By: Gisela Williams
It may be the current capital of cultural cool, but Berlin’s artists aren’t starving. When it comes to local cuisine, the cosmopolitan German city prefers food that’s cutting-edge, entertaining, and inspired by a historic affinity for all things underground – from nightclub dining to menus dedicated entirely to root vegetables.
When the supper club phenomenon invaded Berlin a couple of years ago, it spread across the city like lighting, starting with the anonymous Shy Chef (www.theshychef.wordpress.com), who serves his now legendary ﬁve-course feasts in a Kreuzberg walkup. The newest addition to the guerilla-dining scene is Krauted Haus (www.krautedhaus.com), run by a duo of foodie friends – one American, the other German – who whip up the monthly meals with a focus on such hard-to-come-by-in-Berlin comfort food as cola-braised ribs and belly-warming Persian fare. “Underground supper clubs function like a big family in Berlin,” says one of the chefs, who works as a social media consultant by day. “Everyone has their own niche.” In fact, Krauted Haus looked for advice from the cooks behind the Palisaden Supper Club, launched by a pair of American expats, Jeffrey Sﬁre and Kevin Avery. After nearly two years of hosting secret dinners, the partners just went public with their new Kreuzberg-based bistro Little Otik (www.littleotik.de). On the menu: The same farm-to-table dishes that were a staple at their supper club, like creamy polenta topped with a tangy wild boar ragu.
Even though it’s connected to techno temple Berghain, you won’t ﬁnd bouncers guarding the entrance to Kreuz Friedrichs (www.kreuzfriedrichs.de), a new restaurant in Friedrichshain that features a sophisticated mash-up of German, Mediterranean, and North African fare. Then again, concealing eateries inside of nightclubs is one of the biggest trends to hit Berlin since Heinz Gindullis, aka Cookie, opened an upscale vegetarian spot, Cookies Cream (www.cookies-berlin.de), over his popular dance destination, Cookies. In the last year, two other nightclubs have debuted their own dinner nooks: The trendy Tausend club in Mitte now has a Peruvian-cum-Asian eatery, Cantina (www.tausendberlin.com), and popular dance den HBC recently added a modern cuisine, small-plates restaurant to its sprawling spread. “When you go to a Michelin-starred restaurant, your expectations are already high,” says Cantina chef Duc Ngo, who concocts dishes like tuna tataki with foie gras. “But when you come to an edgy place like this, it’s a nice surprise to ﬁnd great food and design.”
Back to Berlin’s Roots
Cookie hasn’t just left his mark on Berlin’s club scene – he’s also responsible for the city’s current obsession with vegetables. Following the success of Cookies Cream, he opened a more casual veggie spot last year in Mitte called Chipps (www.chipps.eu). The fast-food joint features healthy vegetarian dishes, including rice rolls with pak choy and curry sauce, along with a few select meat items served only as sides. Even old-school Berlin stalwarts, like Michelin-recognized chef MichaelHoffmann of Margaux (www.margaux-berlin.de), are joining the pro-produce guard. Hoffmann recently unveiled a vegetarian chef’s menu at his restaurant, with a focus on seasonal ingredients that he grows in his own garden. Over at Berlin’s newest veggie outpost, La ManoVerde (www.lamanoverde.de), root vegetables are all the rage. Innovative vegan chef Ariana Goldschneider sends out ﬂavor-packed dishes like turnip ravioli stuffed with tomato-cashew cream and “spaghetti” made from squash. It hasn’t been long since it opened, but the owners are already looking to expand to Paris and Copenhagen. Seems everyone wants in on the gourmet German action.