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.

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.

 

 

59 : Melbourne Canteen (Australia) – now permanently closed

Happy Belated Australia day! Or is it Happy belated ‘Commemorating the Commencement of over two Centuries Worth of Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing’ day? We decided to visit one of Berlin’s few Aussie restaurants on the 26th January which also happened to be Australia day. A national day which courts controversy from those who feel as though Australia should change the date from the 26th January because this is the exact day upon which the British arrived and began to dispossess, enslave and slaughter the indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Peoples whilst wearing top hats and cravattes. This year even Google weighed in on the debate featuring a commemorative Google Doodle featuring three aboriginal women with tears in their eyes. For others Australia Day is known as the ‘non-stop drunkenness resulting in many unfortunate intoxicated casualties and a Rugby star ruining his career by commiting a lewd sex act with a dog’ day.

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Real live Aussies wearing national uniform in the background

Anyway less of the politics as this is a food blog. The main tragedy on our minds on 26th January was how awful the food was that we were served at Melbourne Canteen on a day in which the menu which was supposed to exemplify Australian culture and offer Berlin’s Aussie ex-pats a comforting taste of home. On the special menu were Fish & Chips, Beef or Veggie Pies and Melbourne Chicken Parmagiana. So far, so uninspiring. We went for a beef pie, chips with ‘chicken salt’ and the chicken parmagiana which we were intrigued by the origin of. Had it developed independently within Melbournes large Italian population or was it a Teeside import from Middlesborough ex-pats bringing a taste of home to the outback in the shape of the famous Parmo? I like to think the latter is true.

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Firstly the highlights…. ummm….the chicken wasn’t entirely dry, the rocket was fresh and the pastry was cooked. I cannot really say much else about the food. The chips were the worst kind of cheap, pallid, french-fries, the breaded chicken was covered in a sickly red sauce which might have seen a tomato once in its sad life, the cheese on top was not even close to being parmesan as it tasted like bland rubber, the chicken salt was no more than an oxo cube added to some salt, and the pie filling was grey and bland. To make matters worse they didn’t even have any mayonaise on offer to accompany the bland, dry chips. Instead we got three small bowls of rank ketchup. We did enjoy some nice imported Aussie craft beers but at 5 euros a bottle they were a bit pricy for Berlin and you can get some much better German rivals at bars close by for less. I must admit that the photos make things look pretty bad as they are a bit shit and blurry but tbh we wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible as the whole place smelled like fried vinegar and I didn’t want anyone to catch me taking photos of this food.

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‘Chicken parmagiana’

I’m not blaming Australia per se for the bad food as I have not heard many good things about the normal menu at Melbourne Canteen which is a favourite brunch destination of the expat that doesn’t know any better. I’m sure if we were really in Melbourne by the sea we would have access to a whole array of delicious seafood and tasty bbq’d meat. But we are in Berlin, in winter, and I’m sorry that this mess of a cuisine found itself on the list of places to visit. If only the Berlin Malay restaurant Amy had not closed down two years ago this place would have been bumped off the list and we would not have wasted a Tuesday evening. Also potentially coming up are Berlin’s versions of English and Irish cuisines which fills me with a deep sense of unease and stomach ache.

Price for two course meal with drinks for two persons: 30-50 euros

Rating: 2/10

 

*Update* As of Summer 2016 the Melbourne Kitchen is closed. Not sure whether my vitriolic blog was a contributing factor but am not really sorry as we had a pretty poor meal there and most people I know didn’t enjoy the food. G’day and g’bye!

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Beef pie and chips

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 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

 

Week 35 : Cafe Valentin (Sweden)

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Licht envy and irritating yanks

Around the corner from our new flat is the first cafe to feature in this blog. Cafe Valentin is a Swedish (hipster) cafe which sells lots of delicious traditional healthy Swedish dishes but sadly for Richard – all vegetarian! The whole experience turned out to be offensive to Rich, from the moment he saw the lack of meat on the menu to the awful loud Americans on the table in the corner who shared every detail of their conversation with us through sheer volume including the intriguing “My friend rohyphnoled herself“! He even hated the infuriatingly precise and beautiful vintage decor. I quite liked it, but then again I am female with a love of all things vintage and I had extreme light fitting envy for the beautiful sputnik style 1960s ceiling light.

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The menu as I said was entirely vegetarian, which is fine by me but the place didn’t advertise itself as such and in my mind Swedish menus should have some kind of fish on them. The menu consisted of homemade smørrebrød with lots of toppings which all seemed to be variations on avocado and egg and also knackerbrod which is a crispy baked cracker also with different toppings. There were also a lot of yummy looking cakes and a full coffee, tea and soft drink menu. I chose the smørrebrød with beetroot and goats cheese with a flat white and Rich went for knackerbrod with fried eggs and peppers with fresh orange juice. Everything was really tasty especially my sweet and salty beetroot dish with a fresh salad and Rich loved the knackerbrod which was full of delicious seeds but we found the portions were a bit stingy for the prices and we left hungry. The flat white was also a bit disappointing resembling more a cappuccino – which is my pet hate – if you cannot understand how to make a proper velvety flat white then DON’T PUT IT ON THE MENU! I bought one of their ‘famous’ cinnamon buns to eat at home later that day but also found that disappointing and dry especially compared to the awesome yummy moist ones that my friend Gina had made me the previous week.

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Goats cheese and beetroot

The bill totalled 20 euros with tip and I can honestly say that we have eaten much better food in Berlin for less. In summary then I might go there again with women but it was pretty much a case of style over substance. So definitely authentically Swedish and hipster then! Boom 🙂

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Knackerbrod

Date of visit 25 June 2015