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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

75 : Kirsons (Latvia) 

A friend told me that her work colleague had recently told her about a Latvian restaurant called Kirsons opening in Berlin and they recommended it as somewhere authentic. We visited on a week night at 7pm, cycling over to the other side of Kreuzberg near Mitte where all the office buildings are located. We arrived at a strange canteen style place with a large seating area with twee, country-style furniture and a hot food area where you took a tray and selected from salads, hot meals, and desserts. Everything was overseen by friendly, middle-aged, women wearing what I imagine is traditional latvian dress – so far, so weird.

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I chose the salmon with dill sauce and potatoes and Richard had pork ribs, we also shared a cucumber dill salad and a pastry parcel with cheese and ham. The food was better than expected considering that it looked like it had sat there for quite a while but you would hardly rave about it. We were suprised when paying the bill as everything was half price so we ended up paying 13 euros for all the food plus two beers, a water and we were also given a free dessert. It turns out that we had arrived during the last hour before closing which is happy hour.

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Despite the cheapness we won’t be revisiting this place as I don’t see the point in mediocre reheated food no matter how cheap. I felt as though we didn’t get much of a real picture of Latvian food from Kirsons despite the recommendation from a real Latvian. A strange one indeed…

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74 : Dottir (Iceland)

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We planned this visit to coincide with our 4th wedding anniversary on 3rd June as the Icelandic restaurant Dottir is a one of a kind, expensive dining experience.

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On this balmy early summer evening we arrived at 9pm to a fully booked out restaurant over in Mitte near the Brandenburg gate. As we waited at the bar for our table we sipped yummy, well crafted cocktails; Richard had something with champagne and I had a gin and cucumber concoction. Both were delicious. The decor of the restaurant was very cool with simple design, stripped bare plaster walls, large pieces of feature lighting and huge, interesting artworks.

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The restaurant serves a single set menu mixing Icelandic and Scandinavian ingredients and flavours at a set price with no deviation other than to accomodate allergies. This week’s menu was exactly to our taste with a starter of scallops, then roe deer fillet,  monkfish, and white chocolate and berries for dessert. We chose a good value Riesling to go with our food from the cheaper end of the menu which rose to the kind amount that we would spend on a new fridge freezer or a week’s holiday.

IMG_2999 The food was very much worth the high price because every mouthful was intricate and delicious and the ingredients worked really well together and the presentation was beautiful. The roe deer and the monkfish dishes were our particular highlights. The wine we chose was also very good and went well with everything. By the end of the meal we were quite satisfied and a bit drunk (hence the wonky shots and general lack of photos). I would certainly recommend Dottir as a great choice for a special occassion or if you have the money to spare but you might want to check the menu before you reserve in case it is not to your taste.

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73 :Kasbah – Morocco

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I have just come back from an epic 18 night holiday to Spain and Portugal in which food played a massive role in our daily routines. We ate such wonderful seafood and drank amazing wines. Now I am back in Berlin and back down to earth with a bump and have realised that my poor blog has been somewhat neglected.

The next few entries are from back in June and July and therefore some of the details are a bit sketchy so I apologise for the brevity of these posts.

Firstly, way back in June I visited one of the few Moroccan places in Berlin with some friends from university. Richard has an inate dislike of Moroccan food after spending a disappointing weekend in Marrakesh and he refused to join me this time. I was still skeptical about this cusine but was compelled by my blog to give it a try.

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Kasbah is situated in Mitte just near Rosenthaler Platz and unfortunately the prices reflected the city centre location and were a bit higher than we are used to in Berlin’s suburbs with main courses costing between 12-20 euros for a tagine or cous cous. There is a cheaper place in Friedrichshain but this has some truly terrible reviews whereas Kasbah seemed more favourable.

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The decor was very appealing with sumptuous traditonal Morrocan fabrics and lamps and the theme didn’t feel too overdone. We all ordered different tagines and I also got a starter of filled pastry parcels so as to try more things. The starter was delicious, with phillo pastry encasing fragrant shredded meat. Each of the tagines was also tasty, I had the beef which was moist and succulent and well flavoured, the others had lamb, chicken and vegetarian versions which they all really enjoyed.

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By the end of the meal we were all stuffed full and agreed that we had enjoyed a good dinner. Kasbah restored my faith in decent Moroccan food but the location and the prices mean that I am unlikely to return.

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71 : Bantou Village (Cameroon)

Firstly apologies for the delay in posting the updates. I have been busy lately with German classes and haven’t been able to dedicate as much time to the blog as before. This visit took place on a hot weekend back in May.

Another Saturday, another trip to an African restaurant in Wedding. It seems as though there are quite a few African restaurants here due to the concentration of streets in the Afrikanische Viertel (African quarter) and this time we were on Kamerounerstrasse visiting Bantou Village for some Cameroonian cuisine. After an afternoon cycle across town to Plotzensee where we discovered a beautiful boat bar playing house and techno, we cycled across to Wedding for dinner and to discover some of its hidden places.

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Bantou Village was the busiest African restaurant we have visited in Berlin and was packed out with many West Africans, Germans and other international diners. We took the last table on the street and hungrily ordered from what is a now familiar West African food selection including grilled fish, rice dishes, peanut stews, plantains and skewered meat.

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We chose a dish of slow baked lamb with spicy sauce, beef in peanut sauce, fried plantains, and like every other West African restaurant we have visited; the stick meat. Another staple was the African Guiness which we prefer to its Irish counterpart.

The service was super friendly and the place had a good general atmosphere. When the food came we were very impressed. Everything was well cooked and delicious especially the lamb which melted in the mouth. The stick meat was good but not as good as the Ghanaian version. The plantains on the side were sweet and sticky and salty and worked well with the main dishes.

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Afterwards we checked out a couple of bars including the craft beer staple Vagabund and Panke which is a bar cum club with a great garden next to the river of the same name. The quality of the restaurant and good bars make the 40 minute cycle across town to wedding much more appealing. Although we do love our neukölln bubble a bit too much!

69 : Das Gift (Scotland)

imageOf the five countries of the British Isles, Berlin had one English restaurant (closed recently), one Scottish pub and several Irish pubs that also ‘do’ food. Das Gift in Neukolln, the Scottish pub is by far the most interesting of these as they seem to take their food more seriously and of course it is famously owned by Mogwai and Arab Strap member Barry Burns. The pub itself which sits of the corner of Donaustrasse and Weichselstrasse is a mix of British pub and German Eckkneipe, and luckily for us it is about a ten minute walk from home. The interior is cool but very welcoming and not quite as basic and cold as some of the other hipster bars in Neukolln which can sometimes seem uniformly unfriendly.

A promotion caught my eye as I entered the bar; Jack Hammer IPA from Brewdog for 3 euros a bottle. Das Gift stocks a lot of beers from the Scottish punk brewers for normally no less than 5 euros (cheaper beer is available) so this was an absolute bargain for what turned out to be a delicious, crisp, classic IPA. We asked about the offer and it turns out that the beer was a month or so out of date although you really couldn’t tell at all. Richard also tried one of their large selection of whisky with a smokey single malt which he really enjoyed.

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Das Gift’s food menu is much smaller than its drink menu with a focus on decent Scottish ingredients. We chose to share the haggis with swede, potato and carrots, a smoked fish platter, and a small plate of black pudding. Never having tried haggis before we were excited and also a little concerned. When the food arrived our concerns disappeared, the haggis was really delicious, with peppery warmth and a nice texture which went well with the mashed swede, carrot and potato. The fish platter was also very good with quality fresh smoked fish served with edible petals, beetroot and horseradish accompanied by perfect soda bread. The black pudding was so good that even Richard ate it which is a rarity.

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I really liked our visit to Das Gift as it manages to be effortlessly cool with a focus on quality produce and without an ounce of pretension. Next time Richard wants to try the bizarre sounding ‘haggis nachos’ and I will quite happily eat their haggis again, especially later in the year when warm, comfort food in a cosy pub is a must.

 

 

68 : Ta Panta Ri – (South) Cyprus

I was pretty sure that South Cypriot food would be similar to Greek food but as Cyprus has it’s own flag, it’s own culture, and is usually an entrant in the Eurovision Song Contest then it counts for me as a new country and cuisine. We cycled over to Ta Panta Ri on a Saturday in April via Tempelhofer Feld and Golgatha biergarten. After a good 45 minutes cycling with intermittent drinking we were quite hungry and perhaps this was why we overordered.

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We chose the Cyprus plate to share to start which included lots of litttle things, mainly in a paste or deep-fried. For main courses Richard went for Exochiko which is lamb slow cooked with mushroom and feta, and I took the Gyros Kleftiko on account of being constantly denied this when we were in Greece. We also tried some of the well priced Cypriot red wine although I was disappointed not to find Keo the national beer on the menu. Like most Greek wine I have tried, it was either too sweet or too tart with no middle ground.

When the starter plate arrived we realised why the waitress had raised her eyebrow when we ordered as it seemed large enough for four people to share. There was grilled hallumi, roasted vegetables, keftedes (meat balls), taramasalata, tsatsiki and cheese pastry parcels. Most things were in batter which made it all a bit too rich to finish and as Richard doesn’t like roasted vegetables I ended up eating the majority of the plate which filled me up too much to enjoy my main.

I was disappointed when the kleftiko arrived as I had forgotten that gyros is pork meat rather than lamb, it was okay but a bit too salty with the seasoned pork meat and sheep’s cheese combined. Richard’s dish was a bit better with pieces of slow cooked lamb that melted in your mouth but again I found the cheese detracted from the dish rather than augmenting it. As I had eaten most of the starter plate I could not eat much and Richard gladly finished mine off as well as his. We both left the restaurant well fed although Rich was happier about it than I was. Not sure I would come back again as it is so far out of the way and there was nothing outstanding about Ta Panta Ri which offers just decent, simple and comforting cooking.

There are no photos of my own for this as my memory card decided to wipe itself.