Week 45 : North Central India (Agni)

As many people know, especially the Brits, Berlin is dreadful for Indian food. For this reason I haven’t even tried any of the places in my Kiez knowing I will be disappointed. Agni is a long way from my Kiez, a 45 minute u-bahn and bus journey to Moabit. This area is supposed to be the new Neukolln in the way that Leipzig is supposed to be the new Berlin. This means that a blogger went there once, found one arty looking space and a dive bar and declared it as such. But nobody ever told Moabit this news and it continues to be a fairly boring, slightly run down area where you can live very cheaply but have to travel a long way to find much fun.

IMG_1886Agni is rumored to be the best Indian restaurant in Berlin and I have wanted to visit for a while. A rainy Wednesday evening provided us with the opportunity and we booked a table in the twelve seater restaurant and headed over accompanied by Maija (of Philippines visit fame). The menu seemed very long and sadly we found only a handful of  items listed as spicy. We chose pakoras to start followed by tandor cooked lamb vindaloo, tikka chicken and aloo paneer which is a pea curry. We also tried Sona beer for the first time which was okay but not as tasty as kingfisher beer. Maija took a lassi which was good but not cold.

IMG_1889Sadly our dreams of a really decent curry were not quite met. The pakoras were average and the chicken tikka dish was a bit mixed. The chicken itself was great, tasty and well grilled, but it came on this weird platter of fried potatoes, vegetables and bean sprouts which tasted really bland. The lamb dish vindaloo was better and fairly spicy although it would be laughed off the plate by a British vindaloo, again the meat was very good and they clearly know how to handle a tandor. The nan bread was the best I have had in Berlin but that isn’t saying much, the garlic was non extistent and it wasn’t as soft, pillowy  and crispy in parts as good nan can be.Maija enjoyed her vegetarian dish but I cannot trust the judgement of a Finn on whether a curry is worthy of a British curry-house. I think we might go back as it is the best option we have had so far in Berlin but my heart still hankers for a proper curry and we eagerly anticipate our return to Manchester on 16th October.

Date of visit 3 September 2015

Week 44 : Lasan (Kurdistan)

When I first set out to do this blog I specified that I wouldn’t confine the definition of a cuisine or country to a nation state with a border and a flag. Kurdistan is one such place, a land that traverses Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran without recognized sovereignty. There is however an officially recognized autonomous region of Kurdistan in the North of Iraq, which is one of the few good things that came out of the invasion of Iraq (although ISIS are doing their best to destroy it.)

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Lasan is an Iraqi Kurdish restaurant in Kotti (the kiez around Kottbusser Tor which is famous in Berlin for its multikulti mix of hipsters, punks, gay bars and immigrants). I used to have classes directly above it but never realised it was not Turkish like many of the other places near there and thought it was maybe a bit expensive. What had caught my eye were the Fladenbrot that they make fresh which is a Tandor cooked giant nan bread-like flatbread.

IMG_1805We visited as soon as I found out this place was Kurdish at lunchtime what felt like one of the last warm days of summer. We sat outside in the fresh air in the large seating area where we could people watch and Kotti is of course is a great place for this. We ordered a Teller each from the long menu; Richard went for grilled lamb and I went for a teller with kuba which are something I have never tried before so definitely in the spirit of the blog. We were immediately brought a bowl of free, delicious, warming lentil soup which was thick, yummy and delicately spiced. The tellers were a mixed bag, although the meat on Richard’s was really well grilled and very tasty, the value at 11 euros was not great. Mine however was excellent value, there were four kuba, which are tasty little potato dumplings filled with meat or vegetables and deep fried and then loads of side dishes of bulgar and herb salad, garlic sauce, spicy sauces, hummus, beans and vegetables. With the lentil soup and free, wonderful, flame-cooked fladenbrot it made for a very satisfying lunch for 8 euros. All the side dishes were delicious and felt nice and healthy.

IMG_1811 IMG_1808I recommended to a friend who loves lentil soup and she agreed that is was really good version and brought some other friends from Turkey and Jordan there for a visit the following weekend. They all agreed on the quality and deliciousness too. Lasan also do cheaper sandwiches which are made from the filled fladenbrot so this place will now be a kotti favourite whenever I am in the area for lunch.

Date of visit 28 August 2015

43 (part one): Hermanas (Argentina)

It could be said that this week is an incomplete review as we perhaps didn’t fully immerse ourselves into Argentinian cuisine (although wine definitely). But in my defense, our original choice El Camba de la Che in Kreuzberg let us down by being closed for summer holidays on the date we visited with only a sign on the door to notify people. We decided instead to eat at a nearby Argentinian wine bar and delay our visit until they re-opened in September. We could have visited one of the many Argentinian steak houses in Berlin but my reading suggests that these two places are arguably the only authentic places in Berlin ran by genuine Argentinians. A quick google search suggests that Asador is the best reviewed ‘Argentinian’ place to visit however when looking at the menu you can immediately tell that only the steak and name are Argentinian among the schnitzels and sausages on offer.

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Therefore, part one will focus on Hermanas (sisters) tapas bar and we will follow up with some hopefully authentic main courses in a few weeks time when the other place reopens.  Located on busy Warschauerstrasse near Boxhagenerstrasse, we must have cycled past Hermanas many times when we lived in Friedrichshain without noticing.  According to other blogs, this wine bar is fairly new, opened last year, and is run by two Argentinian sisters who wanted to highlight some of the best wines from small farms in their country (mainly their home Mendoza region) as a contrast to the steak house culture that is usually exported. The tapas offered is not necessarily Argentinian in origin but is Argentinian in style as they serve plates of delicious meat and cheese (Picadas) as well as that Argentinian classic the Empanada (a South American pasty).

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The decor is really well designed and feels warm and intimate with deep aubergine coloured walls, lots of natural materials and nice touches such as light fittings made from branches. Everything in fact felt well thought through from the well priced wine list with lots of deep and spicy red wines on offer to the delicious range of tapas meats and cheese available and the attentive, friendly service.We had two large glasses of delicious red wine each (less than 5 euros a glass and served in proper red wine glasses) and a mixed plate of meat and cheese with empanadas filled with meat(for 15 euros). The selection was really good with fresh bread and different cheeses ranging from mellow and creamy blues to picante and crumbly hard cheeses and also melt in the mouth charcuterie meat including parma style ham, breasola, chorizo and salami. The empanadas were very tasty and came with a spicy salsa.

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Nobody I have spoken to knows about this place despite often passing that way and I really hope that they survive as they were very quiet on a Saturday evening as it is a lovely bar and a great place to discover Argentinian wine and tasty tapas. I for one will be spreading the word starting now…