Sunday, December 8, 2013

Moving Day: from Pakistan to Peru

I won't be eating Berlin anymore -- or at least not regularly -- as we have up and moved (back) to DC. I happily admit that this project helped me to discover some corners of Berlin that I wouldn't have otherwise seen and some really interesting and in a few cases really delicious restaurants. This isn't the place to weigh the merits of Berlin vs. DC, but each city has some good things going on. In the almost seven years I lived in Berlin, the food scene changed a lot and improved in many ways. Still, I don't believe it's a great food town and I'm not sure it's building a solid foundation (ie, one based on it's own traditions vs. those borrowed from Brooklyn or LA or ....). Great "ethnic" food is a real dark spot in Berlin's food scene and a real bright spot in the DC food scene. So if nothing else, continuing this project picking up where I left off (with P for Pakistan) should be a lot of delicious fun. I should move to a different blogging address and maybe I will, but mostly writing for my own amusement with mainly my parents for readers.....I lack the motivation to do it just yet. In the past month I've managed to enjoy a Pakistani and Peruvian meal. My little offspring is turning into a real champion eater (on some days/of bread products), but he limits my restauranting to some extent, as well as, my recording these the details of these meals are fuzzy....I wish I could tell you if we ate at Ravi Kebab I or II, but no matter as they are almost next door to each other. We got the Ravi kebabs (lamb) and the okra curry daily special. The kebabs came with rice, curried chickpeas, and naan. The meat and bread are cooked to order, making this not quite fast food joint and it is cash-only, so not the most convenient place either, but the food was very good, if not quite life-changing. The main shortcoming of the kebabs - less than top-quality meat, is hard to avoid in "ethnic" restaurants (although this is notably and increasingly less true in the US (vs Germany) where "ethnic" cuisines are increasingly available in fine(r) restaurants). The okra curry, however, was really good and I regret not having ordered the vegetable yogurt curry. Note to self: next time focus on the daily vegetable curries. While Berlin has a few Peruvian choices, there aren't more than a handful of Peruvians, so the restaurants cater primarily to Germans. Not the case in the DC area. We picked Huascaran Restaurant because of it's relative proximity to home and because it offered more than rotisserie chicken (despite the fact that so-called Peruvian chicken is a big DC-area thing and often delicious; we were in the mood for something more). Huascaran has a good vibe. It's not very big, but on Saturday night most of the tables were full. The place has a good, warm atmosphere with the exception of the two televisions tuned to a Spanish-league soccer match and a college football game. The owner is clearly present in the dining room and nobody minds a loud, if-jolly infant sprinkling waffle crumbs everywhere. The food, alas, is less amazing. We really liked the ceviche - nothing revolutionary, but refreshing. It's served with a chunk of sweet potato and big choclo, unexpected but a good chaser for the dish's heat. We also shared papas a la huancaina and a papa rellena (a potato dumpling of sorts, stuffed with minced meat). Both were edible, but sort of blah. We also shared a seco de carne, basically a beef stew with a good hit of cilantro and the cabrito (goat). Both suffered from the old cheap meat problem. Sigh. There is a dessert case with alfajores (sandwich cookies filled with dulce de leche) and a few other treats. I love alfajores and this is the only bad one I've ever had. The filling was somehow tasteless and the cookies, while appropriately crumbly, tasted of margarine and fake vanilla. Still, I liked something about this place - the vibe is warm and you do feel transported to another place for a little while. I'd go back and try one of the soups or wait for summer and return for the ceviche. Ravi Kebab 350 and 250 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington Huascaran Restaurant 3606 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Norwegen: das Roh und nicht das Gekocht

Munch's Hus is the self-proclaimed only Norwegian restaurant in Germany. I went for lunch with a friend and a baby that did not want to sit still and watch us eat Norwegian food. Although they offer a lunch deals (choice of meat or fish) for 6 or 7 Euros, the specials (a very basic-looking meat lasagna or fish with beets) didn't appeal on the day we were there. Instead, we shared two appetizers, the Rondane plate and the Sognefjord plate (named after a national park and the world's third largest fjord, respectively, in case you were wondering). The Rondane plate features a couple different sausages and hams made from elk and reindeer plus a few Norwegian cheeses, which are possibly the least cheese-like cheeses on the planet. The Sognefjord plate is, as you might expect, a seafood plate of various smoked and cured fish. Both were good, but in hindsight, we didn't really sample anything that required cooking. Still, the menu looks interesting (halibut in a blueberry-saffron sauce?) and I would definitely return to try something more elaborate. Munch's Hus Bülowstraße 66

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Nigeria: mittendrin

Nigerian food (or African food for that matter) has yet to become trendy. Every now and then someone predicts that it is about to conquer our culinary shores, but so far it hasn't and I don't see it happening anytime soon. It's too bad because the dishes (admittedly a very tiny sample) we enjoyed at Ebe-Ano were really delicious. Of all the cuisines I've tried in the name of this little project here, I've been the most surprised (and mostly pleasantly so) by the African ones. Now that the Royal Aerostar Berlin is "closed until further notice," Ebe-Ano (much more centrally located, I might add) is at the top of my list of places I would definitely go back to and wish more people would check out. The menu is divided into rice and yam dishes - referring to which carb accompanies the dish. Yam is actually a dumpling of sorts made from white yam or manioc flour (along the lines of fufu), basically a big ball of gluey starch. From the yam side of the menu, we shared an okra stew, which was flavored with dried fish (a major seasoning in Nigerian cuisine, similar to the way ham flavors many vegetable or bean dishes in Spain) - not a combination western diners are likely familiar with, but it really works. Nigerians would have pulled off pieces of the dumpling and used it scoop up the stew (we were provided with a bowl of water for cleaning our fingers), but not being practiced and with nobody in sight to copy, we used the utensils also provided. Our second dish was recommended by the waitress and although it is vaguely described on the menu as something like vegetables and rice, it was our favorite. The vegetable seemed to be mostly spinach, though perhaps this changes based on season or availability, and was also flavored with dried fish - again delicious. For some of the dishes, you can choose to add a piece of meat or fish and here we added fish (hake maybe?), which was cooked to a tender, golden and crispy perfection. Like at Royal Aerostar, the food is served with a hot sauce - it has a great, fruity flavor, but is hot hot hot. Ordering a Nigerian Star lager is therefore essential and delicious. In addition to good, interesting food at very reasonable prices, Berlin's African restaurants, Ebe-Ano included, seem to function as community centers of a sort for expats from the respective countries. At Ebe-Ano a group of men was hanging outside on a warm evening yelling good-naturedly at neighborhood kids. Other places have had computers for skype calls home, electronic game machines, and televisions tuned to a national station. These things are in addition to a meal that tastes for most of the clientele, I presume/hope, like home. As Berlin's trendsetters have yet to declare Nigerian (or African) food cool, the cooks are cooking for their countryfolk. They'll likely warn you that the hot sauce is really spicy, but you'll get the same food as everyone else. You won't be able to order a mango lassi or a swimming pool cocktail and they probably haven't spent much money decorating, but you will get a tiny glimpse into another world. I've eaten in these trendy places in Mitte (not only there, but things seem particularly bad in certain Bezirks) - the food costs more and tastes like less and you generally get a glimpse of other people who look just like you. Ebe-Ano Pohlstrasse 52

Friday, June 14, 2013

Neuseeland: flach und weiss

Not much comes to mind when I think about New Zealand cuisine. Lamb? Kiwis? Wikipedia will tell you about Maori cuisine, a fusion of Polynesian ingredients and techniques with local New Zealand ingredients, but as native American cuisines are not regarded as typical American fare, Maori cuisine is not considered New Zealand's national cuisine. Instead, it is apparently similar to Australian cuisine - British (New Zealand was a colony) with lots of international influences, particularly Asian. (I'd be very interested to sample a traditional cookie, the Afghan biscuit, an iced chocolate cookie with a crunch from cornflakes. Why it's associated with Afghanistan, I cannot say.) In recent years, New Zealand became associated with coffee culture. I'm not sure how this came to be, but according to, the country "has more roasters per capita than anywhere in the world." Flat whites are to New Zealand (and Australia) what cappuccinos are to Italy. Until visiting Antipodes, a little Mitte-Prenzlauer Berg cafe run by a couple of Kiwis, I had yet to lay eyes or mouth on a flat white. A flat white is, for your information, "a less milky brew with textured rather than frothy milk." So, like a latte, but with a higher ratio of coffee to milk or a cappuccino with less foam. The flat white is apparently very tricky to make and will say that Antipodes makes good coffee, but I'd have to broaden my experience with flat whites before I can make an authoritative statement on this particular drink. I will add that their chai latte is awful - made from one of those syrups or powders and much, much too sweet. I respect their decision not to serve decaf coffee (the owner told me they weren't happy with the quality of the one they previously had). Even as a temporary decaf drinker, I think decaf is sort of silly. But by their own logic, why serve a sub-par chai? Still, this is mostly quibbling as they are all about coffee and their coffee is very good (I tasted my husband's). I also have good things to say about their sandwiches. In a city full of dreadful belgete broetchen, the "filled rolls" available at every bakery in the country - the bread tastes like cotton batting, the meat and cheese offerings are always the same - salami, some dreadful tomato-mozzarella aproximation...., and they are always smeared with Remouladensauce or remoulade sauce of the cheapest order, meaning it tastes like bad miracle whip. Anyway, the sandwiches at Antipodes are much more interesting; not ground-breaking perhaps, but certainly not what you'll find everywhere else in town. One of my companions had a toasted sandwich with salami and peppers that looked very tasty. It's not the cosiest cafe, but I'm tempted (especially once my coffee hiatus is over) to go back for brunch and try their eggs benedict. P.S. New Zealand (and Australia) are often referred to as the Antipodes as they are vaguely antipodal to Europe - the Antipodes Islands of New Zealand are almost antipodal to London. Antipodes Fehrbelliner Str. 5

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Die Niederlande: etwas für Kenner

Is it fair to judge a nation or its cuisine by its fried snacks alone? Probably not, particularly given that I am not such a fan of fried things (oysters being my one serious exception), which is almost exclusively what you can get at De Molen. De Molen is a typical Dutch snack bar, run by a German who grew up in Holland. I went to De Molen with a Dutch friend, who verified its authenticity and was plenty excited about the range of fried treats on offer. I deferred to the native and let her do the ordering. She selected a Kaaassouffle and a Fleischkroket on a roll with mustard. The Kaassouffle wasn't bad, basically a crispy-melty cheesey thing. The cheese is supposedly Gouda and actually had some bite. The Fleischkroket on the other hand ... highly suspect. It was fried something. I understand there was supposed to be some kind of meat ragout in the middle, but it was mostly just smooshy and tasted oddly of curry. The cotton-textured hotdog bun and French's-style mustard did not help matters. That said, my Dutch friend was a happy camper and the US certainly has its share of fried nonsense, so while I would probably have been happier with a bit of herring or a bowl of pea soup (adorably called Snert in Dutch),I will try not to judge. De Molen Neue Bahnhofstr. 26a

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Nur ein Hop, ein Hopserlauf und ein Sprung nach Nepal

For a while every cuisine I sampled featured cevapcici. The kebabs resurfaced recently in Macedonia, but now we are on a different theme - in Mongolia they are buuz and in Nepal, momos (expect them to resurface also as momos in Tibet). According to Wikipedia, momos (or whatever you prefer to call your steamed dumplings) were introduced from Han China (although I'm always skeptical about claims of "inventing" something as basic as a flour and water dough wrapped around ground/minced meat and steamed) and you can also find them in Bhutan, as well as, the Himalayan bits of India. Momos can be fried or steamed and the filling varies a bit - mildly spiced ground lamb or beef is common, but there are also vegetable, potato, and cheese fillings depending on where you are. It's hard to say whether Cafe Tsetseg or Nepal Haus has better buuz/momos. Both restaurants are making them from scratch, so it's hard to go to wrong. Cafe Tsetseg's beef buuz are bigger and juicer (and cheaper), but Nepal Haus offers three different fillings - lamb, spinach, or vegetable (mostly potato) and the lamb, while also quite plain, was a seasoned a bit more precisely. Nepal Haus' momos come with a peanuts sauce (which I didn't care for, but my friend found to be a good compliment to the spinach momos) and a delicious tomato chutney that beat Tsetseg's bottle of sriracha hands down. Of course, if you love starch, Tsetseg serves potato salad with their buuz. In a perfect world, we would have Cafe Tsetseg's big doughy buuz with Nepal Haus' lamb filling and tomato chutney, but either place can easily handle your dumpling craving. Nepal is a more diverse country than Mongolia, in terms of ethnic groups represented, as well as, climate and terrain and this is reflected in the cuisine and on the menu at Nepal Haus (although some of the dishes go too far - I don't think there is a lot of shrimp curry to be found in Nepal). In addition to an order of momos, we also sampled a bean soup with Nepalese herbs and an okra curry. The soup wasn't great - the broth tasted like canned fried onions and there weren't many herbs - mostly green onions and maybe cilantro ... the beans were straight out of a can. I'm not sure what about it was Nepalese at all. The daal, was much better - not life-changing, but a good homemade bowl of soup. The okra curry, while not quite remarkable, was enjoyable, especially in a city where okra is hard to find. All-in-all, Nepal Haus is a decent, but not an earth-shatteringly special restaurant. I can't recommend you trek across town for dinner there, but if you're in the area or have a hankering for dumplings, the lamb momos are worth an order (the spinach are pretty tasty too). Nepal Haus Gneisenaustraße 4

Friday, March 8, 2013

Marokko: Mitte ist beschissen

I know there are a few exceptions to this statement, but dinner at Kasbah last night was yet another reminder that Mitte is full of trendy looking restaurants with terrible (blah at best) food. Mitte is home to lots of expats and yuppie Germans - for the most part, educated people who are well-traveled. Why aren't these people shunning places like Hashi and Kasbah for their dumbed down flavors and demanding food that tastes like it did when they were backpacking through Asia or wherever. The Germans I met on the Camino de Santiago who were carrying crackers and other supplies purchased at home and the people (as in more than one couple) I know in Berlin who stock up at Lidl/Aldi before driving to a rented summer cottage provide the answer, but somehow I can never quite accept this. Anyway, as you can tell by now, Kasbah was no good at all. The place is nicely decorated without being over the top, most of the music they played (from classic Moroccan to French-language rap) was fitting, and the service was friendly if not five-star...but it comes down to the food and that is seriously lacking. In taste. In quantity. In (as much as I hate this word) authenticity. We shared a kefta (think meatball) tagine in spiced tomato sauce with green olives and vegetable couscous. The tagine was very mildly spiced and over-salted, the olives were of very poor quality and few in number, and the portion size (eight small meatballs in just a little bit of sauce) was really not acceptable considering the price (12.50 Euros). If it had been delicious or enough to feed an average adult, the price might have been justified, but in this case, neither was true. Any restaurant is going to have a dud, but the vegetable couscous was even worse. The menu describes the vegetables as "marinated," which they were absolutely not. This was a smallish serving of couscous with 8 or 10 pieces of cooked vegetables for 11 Euros. The sauce on the side was an insipid broth that tasted mostly of bouillon cube and the harissa was just ok (good harissa is more than spicy, it's fruity and adds real character to food). I will say that the flatbread served at Kasbah is pretty good and although I didn't sample it, they do offer Moroccan wine. Good bread and regional wine do not make up for flavorless food served in tiny portions for too much money. Kasbah Gipsstrasse 2

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Von Mauritius (Es lebt!) bis die Mongolei (ohne Pferdefleische (so weit ich weiss))

Mauritian cuisine reflects its colonial and immigration history, offering an interesting mix of native African, French, Chinese, and Indian cuisines. It would have been really exciting to discover an actual Mauritian restaurant in Berlin. Alas, I was forced to make do with ice cream. Sadly, I didn't manage to find out why the Eiscafe-Mauritius is so named. Actually, a visit to its website and an unanswered phone call led me to conclude that it was no longer in existence (turns out it was, in fact, closed for a spell). It was pure coincidence that we stumbled upon it heading to our Mongolian dinner. Normally, I wouldn't eat ice cream as an appetizer, but seeing as Theodor-Heuss-Platz is not on my regular circuit, it was now or never. We decided to share one scoop of the most Mauritius-esque flavor on offer (at the end of a sunny, but chilly March day, they only had a handful of flavors): mango. All the ice cream at Mauritius is homemade and according to internet sources, they offer some interesting flavors, such as rosewater and white coffee. Based on the half scoop I sampled, I deem the ice cream pretty good. I wouldn't go across town for it, but if I lived nearby or happened to be at Theodor-Heuss-Platz on a warm day, I would be more than willing to try more flavors. On this day, however, it was on to Cafe Tsetseg for a Mongolian dinner. Cafe Tsetseg seems to be the only Mongolian restaurant in Berlin, though there are several spots offering Mongolian barbecue (a meat and vegetable stir-fry cooked on a large griddle. Don't be fooled -- there aren't all that many actual facts behind the myth that the dish was the traditional fare of Mongol warriors who sliced meat with their swords and used their helmets as a griddle. It's unclear just why this dish was ever linked to Mongolia, but it was invented (if stir-frying meat and vegetables can be considered an invention) in Taiwan in the 1970s. Ironically, the first American restaurant to open in Mongolia was BD's Mongolian Grill. You won't find any Mongolian barbecue at Cafe Tsetseg. When we arrived, they quickly switched the television from a German spaghetti Western to a dvd of Mongolian wildlife and brought us mugs of salted milk tea (a beverage which tastes first salty, then of milk, and faintly of tea). While I haven't taken to making my own salty milk tea at home, it was a very good sign that they aren't dumbing down the cuisine for the locals, and for a brief period it actually hit the spot. The small menu offers a couple types of dumplings, noodles, and soups, as well as, potato salad. This is not the place to go when you are looking to load up on vegetables. We ended up with a plate of buuz, which was served with potato salad and a beef dumpling soup. Buuz are steamed dumplings with a meat filling - to me they were indistinguishable from Tibetan and Nepalese momo. The potato salad (mayonnaise-based with bits of carrots, ham, and peas) was very Russian - in fact, I've eaten the same thing in Spain as ensalada rusa and in the US at Russian establishments in Coney Island. The soup had a nice broth and the dumplings (essentially mini buuz) were accompanied by a good amount of carrot and onion, as well as, slices of briskety meat. This isn't food that will wow you with its depth of flavor and it isn't likely to introduce you to any new tastes, but everything was clearly homemade and everything was good (not to mention cheap - we spent 12 Euros on dinner for two, 13 if you count our ice cream prelude). Eiscafe-Mauritius Theodor-Heuss-Platz 2 Cafe Tsetseg Behaimstraße 12 bus 15:15

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mexiko: Nichts wie weg hier!

One of my earliest food memories is eating steak tacos in Nogales, Mexico with my mother and grandmother when I was about four. I can't explain it, but for whatever reason the taste of that steak taco is more vivid to me than things I've eaten much more recently: the soft flour tortilla, the charred pieces of meat, and the shredded ice berg lettuce - nothing else. In hindsight, it seems unlikely that I would have been allowed to eat lettuce even in border town Mexico, so maybe we were in Tucson and I am blending memories, but the taste is still very real to me. Good Mexican food was a constant in my life until I moved abroad and, while I make it at home with self-imported ingredients, a lack of good Mexican always seems like an oversight in city planning to me, unfair as that may be. Still, somehow I prefer this lack to subpar Mexican restaurants. Few things make me sadder than bad Mexican food. I will admit to feeling a twinge of guilt about this post because I'll be the first to acknowledge that in the six years I've lived in Berlin, Mexican food has improved dramatically. In my early days, the Mexican food to be found here made taco bell look autentico. Many of those restaurants were run by Bangladeshis who had never been anywhere near Mexico. I'm sure they were top-notch Bangladeshi cooks and I so wish they had focused on that, but instead there wasn't any remotely good Bangladeshi or Mexican food to be found. Today there are several Mexican restaurants in Berlin with an actual Mexican on board. At first glance, these establishments look like places I have happily frequented in gentrified areas of various major US cities - the walls are painted bright colors, Mexican streamers decorate the ceilings...The menus look familiar, too: tacos de carnitas, chilaquiles, burritos con tinga de pollo. I sort of wish I had only ever looked into these restaurants and never actually eaten at them. I know all too well that you have to cook the food that your customers want to eat, but I have cooked traditional Mexican food for Germans on several occasions and my guests seemed pretty happy. Honestly, I do not know how the Mexicans involved in these restaurants sleep at night. That may sound extreme. I told you, Mexican food is close to my heart. In the interest of full disclosure, I at at Maria Bonita a few times a couple years ago and remember liking it. I don't have a great excuse for not having been back except that I don't live nearby anymore, they only have a few stools so it's not a great place for catching up with friends, and I've read that it's gone down hill. Tonight we'd planned to go to Maria Peligro, Maria Bonita's Kreuzberg outpost, which is or I should say was, a real restaurant with chairs and tables, but I noticed in the afternoon (by chance) that it is now closed. We almost went to Ta'Cabron, but ended up at Santa Maria (the remaining sister of Maria Bonita). Ta'Cabron seemed a little far for someone this pregnant to travel with no guarantee (and little hope) of a good dinner. I've read a few good things about it, but also a lot of not so good things. I had eaten at Santa Maria a year or so ago and not really liked it, but it seemed a good compromise location-wise and they do also have tables and chairs. Any restaurant can have an off night, I figured... Alas, the food doesn't seem to have changed at all - not a good thing. I had tacos de carnitas and my friend had a burrito de verduras. Neither one of them was disgusting ... but neither was good either. As for the burrito, Mexico actually has a lot of good vegetable dishes. For the life of me, I can't understand why a restaurant claiming to serve "classic street style" food would stuff their vegetarian burrito with eggplant and roasted red peppers. Again, it was fine......not remotely classic and the tamarind-habanero marinade was not at all detectable, but a bean burrito can be a thing of such beauty. There's just no need to be creative, especially when you haven't mastered the basics. And the tacos. Sad, sad tacos. I think the corn tortillas at Santa Maria are actually very good, but they are tiny and when buried under huge piles of greasy meat - you can't appreciate them at all. In fact, it's absolutely impossible to pick up the tacos - you can't even begin to fold the sides in, there's just too much meat. And honestly, the meat isn't all that great. As mentioned, it is way too greasy and there isn't really any spicing, which would be ok if it weren't for the grease and if the carnitas had been properly crisped. Or if there were less of it. Or if was served with anything vegetal beyond a sad miniscule pile of salsa fresca and some minced onions. Santa Maria would save money and make vastly better tacos if they used half the meat and garnished each taco with some shredded iceberg lettuce (here in the land of iceberg lettuce salads no less), a couple sliced radishes, and maybe a cilantro leaf or two. Perhaps they are trying to satisfy meat-happy German customers, but to me the people behind Santa Maria are telling you through their food that Mexican food is simplistic (slap a pile of whatever meat on a plate, don't worry about flavor or texture or ...) and not worth making an effort for. Nothing could be further from the truth, but the cooking at Santa Maria is lazy and lacks soul. If I didn't have two quarts of carne seca in my freezer and a couple cans of green chile in my pantry, I think I'd cry myself to sleep. Santa Maria Oranienstrasse 170 For the record, I've also had disappointing food at Dolores (yes, the quality of the tortilla is important, even in Cal-Mex) and Tipica (actually worse the the meal I had at La Paz in Prenzlauer Berg, one of the old-style Mexican joints possibly Bangladeshi-owned more than six years ago when my now-husband was trying to show me how cosmopolitan the Berlin food scene was - I must really like him to have moved here after that meal).

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Martinique: Ich wusste es schon (aber wirklich)

I've walked or biked past the Martinique Restaurant & Cafe many times and never had any desire whatsoever to eat there. Actually, I never thought it had anything to do with the Caribbean island other than a shared name. I was quite surprised to find out that the restaurant offers a "surprising and refreshing" mix of the cuisines from Germany's Baden region and the island of Martinique. Well, that's what the website says anyway. Martinique the Restaurant looks like (and basically is) your standard Eckkneipe or corner bar, which in Germany usually means a smoky establishment serving mostly beer, frequented by locals. These kinds of places are never trendy or fancy, they're often on the dingy or tacky side (blinky gambling machines and bad lighting), and for the most part, the only decent thing you can count on getting is beer. Sometimes, as in the case of Martinique, basic food is on offer - it's usually not homemade or very good (at least in these parts). So, I have to give Martinique credit for doing something a little different (apparently the owner has family in Martinique). Still, the menu has three supposedly Martinique items: a salad with pineapple, mango, and shrimp; fried potato wedges with Caribbean dipping sauces; and a wrap that sounded a lot like a burrito with ground beef and corn. The wrap wasn't available on the night we visited - alas. Mein Mann's meal came with potato wedges and dipping sauces - maybe you only get the Caribbean dips if you order them a la carte, but glooey red sauce from the Asian foods store (Germans LOVE this glop) and some frightening mayonaisey substance do not scream Caribbean to me. Nor are they homemade as the menus claims. Details....I tried to order something from Martinque, I really did. But potato wedges (from the freezer I might add) do not a dinner make and I am squeamish about cheap frozen shrimp, which was definitely going to be the case in the Martinque salad. I ordered Maultaschen Suppe (a brothy soup with German ravioli), which is most definitely from Baden. It was about as bad as I had expected. As fun as a Baden-Martinique restaurant sounds (and I'm guessing this is probably the only one in existence?).....nothing on the menu would be remotely recognizable as typical to someone from Martinique. If the Baden dishes were any good, I might be able to let the Martinique food slide (a little), but they are pretty awful. In keeping with standard Eckkneipe food, but that help much in my book. Sad, sad, sad. Martinique Restaurant & Cafe Monumentenstrasse 29

Friday, February 8, 2013

Mazedonien: ich wusste es schon

Why a German restaurant pretending to be an Italian restaurant is even bothering to call itself Restaurant Macedonia is beyond me. I'm not a total idiot and I do bring my low expectation every time I go out in this city, but I felt I couldn't skip Macedonia because I sort of skipped Luxembourg and have major guilt. In my defense Alt Luxembourg doesn't make any claims to serve actual Luxembourgian food, although from what I gather, Luxembourgian cuisine is sort of a Franco-German mishmash, so who knows? The website doesn't explain why it's called that, but I think it may have to do with a previous use for the building that now houses the restaurant. Anyway, it's expensive and apparently was once a very well-regarded spot, back when Charlottenburg was trendy...but the odds of it actually being good enough to justify the prices, just seemed too slim. Sorry.
I probably would have also passed Macedonia by if it wasn't mere feet from the Lichterfelde West S-Bahn station, which I had to go by anyway. I popped in for lunch and it was fine. Not the worst meal I've had this week. The place is run by actual Macedonians, speaking what I presume was Macedonian (it certainly wasn't German or Italian) to each other, the waitress was having her lunch while I had mine - a big chunk of feta, a fried egg, a bunch of olives and a hunk of bread. I was tempted to ask if I could have what she had, but decided to stick to the menu, most of which is Italian: the standard pasta dishes, pizzas, involtini and saltimboca, etc. Oddly, all the specials of the day were German: pork roast with potatoes and red cabbage and Koenigsberger Klopse (a classic dish of meatballs in a creamy caper sauce) and literally all the other customers, who I might add were a good 30+ years older than me, were eating the German specials. Ever the rebel, I stuck to the small Macedonian portion of the menu, your standard Balkan options: cevapcici (old friend), kebab-type things served with rice, etc. Not so much in the mood for cheap meat, I ordered a Macedonian bean dish, gravce tavce, which I later learned is the Macedonian national dish. It's basically a white bean stew, apparently with as many variations as there are Macedonian housewives. At Restaurant Macedonia they use gigante beans, cooked in a tomato-y sauce with peppers and onions, warmed under the broiler with sprinkling of feta cheese. It's a simple dish and it wasn't half bad, though it was over-salted. Not something I would trek across town for by any means, but not a horrible lunch on a snowy winter day. I can't help but wish the Macedonians at Restaurant Macedonia were pushing their cuisine a bit more. It's not as if Berlin needs another mediocre Italian or German restaurant, but judging by the elderly clientele ordering plates and plates of Koenigsberger Klopse, I guess they've concluded that gravce tavce and cevapcici alone don't pay the bills. Restaurant Macedonia Hans-Sachs-Strasse 4f

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Der Libanon: lecker und deftig

There are countless Middle Eastern restaurants in Berlin - most of them would, however, be described as an Imbiss - usually a bit of a hole in the wall, with a few tables and only counter service. For the most part, all of these places serve the same menu - falafel, schawarmas, hummus, and baba ghanoush in sandwich or platter form. Similarly, there's very little price range - sandwiches usually cost around 3 Euros and platters between 7 or so Euros. So where to go for my Lebanese meal? I have had good schawarmas at Babel on Kastanienalle, though it's been a while as I no longer live around the corner. For a time I liked Habibi with two locations in Schoeneberg (on Akazienstrasse and a few blocks north at Winterfeldplatz), but they microwave the bread and the last schawarma I had there (a few months back) tasted of nothing. Nothing. How a sandwich doused with tahini and garlic sauce can taste of nothing, I do not know, but I won't be back. So this time around, I did a simple google search for "best schawarma Berlin" and came across another blog, listing one person's opinions on the best hummus, falafel, and schawarma in town. It seemed a good a tip as any and so I set out with a fellow schwarma-lover to see what Maroush near Kottbusser Tor had to offer. We were not disappointed. It may have helped that we arrived just before the lunch rush, but our chicken schawarmas were as good as any I've had in Berlin. The sandwiches were stuffed to capacity, doused with delicious garicky tahini sauce, and in my case extra pickled turnips in place of French fries (I know lots of people like this, but I can't seem to get behind potatoes in my schawarma). Maroush's schawarma's are a little greasy, but as my friend pointed out, this isn't out of the ordinary. Still, I've had lighter and, in my opinion, better schawarmas in the past, albeit not in Berlin. Having somewhat limited capacity these days (growing fetus, etc.) I couldn't quite finish my lunch, but was still full hours later. Maroush's chicken schawarma would make an ideal late night, alcohol-absorbing snack. My main issue with Maroush? The place could use a thorough cleaning. The bathroom wasn't so bad - I was actually pretty excited to see that they have one as many Imbiss-type places do not. A peek into the kitchen on my way back from the bathroom didn't send me running, but it wasn't all that pretty either. Mostly though, the dining area is just dingy - washing the walls and removing the thick layer of dust from the jars of preserved vegetables that line the walls and make up most of the place's decor would do wonders. Maroush Adalbertstrasse 93