Week 34 : Cafe do Brasil (Brazil)

On the day after the football team received yet another defeat at the hands of Colombia, we went to eat in one of Berlin’s few Brazilian restaurants and arguably the most authentic; Cafe do Brasil on Platz der Luftbrucke near the old Tempelhof Airport terminal.The restaurant interior is really inviting with plants covering the walls and a tropical theme which is almost naff but somehow they get manage to away with it. We ate on a Thursday which is churrasco and caipirinha night, meaning that they are discounted (churrasco is 10.90 and caipirinha 3.50). We sipped caipirinhas whilst choosing from the small but authentic seeming menu and decided upon Frango (fried chicken with spicy sauce) and fried shrimp dumplings, churassco mixed meat skewers and Brazil’s national dish; feijoada.

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The starters were great, fresh and crisp with tasty red and green spicy sauces. The main courses made us regret chosing a starter as they were ginormous! Richard’s was a huge skewer with steak, chorizo style sausage and chicken served with a fried banana, rice, salad, salsa and black beans. The meat was all well cooked with a tasty marinade and the salsa was genuinely hot – yay! My feijoada was really delicious, a cast iron pan with pork knuckle cooked with smokey sausages, chorizo and black beans served with rice and salsa. We were absolutely stuffed by the time we finished our meal and very pleased. When we return we would skip the starters and go straight for the mains and leave with a little bit more dignity.

feijoada

feijoada

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churassco plate

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shrimp croquettes

Date of visit: 18th June 2015

Week 33 : Amira (Egypt)

Having done Lebanon I didn’t think I would do any other Arab Middle Eastern restaurants this year for the blog as they seem to be mostly similar. We changed our minds when we came across Amira as it had plenty of options you don’t see on your average sharwama and falafel joint menu. We also changed our minds as it was 8pm, we were hungry and Amira is a five minute walk up Reuterstrasse from my new flat.

The fact that it was empty should have been the first warning sign but we were hungry and it looked pleasant enough. We initially sat outside on the street but it got too cold so we moved inside. It was strange being the only people in the restaurant and we couldn’t relax as we had caught the gaze of the elderly proprietress who seemed to be stuffing some kind of filling into some kind of animal intestine on the table near us. The TV was blaring out very loud Egyptian news and adverts which made it hard to converse but thankfully meant that even if we tried to talk nobody could hear us anyway.

 

Ful medames

Ful medames

The food, when it came was initially okay. We chose starters of ful medames (beans) and falafel which were okay, although the portion of beans was ridiculously large for the small amount of bread that came with it, the falafel was fairly tasty and filled with herbs. The main courses were however rather dismal. I had chosen lamb, spinach and rice but didn’t expect it to come in the guise of a very viscous dark green salty soup with some small pieces of boiled lamb inside with a huge bowl of overly seasoned rice and vermicelli on the side. Richard went for the marinated chicken with vegetables and rice which consisted of dry but greasy chicken pieces that tasted of oil, served with equally greasy peppers and potatoes and another over seasoned bowl of rice/vermicelli which was the colour of mushrooms. I managed a few mouthfuls of the foul, strange textured broth before loud declaring “mmmn, I’m s0 full” but Richard blithely finished his greasy plate as he said there was nothing particularly wrong with it even though there was nothing right about it either. On the plus side this dismal meal was rather cheap and I probably lost weight that day though not eating much. I won’t rule out Egyptian food on the basis of this meal as this might be a bad example but I won’t be rushing to find a better example either. This place seemed well reviewed online but turned out to be quite the disappointment which is a shame considering its proximity.

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Viscous spinach broth

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Decent enough falafel

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greasy chicken and potatoes

Date of visit 1oth June 2015

Week 32 : Gel Gör & Imren Grill (Turkey)

A happy confluence of factors led to us unintentionally reviewing Turkish food on the day of the Turkish general election. We had that week moved to Neukolln, one of the most Turkish areas of Berlin and we wanted to stay local and cheap and so Turkish food therefore seemed like a great option for this week’s blog. After we had decided upon this, I received a text from a friend inviting me to Turkish election party and we decided indeed that Sunday 7th June was most definitely fated to be Turkish day.

Kofte teller

Kofte teller

I started researching where we could find the best Turkish restaurants in the area and came upon a bit of a blank. The names Hasir, Defne and Adana kept coming up on the lists of supposed best restaurants but when you started looking at the reviews they all seemed somewhat lacking and a bit expensive. However, when you googled ‘Turkish food’, then the results were much more encouraging with lots of different highly rated options coming up in the search. It seemed that if you want good Turkish food in Berlin then the place to do so is not in a fancy sit -down restaurant but in a busy street imbiss which makes sense considering that Berlin is the home of the Döner Kebab. We decided upon not one but two options in our neigbourhood to try two different types of street food; kofte and doner.

meat close up

meat close up

As we set out on a very warm Sunday afternoon you could feel that something was up in the atmosphere, Turkish and Kurdish flags seemed more prominent and there were lots of cars driving up an down beeping their horns (although this could have also equally been because of a Turkish wedding). We started our Turkish street food odyssey at a favourite of ours; Gel Gör on Kottbusser Damm which supposedly (and in our opinion) serves the best kofte in Berlin. In the spirit of the blog we decided to try something different than the usual kofte halloumi in bread that has become a lunchtime staple. We ordered an Adana and Kofte teller, Adana is a specialty of the Adana region of Turkey, a long thin skewer of lamb flavoured with chilli and sumac, Kofte are smaller skewers of spiced and marinated calf and lamb meat. The teller (plate) came with soft pide bread and lots of different side salads and sauce. As usual for this place, the taste was fresh and delicious. They cook their food on coals which makes a lot of difference to other similar kofte imbiss in Berlin and the salad has lots of herbs and lemon juice which gives it a vibrant fresh taste.

Gel Gor

Gel Gor

After our teller we went to meet our friends who were at a bar in Kreuzberg awaiting the election results to see whether the HDP (People’s Democratic Party – Kurdish and leftists) had managed to reach the 10% threshold for parliament in order to prevent the single party president Erdogan from achieving a two thirds majority and changing the constitution. Our friends were delighted when the initial results came in to show that the HDP had managed to get 12% of the seats and that Erdogans party had lost a lot of support since the last election. We left them to their celebrations and went off for our second Turkish meal of the day.

view from Klunkerkranich

view from Klunkerkranich

Imren’s is a classic Turkish snack bar on Karl Marx Strasse in the heart of Neukolln and also just happens to be across the road from one of our favourite bars in Berlin, Klunkerkranich, a bar on top of a multistory carpark with the best view in Berlin. After a few beers there we were super hungry and ready for Döner at Imren’s. We chose a classic Döner kebab and a Döner teller. The meat was really good, succulent with lots of flavour, and the sauce was – hurrah -genuinely scharf (hot)! The place was ugly inside but absolutely packed full of Turkish people and other Neukolln residents (hipsters) at 9pm on a Sunday.

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Imren's Doner

Imren’s Doner

The best part of the day came later though, when we went to meet my Turkish friend Belma at Kottbusser Tor where an impromptu Kurdish party was taking place to celebrate the success of the HDP. The street was filled with men dancing and women cooking kofte (sadly we were full) and everyone was jubilant. The party moved inside into a next door queer bar Sudblock where a DJ pumped out Kurdish popular music and men and women danced together round and round in circles, much to the delight and amusement of some of the more regular clientele. When we left at 11pm the party was in full swing and we felt very pleased to have been part of something historical which was truly multicultural and transnational and uniquely Berlin in nature.

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Belma and Richard celebrating

celebrating HDP's momentous gains

celebrating HDP’s momentous gains

Week 31 : Yaam – Jamaica

When we lived in Manchester we had a really good Jamaican jerk chicken joint round the corner on speed-dial. We have eaten some great super-spicy jerk chicken and tasty jerk pork cooked on oil drums at carnivals in Manchester, Leeds and London. And I have developed my own killer jerk marinade recipe over the years. I guess what I am trying to say is that coming from the UK, we know a thing or two about Caribbean food thanks to our shameful but culinarily profitable history of colonialism.

Germany of course does not have this historical legacy of colonial immigration and therefore does not have much of a population of Afro-Caribbean migrants. This is very much reflected in its dismal selection of Caribbean food places (with the exception of Merle’s Rum and Roti – see week 6). So, in order to find decent Jamaican food in Berlin we decided to go to the place where a lot of Afro-Caribbean immigrants hang out themselves – Yaam.

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Yaam is part club, part beach bar, part reggae theme park, part community center situated next to the river Spree. Sometimes you have to pay to enter, sometimes not. Unfortunately we chose an occasion when it cost 3 euros entry to eat some food there but we could not stay and soak up the vibes as we had to be somewhere afterwards. We mentally added this premium to our meal and decided that it was still good value at 9 euros each (including entry).

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There are a few different African and Caribbean food options in the ramshackle entrance area to Yaam but we headed straight to the one with the Jamaican flag to try the jerk chicken. The menu consisted of photos with no prices and no explanations. We asked for jerk chicken with dumplings and rice and hoped it wasn’t too pricey. Ten minutes later two large plates of chicken rice and gravy arrived with some dumplings on the side.

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Dumplings

The portions were good as was the charring on the chicken skin but the ‘jerk’ sauce was nothing like we have had back home. It was sweet with a bit of spicing but no real heat at all. We were pretty disappointed and wondered if this is what the regulars at Yaam eat themselves or a bland version designed for Westerners (Germans). We can really see a theme developing here…

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jerk chicken with rice and beans

I will stick to making my own jerk marinade, especially after the purchase of a thai bird’s eye chilli plant in order to satiate our need for real spice in Berlin., and so the hunt for authentically spicy food continues…

Date of visit 1 June 2015

Week 30 : Shalimar : Pakistan

Unfortunately I will always remember this place less for the tasty food but for it being the day that we thought we discovered that our lovely little cat Lyra had cancer. Looking back now, we were so sad when we were eating this meal which Richard forced me to go to despite wanting to stay in bed. Thankfully, the initial diagnosis that day from the vet of cancer has no been found to be wrong and Lyra is now fine but the day we got the S-Bahn to Gesundbrunnen Wedding to Shalimar for Pakistani food, stands out as one of my worst.

As for the restaurant and meal, they were great, with few complaints except for the usual problems with spicing for the German palette. Richard ordered a jalfrezi dish from the ‘Spicy’ section and although impressed with its delicate and intricate spicing he found it distinctly unfiery. I ordered a delicious lamb dal which delivered on flavour and comfort. We also had pakoras to start (cauliflower and chicken) which were nicely crisp and tasty. Price-wise it wasn’t super cheap but was well worth it as rice comes with each dish. The garden was nice to sit out in on a warm evening and inside looked rather plain but warm and welcoming.

Cauliflower pakora

Cauliflower pakora

I guess that the food is very authentic in terms of spicing and types of food available but they would need to introduce more chilli to make it more authentic and akin to the Pakistani food I have eaten in the UK. I would like to come back again on a less sober occasion as the food was pretty good but it wasn’t so amazing as to warrant a trip halfway across Berlin from Neukolln where we now live.

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Dal, rice and jalfrezi

And to end on a happy note, here is a picture of Lyra basking in the sun, happy and healthy as she is. And long may she be so.

Lyra sunbathing

Lyra sunbathing

Date of visit 19 May 2015

Week 29 : Lon Men’s Noodle House (Taiwan)

We have moved house recently so unfortunately the writing of this blog has got a bit behind. This means that the details of the meals between mid May and now have become a bit sketchy. I will however do my best to fill in the gaps and use the photos I took as a reminder.

So… way back on May 16th we went to watch Hertha BSC play Frankfurt in the Olympic Stadium. The match itself was very boring but thankfully the meal that followed was much more interesting and enjoyable. As we were over that way we decided to eat at Lon Men’s in Charlottenburg, a Taiwanese restaurant with a very good reputation.

After standing in the drizzle drinking beer all afternoon we had quite a hunger on so ordered a large range of dishes from the extensive menu. Sadly, the steamed buns with duck were off the menu that day which was very disappointing as they are supposedly one of the highlights and Taiwanese steamed buns are one of our favourite things to eat.

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Instead we ordered lots of different wontons, noodle and rice dishes to share. The highlights were the chilli wontons and the spicy meat noodles which we will definitely order again when we return for the steamed buns. Everything was really good though except the seaweed which I expected to be crispy but came in floppy ribbons. We all got very full very cheaply with some very delicious food.

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