78 : Venezuela (Karrecho Pop-up kitchen) 

Sometimes it takes ages to find a country’s cuisine in Berlin. Othertimes one just lands in your facebook event invite inbox. Sometimes you have to travel to the far end of the city to find a restaurant. Othertimes a new place pops up virtually on your street. The Karrecho pop-up kitchen which is run by Venezuelans on Friday evenings at Lenaustrasse 5 was a happy and easy find which my husband Rich invited me to on facebook, and so we duly set out to try their Arepas back in September accompanied by my Colombian housemate and best friend Stephanie who had recently returned to Berlin (see also week 38).

Manioc chips

The menu is small and simple featuring tasty filled arepas (flat cornbread pancakes) and traditional street food snacks such as fried plantain and manioc bites. They also have rum cocktails and non-alcoholic cane sugar and lime drinks. We all took one of the latter a ‘papelon’ and tried one each of the plantain balls with cheese, manioc bites and plantain bites plus one beef & black bean arepa, and two shredded chicken and avocado arepas.

Plantain balls with cheese

The service was quick and super friendly especially as Steph spoke Spanish with them. Very soon we were given our food and drinks which we heartily tucked into with lashings of spicy salsa. Everything tasted great and was confirmed to be authentic by Stephanie. The papelons were especially good and made me want to try this at home if I can find sugar cane.

When I last checked they were still up and running in November 2016 and we hope to swing by again to get some delicious comforting South American flavours.

77 : Senegambia

I originally set myself a goal of no ‘fusion’ or pan-continental restaurants as I belive they do not give a true taste of the essence of a nation’s cuisine. However I changed my mind on the strictness of this rule after reflections concerning the Senegalese Gambian restaurant helpfully called ‘Senegambia’, which is located close to my flat on Reichenbergerstrasse. I did some research and decided that it would be valid because Senegal and Gambia are very close culturally, and for ten years back in the 1980s they actually became joined as a confederation called Senegambia. And as we all know borders in Africa can be fairly fluid as they are the result of colonial map building rather than being demarcated by distinct ethic and cultural boundaries. So there we are, number 77 Senegambia can be a valid inclusion!

wp-image-2020713607jpg.jpgMy second problem was that as soon as we decided to visit Senegambia, it closed for an uncertain period of time for renovation. Throughout the summer we called by hoping to make a local blog visit but found it always closed. Finally, on a bus journey in early September, there it was: reopened with shining bright lights, all ready for business.

wp-image-1212442894jpg.jpgWe came on a Friday evening at 7ish and we were some of the only customers. I started to wonder if this simple, imbiss-style restaurant might perhaps be a tax right-off, as surely this should be a busy time? However my wondering was brought to a halt when I noticed lots and lots of containers flying out of the door being collected by young African guys on bikes. I then realised that Senegambia must have been opened so to serve familar home treats to the many Senegalese and Gambian workers who were busy plying their illicit wares in nearby Görlitzer Park and it was indeed a going concern.

wp-image-103243997jpg.jpgWe ordered three dishes to get a varied taste of the cuisine. The fish didn’t appeal so we went for Domoda: a peanut and lamb dish with rice, a lamb Benachin or Jallof which is a mixture of spiced rice, meat and vegetables plus some accara bohnen ballchen to share, which are deep fried crispy beanflour parcels with spicy sauce. The drinks selection was small and with no alcohol so we just took a bottle of water each.

wp-image-441493138jpg.jpgThe food that came was very tasty and so filling that I ended up leaving most of my rice so that I could enjoy all the light and flavourful bean balls which resembled savory donuts. The lamb in the dishes was very good and fell apart on the fork as good lamb should. We added some hot sauce to our food but had to be extremely careful as it was mega spicy and left a tingle on the lips. I find african chillies to have a different kind of satisfying heat than asian or south american chillies and this one was moorish but lethal.With a bill of less than 20 euros and very full stomachs we were pleased with our find and will continue to visit throughout the winter for this warm, tasty and comforting food.

76 : Odessa Mama (Ukraine)

This entry is otherwise known as the weirdest acid flashback of a restaurant visit I’ve had the fortune (or misfortune) to visit. Initally I was delighted to find a new country so late in the day as I wasn’t feeling particularly enthralled with the idea of visiting the Singaporean restaurant over in Prenzlauerberg I had found that does cheap cocktails (not a sling though!) and creamy identikit curries. Odessa Mama which had previously hidden itself from my Google searches appeared to me as if by a miracle after one more attempt at “Ukranian food berlin.” It wasn’t too far away in Schonberg, so we decided to cycle over one russet coloured autumn evening after Richard had finished work following the sinking sun west across the city.

After 40 minutes of vigourous cycling with some uphill sections and lots of traffic we were hungry and ready to eat and the menu of Odessa Mama promised to feed us well. We decided upon Solyanka soup, and a kind of chicken parcel in chicken skin as starters, and then some pelmeni dumplings and that world renowned classic: the chicken kiev, as main courses. We just chose German beer and fizzy water for drinks as there were no Ukrainian options. After deciding on our food we waited, and waited and waited…


Pelmeni with homemade mustard and sour cream

At least 20 minutes later our order was finally taken by a camp sailor-suited waitress, and then it was another 10-15 minutes before any drinks arrived. Had this not been a blog mission we would have given up there and then and gone elsewhere but instead we stayed and we waited for what seemed like an eternity in the strange dining room which was decorated as if a cruise ship had collided with a Ukranian farmhouse. In one corner was a giant TV screen showing music videos with the sound turned off but at some point during our wait, two men came in, turned the sound on and put on a DVD of Das Zigeunerlager zieht in den Himmel” (the gypsy camp moves to the sky) but they failed to press ‘start’ so we had 20 minutes of the title page and it’s strange music on loop over and over and over again while we waited and waited and waited. By this point we thought perhaps we might be tripping or someone is playing a cruel trick on us.


Solyanka soup with meat, and a chicken parcel (topsy turvey starters)

Our descent into madness was aided by the arrival of the food: the main courses! Hurrah! But what about the starters? We asked the waitress who checked the order, nodded nonchalently, shrugged her shoulders and went off to tell the kitchen. Puzzled, we took refuge in the food that had arrived as by this time we were starving. The food seemed tasty and came in good portions but we would have enjoyed anything at this point. After finishing the mains, the waitress told us the starters were ‘on their way’ – cue another 25 minute wait by which time the main event; Das Zigeuner… was playing. A wonderful Ostblock creation from the 1970s with exotic gypsies singing, dancing, fighting and making love against a green-screen background. By this point we agreed we were definitely tripping.


Run for your lives, don’t look back…

When the starters arrived (again tasty, but who knows?!) we dispatched them quickly and swiftly asked for the bill. No apologies or explanations or free drinks were offered and we paid as soon as it arrived, left a mildly insulting tip and got the hell outta there cycling back to Neukolln, later than expected, quite full and mildly bemused.