Week 27 : Txokoa : Basque Region

When I decided to include autonomous regions in this blog, this basque tapas restaurant was the place I had in mind. We pass Txokoa many times when we go out for drinks on Weserstraße in Neukölln and I have been tempted for a while. We finally got the chance when we were looking for somewhere nice to go to with a friend and his friends from London one Wednesday back in April. We found the prices to be a little high for tapas in Berlin but decided that London folk wouldn’t bat an eyelid at 6-8 euros for high quality tapas as that wouldn’t even buy you some patatas bravas in London.

We knew we had definitely made the right choice to impress visitors from London when we saw the intricate and intriguing menu. We were also pleased to discover that they were foodies like us and were as enthused by the choices available as we were – it is hard to find many octopus lovers out there! We initially decided upon ten dishes between five of us with the option to chose more if we needed. We didn’t need more dishes after the first round but we wanted more as they had been soooo good and so we chose another selection of five of our favourites. When each dish came it was accompanied by little gasps of ‘oooh’ from everyone as they were so pretty and inviting. The highlights were the braised octopus with cinnamon potatoes, stuffed piquillo peppers with cod and seaweed, venison steak (cooked to perfection), sucking pig belly with wild mushroom and green apple, the slow cooked pork croquettes and the prawns with squid ink risotto. They were incredible, everything being so delicately and precisely flavoured and perfectly cooked.  Suddenly the price tag seemed very cheap as this is really high end cooking and the portions were decent too for tapas. We chose a very decent Garnacha which was around the 20 euro mark to accompany the food.

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prawns with risotto

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braised octopus

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white asparagus

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sweet piquillo peppers stuffed with salt cod and seaweed

pork belly

pork belly

If Txokoa represents authentic basque cooking then I cannot wait to visit – amazing! Date of visit 29 April 2015

Update 2017 – Still open. Have visited several times since this first visit and the quality remains very high but they have increased their prices so no longer such good value.

Price for two course meal with drinks for two persons: 50-80 euros depending on appetite

Rating: 9/10

Address: Weserstraße 6, 12047 Berlin

Website: http://txokoa.de/

Week 26 : Thai Park (Thailand)

Ok, so this is not technically a restaurant but if you want the most authentic thai food in Berlin then you cannot find anywhere better. I have been in love with the idea of Thai Park since I first heard of it; it is a park in Charlottenburg where Thai families come out into the park in Spring and Summer to share, cook and sell Thai food – how perfect for celebrating reaching the half year mark of my blog. I visited with Maija on a Saturday afternoon back in April as soon as it had restarted for the season.
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Preussenpark in Wilmersdorf/Charlottenburg is the location of this unique culinary delight. The park itself is quite attractive with lots of big horse chestnut trees but the Thai stalls make it even prettier as they are decorated with colourful umbrellas. When you first arrive it can be quite overwhelming, there is so much choice and no signs to help you chose. You need to follow your eyes and your nose and see what takes your fancy. There are woks everywhere deep frying chicken wings, pork belly, banana in batter and even whole fish. There are fresh papaya salads being prepared to varying degrees of spiciness. You can chose between spring rolls, satay sticks, steamed buns curries, sticky deserts, pad thai noodles and hosts of other things that you have no idea what they may be until you ask. The whole experience is intense and exciting.
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We were joined by a Thai friend Nawapat (Mynt for short) who was also visiting the park for the first time and acted as a guide for us. She helped Maija chose a papaya salad and a whole fried fish which looked like dorade perhaps. I chose some crispy pork belly, a papaya and pork salad and a steamed bun with…yet more pork! For herself Mynt chose what she called a stinky fish salad which was very true to its name and unforgivingly hot – she was delighted with it. Our other friend Don chose some pad thai and spring rolls. This feast was complimented by Brazilian cocktails made by a lovely bronze skinned middle aged Brazilian lady who freepoured us some strong caipirinhas. Everything was really good, especially my salad which hit all the taste sensations you expect from Thai food. The fish was also delicious, very fresh and a bargain at 8 euros. We all finished very happy and full and vowed to return week after week after week until we have tried it all!

Date of visit: April 25th.

Week 28 : Matreshka (Russia)

I had a really low expectation of Russian food with thin watery soups, endless slices of beetroot and general awfulness in mind. Thankfully Matreska proved me wrong. image We were pleased to be seated early on a Saturday evening as the restaurant was reserved restaurant. The reason for the full bookings came apparent later on when people stated arriving wearing Russian and Georgian flags and explained to us they were celebrating the end of World War Two. They even gave me a rosette to wear which I swiftly removed when I left the restaurant when Richard pointed out to me that the mass rape of German women was not something Berliners probably wanted to be reminded of. image And so to the food. It was good, better than expected. We ordered a mixed starter of salmon blinis, deviled eggs with salmon caviar and aubergines. It was pretty tasty especially the blinis. For mains we shared a plate of meat pelmeni (Russian pierogi) and a beef stroganoff with mashed potatoes. The stroganoff had good flavours but the meat was scant and being served with mash meant that it was all a bit too soft with no texture. The pelemi were good though although not as yummy as the pirogi we’ve eaten here. image The best thing though was the vodka. The starter came with birch vodka shots which was really tasty and drinkable unlike most vodka I’ve tried. We then ordered a honey and chilli and pine kernel vodka – also good and then we were given free shots with the bill! We also had a large st Petersburg beer each with the food so we left quite tipsy. I we go back I’d get a bottle of the birch and a big plate of blinis and pelmeni and be very happy!

Date of visit May 9th

24 : Chilli Chutney (Afghanistan)

I feel a bit sorry for this cute little Afghan cafe as it is situated next to Markthalle 9 in Kreuzberg so often has to compete with some of Berlin’s finest street food. It was certainly very quiet when we visited with friends on a Saturday back in April. The weather had just started to get warm so we sat outside on a table with a chequered tablecloth and potplants. We chose a selection of dishes from the small menu including dumplings with meat filling and vegetables with Afghan sauce and rice. Everything was quite nice but didn’t really give me much of an impression of Afghan cuisine. The vegetable dishes were very bland and although tasty the dumplings were nothing special. Unfortunately on price and taste it cannot compete with the market over the road I wont be rushing back when in Wrangelkiez. Again no photos – sorry. Date of visit Saturday 10th April. (We missed a week as we were in Romania)

Update July 2017 : Still open

Price for two course meal with drinks for two persons: 35-50 euros

Rating: 7/10

Address: Eisenbahnstraße 5, 10997 Berlin

Website: https://www.facebook.com/chili.chutney.berlin/