Week 52 : Chicha (Peru)

One of my good friends from uni is half Peruvian, but prior to this week’s visit my only knowledge of their cultural exports were pisco sours and  Paddington Bear, and I’m pretty sure that Paddington is more of a British invention anyway. I also know that they have very good seafood from the Pacific coast and strong cultural links with Japan with a smallish ethnic Japanese community living there. But that is the extent of my knowledge so far.

In Berlin I was surprised  to learn that there are enough Peruvian restaurants for another blog to have written a post about eating Peruvian in Berlin. We chose the newest and closest of these options; Chicha on Friedelstrasse in Neukolln. Approximately three minutes walk from our front door. 🙂

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‘Chicha’, according to Wikipedia mostly refers to a fermented corn drink, mainly from Peru but also from other parts of South America, which is often linked to ceremonial occasions and rituals. Urban dictionary agrees but also offers it as a Puerto Rican word for lady parts, an alternative name of Peruvian cumbia music or a the leftovers of a Venezualan spliff. I guess this newly opened Peruvian street food tapas bar was going for the first option although we didn’t see any versions of chica to drink so we cannot say for certain.*

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The decor was pretty minimal and very in keeping with the cool street food vibe. It seemed to be deliberately sparse in order to let the food do the talking. The menus featured four sections; cevicheria, Andean specials, lava stone grilled meats and fried street food. They had some decent sounding cocktails and really well priced Ratsherrn craft beer at 3.50 a bottle. The South American import beer was a bit pricey so we opted for the craft beer. After consulting with the Australian waitress we chose four dishes priced at 7-9.50 euros each with two fish dishes and two meat. Later we also opted for a rice dish after it arrived at the next door table looking delicious.

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marinated scallops

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ceviche mixto

The first dishes that came were mixed ceviche and marinated scallops. Both were beautifully presented and we couldn’t wait to taste them. We found them to be really delicious but also challenging and interesting as they were accented with new tastes and different flavours and textures and you really could see clear Japanese influences in these raw fish dishes. The scallops were marinated in a ponzu sauce which is from Japan and had orange shavings on top, they were beautifully fresh and a pleasure to eat. The ceviche had tuna, octopus, king prawns in a tiger milk sauce which is a lime fish sauce used tradtionally for ceviche, it also had plantain chips and corn adding an extra textural dimension. So far so good if at bit expensive at 9.50 a dish.

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grilled pork neck

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(Captain) beef heart

The meat and the rice followed and these for the most part felt like better value for money with bigger portions. Again they were really tasty especially the grilled pork neck which just melted in your mouth and had been perfectly barbecued. The beef heart was perhaps the one disappointing note, there was nothing wrong with it and it tasted hearty as it should but it was maybe a little chewy and didn’t wow us like the others. The rice was a welcome addition meaning we wouldn’t leave hungry and tasted like a really good version of the best Asian fried rice with a fried egg on top, and prawn & pork running through it. imageWe really enjoyed our meal at Chicha and although it left a bit of a dent in our wallets it felt like good value for the quality of the cooking and ingredients. I now know more a bit more Peruvian food and exports and like what I know. I am looking forward to taking my friend here when he comes to visit and getting his opinion on the authenticity of this delicious street food.

Date of visit – 18 November 2015

*correction – apparently they do sell it but we were too distracted by the craft beer to notice.

 

Week 51 : African Kingdom (Ghana)

The reason I started this blog was to challenge myself and push me out of my comfort zone. This week’s restaurant African Kingdom certainly did that as it is a cuisine that I had no prior knowledge of and is located in  a far away location on the outskirts of Moabit near Beusselstrasse S-Bahn. Approaching from the station bridge we could see the restaurant from some distance as it was lit up with flashing rainbow lights and a huge sign. Inside there were more snazzy lights and it looked quite empty and more like a bar or a social club than a restaurant which was slightly off-putting but we entered anyway as we were determined to continue and try Ghanaian food.

On one wall there was a huge TV blasting out African MTV and opposite was another huge TV with equestrian show jumping with the Afro-pop music making for quite a strange soundtrack to the leaping horses. The other clients who were all laughing and joking with one another when we walked in all seemed like they were regulars. When we entered the laughing stopped and as strangers we were on the receiving end of a damn good staring and evaluation as we sat down on one of the empty tables with a plastic floral tablecloth. Thankfully after an appraisal period we were then greeted warmly with smiles all round and especially by the waiter who seemed genuinely pleased to have new customers.

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grilled whole tilapia

We immediately ordered some Guinness when we saw it was available as the African version is always better than the Irish one, and they also had other African beers like Star and DjuDju. The food menu consisted of variations on rice and soups with either chicken or tilapia fish. We chose some beef stick meat with spicy pepper sauce to start and then for a main Richard went for grilled tilapia with hot pepper sauce and I decided to try Fufu with chicken as it is something I have heard of from African friends but never quite understood what is was.

The beef sticks came first and they were surprisingly delicious with a really deep beefy flavour. Despite not being soft, rare meat like we are used to, the chewy slightly crispy beef was really good to eat and I salivate just thinking about it now. The mains were also great, Fufu I discovered is a starchy, soft, ball-like substance which is there to mop up soup and stews. The closest European thing I could describe it as resembling would be polenta but even then it is quite different. I found it quite flavourless and very filling but the soup around it was tasty and piquant and they worked well together. Richard got a whole grilled fish with a mound of delicious rice and a bowl of extremely hot chillies. He loved the soft white fish with crispy fried skin but it was not quite to my taste being a bit too fishy for my liking, and he had also saturated it with chilli. We were very impressed by the prices (10 for the Fufu dish and 12 for the whole fish) as the portions were massive. With two Guiness each the whole thing was 42 euros well spent.
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The waiter checked in on us regularly and was really pleased that we enjoyed our food. When I told him that I write a blog he gave us lots of little business cards to hand out to our friends to encourage more people to visit and try the cuisine. This is exactly the sort of place that my blog was designed for as I would never have found it or walked though the door with the flashing rainbow lights otherwise and for this I am grateful.

Week 49 : Split (Croatia)

Situated near Hallesches Tor in Kreuzberg, Split is the oldest Croatian restaurant in Berlin serving Croatian and international cuisine since 1966. When we arrived there on a crisp Monday evening we were pleasantly surprised to find a really elegant old fashioned looking restaurant with dark mahogany wood paneling, white tablecloths and red roses on each table.  I guess I was expecting the usual chequered tablecloth folksy Mediterranean style of restaurant instead. At 5.30 on a Monday it was also fairly busy with middle aged couples speaking German and Croat.
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We took a while to order from the long menu as the emphasis seemed to be on German Croatian fusion with various schnitzels accompanied more Croatian style toppings but as usual we were looking for authenticity if possible. There was a tasty sounding specials menu with wild boar but this did not seem very Croatian so we went for what seemed like the most authentic foods, a pork Satarash and a grill plate. For the starter we chose to share a Dalmation Vorspeiseteller which had Croatian meat and cheeses.
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The starter of cheese and parma style ham was very good but also very filling as it came with delicious fresh bread. We shared the main courses and found the mixed grill to be adequate with fairly well grilled meat and yummy cevapi sausages but the pork and egg stew was better being a bit spicy and very tasty. The Croatian beer we tried and the wine we chose were of a good standard and well priced. The waiters were these lovely proper old school Croatian men with traditional black and white uniforms and impeccable manners all of which added to the feeling that we had stepped back in time. image

Half way though our meal a couple came in and sat near us with a tiny chow chow puppy which was extremely distracting as it was so cute. With the addition of seeing a cute dog alongside some decent well priced food we left happy with the food and the whole experience and will consider coming back to try some of the German-Croat fusion food.image

Date of visit : October 26th 2015 – (we had been away in the UK the previous week)

Week 50 : Le Cassonade (Belgium)

How time flies! We’ve been in Berlin for well over a year now and the blog has reached week fifty. I was disappointed that there wasn’t a full Belgian restaurant in Berlin as you can’t beat a good Moules Frites washed down with a delicious Belgian beer but there is a café. Thankfully this cafe was located in Kreuzberg close to where we live so we decided to visit on this day with Maija to thank her for another yoga teaching session with Richard.
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Cassonade (meaning brown sugar) is a small, sweet little cafe on Oranienstrasse that just serves crêpes and waffles with a small but decent selection of Belgian beers. We chose different savoury crêpes to start and then sweet waffles for dessert with ice cream, caramel & cream and one with Nutella – sadly they didn’t have the praline topping available that day. There is a choice of either Brussels waffles or Lutticher Waffles which are different shapes and sizes so we went for one of each.  At this time for the sake of full disclosure, I must admit that I have never actually tried a waffle before! How strange is that? 35 years old and I never had eaten a waffle. I haven’t lived! I certainly haven’t been to Belgium which is a shame as I do love their beers.
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underneath all that cream and caramel is a Lutticher waffle

To be honest there isn’t that much to say. The crepes were good. The waffles were good. The beer was good. Everything was well cooked, the crepe fillings were tasty (tomato & mozzarella, ham, mushroom & bechamel and spicy salami & cheese) and the waffles were everything I imagined them to be; soft, pillowy comfort food with yummy toppings. With good prices and a cute, cosy vibe this is a good lunch option when in Kreuzberg and needing an edible hug.

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Bruxelles waffle with Nutella

Still open as of July 2017

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

Rating: 7/10

Address: Oranienstraße 199, 10999 Berlin

Website: https://www.facebook.com/cassonadeberlin/

Week 48 : Azzam Palestinian

Palestine is a country. No argument. Okay, now that’s out of the way here’s the review… We found out about this Palestinian run restaurant from a blog about hummus and apparently this is arguably the place to go for good hummus in Berlin. According to the author among their mainly Palestinian and Lebanese customers they also get several Israelis visiting for that authentic taste of home. I see this positively because if Israelis in Berlin visit Azzam and are welcomed there then this is a small glimmer of hope.

musabaha

musabaha

We headed to Azzam on a Sunday lunchtime to try some of that delicious hummus. The place was packed and we got the last table, finding that were the only ‘Westerners’ there for a while. The blog I read had also recommended their musabaha which is a dish similar to hummus but less creamy with more texture, made on the spot and served warm with whole chickpeas running through it. I chose a bowl of this and Richard went for hummus with sharwama chicken. The prices were super cheap with the two dishes and two bottles of sprite costing 10 euros and free tea available. They also serve the usual middle Eastern imbiss suspects of falafel and sharwama sandwiches, tellers and also turkish pide pizza all at good prices.

hummus and chicken plate

hummus and chicken plate

The hummus and musabaha came in huge bowls which was a ridiculous portion for one person. On the side was a slightly bizarre ‘salad’ consisting of a whole onion, some mint sprigs and sliced tomatoes and they gave us a six pack of Arabic flatbread to mop it up. Richard’s hummus bowl had a good sized dollop of chicken on top. It was all really delicious; thick, creamy well seasoned hummus and satisfying warm musabaha which is a total comfort food. Richard made his way bravely through the entire bowl whereas I ended up defeated leaving half a bowlful behind. The salad remained fairly untouched.

side 'salad'

side ‘salad’

Azzam is definitely another awesome find thanks to my blog and thankfully is only a couple of streets away so we will be back again and again for a hummus fix. Soon we will also visit their Israeli hummus counterpart in Berlin to see how they compare and contrast and for once be able to ignore the politics and conflict and concentrate on cultural culinary similarities instead.

Date of visit 4 October 2015