Week 37 : Ankor Wat (Cambodia)

This week we visited another West German restaurant as we have almost run out of local options. Ankor Wat is situated in Eastern Moabit which is supposed to be the new up and coming area in Berlin apparently. This restaurant however is definitely not that, having the feel of an old established local favourite. There were plenty of locals dining inside and the interior was faded with a worn carpet and an old fashioned ‘Oriental’ restaurant feel but also very pleasant with lots of paintings, icons and plants.

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Their menu was fairly large with lots of dishes that resembled other Asian cuisines such as Cantonese and Thai. The lack of a distinct cuisine was perhaps unsurprising considering the location and size of Cambodia . We chose a spicy beef salad and spring rolls for a starter and then the flambéed duck and beef stir fry for a main. The starters were very good, especially the salad which was fresh with little crispy pieces of roasted rice on top. The spring rolls came with four different dipping sauces that hit all the flavour notes and included quite a fiery chili sauce.

wpid-wp-1438157589043.jpegThe main dishes were mixed. The duck dish was huge and impressive when it was covered in rice wine and set alight. It tasted pretty good but  since I have started cooking my own duck at home to a perfect medium rare I tend not enjoy the way it is always served in most East Asian restaurants as overcooked and going dry. The beef unfortunately wasn’t so good and reminded me of an average Chinese takeaway. It wasn’t cheap either at 12 euros for the beef and 14 for the duck. Other people were having a Cambodian style fondu which looked interesting but that was over 30 euros to share.

The restaurant whilst attractive with pretty good food is not somewhere I will rush back to. We are completely spoiled in Berlin by other similar and much cheaper cuisines in Berlin especially the Vietnamese and Indonesian places I have visited for half the price with even better quality.

Date of visit 8th July

Week 39 : Airaing Two (North Korea)

Coinciding with North Korea’s national day of celebration for the end of the Korean war was our visit to Berlin’s second North Korean restaurant. The first is Airaing in Wedding which is apparently a long established local favourite. They opened their new outlet in Kreuzberg near Görlitzer park a couple of months ago and I discovered it a few weeks ago passing by on the bus. We’ve been excited to visit ever since and I have retrospectively changed the other blog to read South Korea to allow this ‘new’ cuisine.

IMG_1707The interior was everything I imagined a north Korean restaurant to look like; sparse and utilitarian but sadly without any ridiculous posters of any of the Kim Jong dynasty chaps. I had read another blog about Airaing that described the interior as being akin to that in an AA meeting room. This is fairly apt especially if you imagine a time at which many of Berlin’s hipsters decide to come off the booze and join a meeting. The place was absolutely packed with bearded guys and their willowy ultra-hip girlfriends all heartily tucking into table grills and mountains of Bibimbap. (Where do these girls put it all? Why are they so skinny? Bitches!) Fulfilling 50% of the client criteria we sat down on the last remaining table and waited and waited and waited to catch the eye of the waitress.

IMG_1709I assumed that the brusque inattentive service must be authentically North Korean as they’re not exactly famous for their hospitality or service culture. But the food when it came totally made up for it. We ordered the table grill with pork belly and octopus and a pancake type thing with seafood. The grill is brought to your table and placed on a camping gas stoves for you to attend to. They check in every now and then to see if you can turn it down low when food poisoning is no longer an option.

IMG_1710The flavours of the bbq grill were delicious hitting the perfect levels of spiciness and sweet and sour stickiness, and to our surprise the meat and fish were also cooked to perfection. The grill came with lots of yummy little side dishes such as kimchi, seaweed, potatoes and marinated cucumber. The pancake was also really good but made it far too much food and we left half. Drinks were very cheap at 2.50 for a large beer and 3 Euros for a large bottle of mineral water and the whole bill was 38 Euros with a tip.

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For a long time the only Korean place in Kreuzberg was the over-hyped, pricier, flashier kimchi princess which this cheap North Korean flavour beast really knocks out of the water. Airaing two will definitely become a firm local favourite.

Date of visit 27 July 2015

Week 36 : Restaurant Macedonia (Macedonia)

After a trip to the beautiful Schlachtensee lake we stopped off at Restaurant Macedonia on the way home out in Steiglitz. This part of Berlin is very West Berlin and very suburban. The last time I visited this S-bahn I got in an argument with an old lady who was pissed off that I wanted to fit my bike in the lift with her and told me to wait for it to come back. My German isn’t good enough yet to call her a provincial old biddy so unfortunately she won that time. When we arrived at the restaurant which is next to the S-bahn the other guests were all pensioners enjoying a stein of beer in the late afternoon sun and I felt super young which is a nice change from being in Neukolln where I feel quite elderly.

The restaurant had a pleasant terrace which felt very southern balkanesque in the 35 degree heat. Inside was quite quaint and rustic. We sat outside and perused the large menu which had both Macedonian and German cuisine. This being a blog visit we totally ignored everything non Balkan and decided to share a portion of the regional classic; cevapi beef sausages, a whole grilled dorade and grilled large prawns. There was no Macedonian beer on the menu so we went for some refreshing German pils. The prices were okay, my dorade was 16 euros for a whole fish and the plate of cevapi was only 7 euros and came with fries, salad and salsa.
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The cevapi were as good as I remembered from my visit to Bosnia although they didn’t come with the thick almost clotted cream that you get there. The grilled dorade was really fresh and moist and delicious until I got to the raw centre and had to send it back. A strange thing then happened, Richard finished his perfectly grilled butterflied prawns and I sat and waited for my fish to return. I had eaten almost half and was expecting either the same fish or a whole new one. Instead what came back was a new fish that had been cooked to perfection and then almost the amount I had eaten had been removed essentially replacing like for like. The apology was scant and it was kind of annoying to be waiting for so long for the new fish without an offer of a free drink and it also made me late for a meeting. That was the only complaint though.
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The food was really good and if I am hungry again on the way back from the lake and fancy a piece of Mediterranean (Mittelmeer) sunshine and flavours then this is a good choice for a stop off on the long way back.

Date of visit July 5th

Week 38 : Tierra Colombiana (Colombia)

This particular visit was not going to be allowed to happen without a special guest in attendance; my best friend Stephanie who is from Medellin in Colombia. We have been trying to organise this visit for nearly half a year and with the sad deadline of Stephanie’s departure home from Berlin looming we finally went to Tierra Colombiana which is in Bergmankiez in Kreuzberg, for what Steph describes as some of the best cuisine in the world.

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The place itself is pretty small with a simple pleasant restaurant down some steps, a few tables on the pavement and a small delicatessen with Colombian goods attached. The reviews online are mainly less than favourable so I didn’t know what to expect. Apparently the service is very poor which is un-Colombian as they pride themselves on their hospitality. We were however greeted by a very pleasant young guy who although he took his sweet time with everything was very nice and friendly. Stephanie acted as our guide for this cuisine that we have never tried before and she told us what to order. Richard ordered a Colombian beer and Steph and I shared a pitcher of beer with Colombiana which is an orange soft drink making a sort of shandy (Radler) type drink. It was really good, very refreshing and Rich enjoyed both beers that he tried.

IMG_1626We were advised by Stephanie not to go too crazy with the starters as Colombian portions were pretty big. We ordered a portion of epanadas with meat to share and then three Bandeja Paisa – Bandeja means platter in English (Rich of course had to add rump steak to his!). The empanadas were awesome and the salsa was super tasty, I could have just sat down with a huge plate to myself. The platters were also great, they included rice and bean stew, chunky chorizo sausages, a fried egg, patacones (plantain) and Chicharrón which is crispy pork belly – they really do enjoy their meat in Colombia and Stephanie loved every mouthful declaring it definitely authentic. Richard’s original steak was way overcooked so he sent it back and a much better cooked replacement arrived quickly with an apology. The normal Paisa were a good size and the one with steak was even bigger but Richard happily finished it all.

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It wasn’t particularly cheap for Berlin standards but for UK prices it would be great value. We really enjoyed it though and spent most of the meal discussing when we might visit Stephanie and what we will eat.

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the lady herself, my beautiful best friend Steph

Date of visit 14 July 2015

Week 35 : Cafe Valentin (Sweden)

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Licht envy and irritating yanks

Around the corner from our new flat is the first cafe to feature in this blog. Cafe Valentin is a Swedish (hipster) cafe which sells lots of delicious traditional healthy Swedish dishes but sadly for Richard – all vegetarian! The whole experience turned out to be offensive to Rich, from the moment he saw the lack of meat on the menu to the awful loud Americans on the table in the corner who shared every detail of their conversation with us through sheer volume including the intriguing “My friend rohyphnoled herself“! He even hated the infuriatingly precise and beautiful vintage decor. I quite liked it, but then again I am female with a love of all things vintage and I had extreme light fitting envy for the beautiful sputnik style 1960s ceiling light.

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The menu as I said was entirely vegetarian, which is fine by me but the place didn’t advertise itself as such and in my mind Swedish menus should have some kind of fish on them. The menu consisted of homemade smørrebrød with lots of toppings which all seemed to be variations on avocado and egg and also knackerbrod which is a crispy baked cracker also with different toppings. There were also a lot of yummy looking cakes and a full coffee, tea and soft drink menu. I chose the smørrebrød with beetroot and goats cheese with a flat white and Rich went for knackerbrod with fried eggs and peppers with fresh orange juice. Everything was really tasty especially my sweet and salty beetroot dish with a fresh salad and Rich loved the knackerbrod which was full of delicious seeds but we found the portions were a bit stingy for the prices and we left hungry. The flat white was also a bit disappointing resembling more a cappuccino – which is my pet hate – if you cannot understand how to make a proper velvety flat white then DON’T PUT IT ON THE MENU! I bought one of their ‘famous’ cinnamon buns to eat at home later that day but also found that disappointing and dry especially compared to the awesome yummy moist ones that my friend Gina had made me the previous week.

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Goats cheese and beetroot

The bill totalled 20 euros with tip and I can honestly say that we have eaten much better food in Berlin for less. In summary then I might go there again with women but it was pretty much a case of style over substance. So definitely authentically Swedish and hipster then! Boom 🙂

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Knackerbrod

Date of visit 25 June 2015