Week 56 – Da Jia Le (North East China)

I had originally planned to only visit one restaurant for China; Asia Deli which came along in the first weeks of the blog. Richard argued at the time that to reduce such a vast nation to just one cuisine was unfair, however I did not know of any distinctions in Chinese cuisine until I discovered Da Jia Le through another blog. Revisiting our original blog trip to Asia Deli we saw that this was in fact Hunan style which represents a province in Southern China. And so a new opportunity to research different Chinese cuisines arose resulting in a trip just before Christmas to Da Jia Li near Yorkstrasse S-Bahn in Schonberg.

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We booked a table knowing that this place was meant to be popular. It turned out not to be so necessary on a week night but the place was busy enough to indicate that a reservation at a weekend is a must. The outside of the building is fairly non-descript in a boring concrete block but inside there was a large two story dining hall with a grand chandelier in the middle feeling like a mixture of a white and gold 1980s flashy interior meeting 1920s fading Oriental opulence. (And I’m sorry Edward Said, but that word is useful in presenting an easily recognisable image in this context when writing.)

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A welcome surprise came when we looked at our menus with the presence of several reasonably priced, bottled German craft beers. This was was quite unexpected considering we were in a Chinese restaurant in a city which was only just embracing the craft beer revolution. We ignored the classics section of the food menu in favour of the traditional North-Eastern Chinese dishes section and settled upon Beef with Cumin, Pork with Chilies, and Pig’s Feet in Peanut Sauce. The latter selection was much debated and feared but we decided that it was in the spirit of the blog to try something new and we didn’t really fancy the alternative new dish of pig intestines. The waiter gave us a cautious look on ordering and clarified that it was indeed feet that we were ordering. We confirmed that we knew what we were getting into and were given a brief nod of approval.

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pork with chilies

We supped some delicious craft beer while waiting for our food and perused the dishes of our fellow diners, impressed with what we saw. There were quite a few East Asian diners present which we took as a good sign as well as two large round tables of people enjoying a pre-Christmas banquet. When the food arrived we were pleased at the huge portions presented with a bowl of sticky rice big enough for at least three people.

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beef with cumin

The spicy pork came first, delivering a huge whack of chili heat backed up by with a delicious sauce containing many slices of pork as well as large pieces of pak choi. Then came the cumin beef which was again delicious with smokey and sour accents coming through. Lastly came the feet. They were chopped up in large chunks and swimming in a thick, rich sauce full of whole peanuts. Richard asked me to cut him some off the bone as he suddenly felt quite squeamish, whereas I found some inner boldness and ate them with my fingers sucking the meat off the bone as you are supposed to. After the first taste Richard joined me in this practice forgetting his squeamishness after tasting the sweet, succulent meat.

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pig feet in peanut sauce

After a while the pig’s feet became a bit too gelatinous for us to enjoy because everything was sticking to our fingers and so we gave up on what was a rather large portion. The other dishes though very tasty and much appreciated were also abandoned due to the fullness of our stomachs and a large amount of rice also remained. With two rounds of craft beers the bill came to around 50 euros which was really good value considering how full we were, how great the food had been and the quality of the beers. We are planning to go again for Richard’s birthday with a large group so we can try more dishes and we certainly won’t rule out adding a dish of feet to our order.

Week 5 : Asia Deli (South China)

After last week’s disappointment my expectations were lowered. China came up for this week and I set to work researching where to go. The options were of course vast but my reading informed me that the number of actually decent options was very low as Berlin doesn’t have a good reputation for Chinese food. After reading this blog entry which talks about the top three we decided upon Asia Deli in Wedding. Firstly it wasn’t in Wilmersdorf Charlottenburg (not a fan) and secondly it is very close to Vagabund – one of our favourite craft beer bars. Asia Deli is famous for its Hunan specialities so we decided that this will count as South China as it is such a huge country it would be unfair to try just one regional cuisine and declare it wholly ‘Chinese’.

We didn’t book which it turned out was a mistake as the restaurant was packed full with people waiting outside. This was a good sign but unfortunate. We spoke to the waiter in German and found out we could come back at 10.30 (two hours later). Not being particularly hungry we agreed and went off for some craft beer.

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Two hours later we came back to the restaurant and I realised my German is not all I thought it was. When the waiter had said “halb zehn” (half ten) I took this as the English ‘half past ten’, when we arrived to a nearly empty restaurant and an annoyed waiter we realised our mistake that in German halb means before not after. Thankfully he kept the kitchen open and some delicious food ensued.

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As for the detail…well the facts are a bit sketchy as during the two hour wait we had consumed a large quantity of tasty strong craft beer and we were ravenous and pissed. We ordered ribs, pork, king prawns and something else I can’t remember. It was all fresh, yummy and the spicy food was indeed spicy. The beer was cheap, the service was quick and friendly (after we were forgiven) and the bill for a mountain of food and three beers was 37 euros. We tipped big, vowed to return sober and waddled home content and very full.

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