Their foods are flavorful and very affordable!
  • Yogi Haus is by far the best Indian restaurant in Berlin. We've been to several others, including some famous ones from Tripadvisor. Yogi Haus is huge, but it gets very crowded on Friday and Saturday nights, completely packed sometimes including all indoor and outdoor sitting areas. The mango curry there is to die for, and the price is great at this place.
  • Addendum May 26, 2013: There is an okra + lamb curry dish at Yogi Haus that is even better than their mango curry. This particular curry is a bit sour and super flavorful, reminding me of vindaloos from other parts of India. Try it!!!
  • There is an Ethiopian restaurant that is located half a block away from my house. It's called Abyssinia, and it's right around where this restaurant used to be.They have excellent service, and their food is delicious. I regularly order their Doro Wot, which is a type of red curry with chicken and a hard-boiled egg. If you're a fan of Ethiopian food, I highly recommend this place. They're so relaxed and so great about letting you hang out there, too.
  • Addendum April 21, 2013: There is another famous Ethiopian restaurant in our neighborhood called Bejte Ethiopia that has great reviews, but honestly it's not nearly as good as Abyssiniea. 
  • Besides that, a couple of blocks away from me has the most delicious Chinese restaurant I've yet been able to find in Berlin: Chi Chi Kan. They have some dimsum type of things, but those are just OK. The best things that they have, in my opinion, are their lamb chops with bok choi, and also their Exotic Chicken appetizer. It's a bit on the pricey side; if I order a starter, a pot of tea, and a main course, it's a lot of food but it can run close to 20 Euros.
  • Mustafa's on Mehringdamm is definitely not overrated. There are kebap places everywhere in Berlin, but their unique combination of crispy toasted bread, juicy meat, stirfried vegetables and potatoes, spiced fresh "salad" (lettuce and tomatoes and onions and such toppings), and flavorful sauces makes this place a magical kebap place even though the lines are so, so, SO slow-moving. Even if there are only 15 people in line, expect to wait for about 40 minutes. But the food is so tasty that it's definitely worth the wait.
  • Addendm May 26, 2013: Near Rathaus Steglitz, on Schlossstr across the street from the M48-Alexanderplatz bus stop, there is a little standalone kebap stand called Cebos. This came highly recommended from several colleagues, so I finally checked it out. It's great! Not as good as Mustafa's, but it's also without the ridiculous wait. If you eat spice, their spicy sauce is quite good -- not sweet like the normal kebap places, but actually with a serious kick. They also have similar ingredients to Mustafa's, with the extra potatoes and feta cheese... 
  • The best German Sunday brunch places I have been to are Cafe Morgenland and Deponie Nummer 3. The former is always impossible to get a reservation, and the latter is always quite free to go at the last minute. 
  • Addendum April 21, 2013: We have tried a few other great American-style brunch places. The California Breakfast Slam and its sister brunch place, the Chicago Breakfast Slam have absolutely banging! breakfast! The Mexican-styled breakfast with beans and eggs and tacos, guac, sour cream are to die for, and their French toasts are complex and mouth-watering as well.
  • The best Berlin cappuccinos I have tried are from Double Eye on Akazienstrasse and Maxway Cafe near Winterfeldtplatz. The latter, unfortunately, is in the middle of training new baristas, so sometimes your coffee can be very disappointing. If you care more about the ambiance than the quality of the coffee, then Cafe Bilderbuch is your best bet. The back part of the cafe just feels amazing, like you are sitting in someone's livingroom.
  • I am not a big fan of German cuisine, but Marjellchen is very delicious. They somehow turn the traditional German fare into juicy, flavorful affairs, and the atmosphere is very relaxed. Of course, you should anticipate to pay some extra money, because this is a restaurant that is popular on TripAdvisor. But, it is well worth a visit.
  • It's funny to come to Berlin to eat burgers, but if you live here, The Bird is a staple. This place is crazy; you have to make reservations even on a Tuesday night at 10pm, if you want a seat!! Once I went with my friend at 10pm on a Tuesday night with no reservations, and we had to stand at the bar to wait until someone kindly gave us their seat. Not only do they use real steak as meat, but their fries are also intoxicatingly good. The burgers are huge, so go with an appetite! Maybe afterwards you can walk through Mauerpark (the Bird is next door to the park) to burn off some calories.
  • My Japanese friend Mamiko recommended to me two Japanese restaurants, both of which I really like. Sasaya serves traditional Japanese food, and is quite expensive. The one time that I have been there, I ordered an eel rice, and it was the best eel rice I've ever had. Full stop. You need to reserve a spot though, like a week in advance, because the restaurant is quite small. Cocolo is a delicious ramen noodle bar, also small, near Hackeschermarkt. They have a small menu, but everything on their menu is mouth-wateringly good. In the winter time, expect to wait outside to be seated, because the restaurant really is that small and that popular. Next door to Cocolo is another hip sushi restaurant called Kuchi. Mamiko and I intend on checking it out tonight, so I'll keep you posted on our assessment.
  • Addendum April 21, 2013: Mamiko and I actually didn't go to Kuchi, but went instead to a place called Hashi, which means chopsticks in Japanese. It's a Japanese snacks place -- and Mamiko absolutely loved it! She said the foods are super authentic and make her feel like she's back in Japan. 
  • Of course, if you're already shopping on Ku'Damm anyway, the 6th floor of KaDeWe has lots of bustling gourmet food stalls. You should check this out, because it's a great touristy experience.
  • Nocti Vagus is an eating-in-the-dark gourmet cabaret restaurant. When we went, we had a lovely time, and both the food and the service there were excellent. It was a set menu (you get to choose from vegetarian, meat, or "surprise menu") of about 50 Euros per person before drinks, so definitely prepare to spend a fair bit of money if you plan to go. There is always a performance during dinner, and for us that was a lovely little surprise to hear the musicians perform in the dark.
  • Of the high-end restaurants that we have tried here, Don Camillo is probably my favorite in terms of its combination of food and service. They don't have printed menus. Instead, they bring you the ingredients and just describe to you how it's going to be made. We sat out in the garden on an autumn evening, and it was very comfortable pace for a very expensive meal (a couple of hundred Euros per person). Definitely something for a very special occasion. Geoff also likes Remake, which is on Big Hamburger Street (Grosse Hamburgerstr), funnily enough. We went to Remake for celebrating our engagement, and there their specialty is in finding new twists in old ingredients. Semi-recently we also went to Tim Raue, where the food was great but the service was horrible. (The chef basically came out to shout at us for the waitress's mistake in ordering me food that I had already said in the beginning that I was allergic to.)
 I hope that if you visit Berlin sometime, you'll find this list to be helpful! :) Mmmm food...

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