Luxe or experiential travel isn’t complete without rounding out your food checklist before venturing to a destination. While some restaurants and street food can certainly be discovered and you should leave some time in your schedule for random “picks”, it’s worth curating a list that is sure to delight your palette before leaving home.
On my recent trip to Berlin Germany, I was able to sample a variety of culinary treats, from street food, German fine and casual dining and a vegan eatery to gourmet markets and a Japanese concept restaurant, brought over from Brooklyn. From mid to high end, classically German and outside courtyards to modern and chic, michelin star and beyond, below is a creatively curated guide for your dining pleasure that focuses on the creative and decadent.
Also be sure to check out my Specialty & Street Food Guide to Berlin as well as the We Blog the World Alternative & Unique Foodie Guide to Berlin.
Creative and Decadent
Studio is a bit off the beaten path and not something you’d randomly find in the heart of a bustling pedestrian area. Newly opened, this modern restaurant known for its Thai and Asian cuisine and fresh and modern influenced German dishes for a lunch crowd, is located on Rheinsberger Strasse in a cool brick building that was once a factory.
The two coolest factoids about the place is that one of the restaurant walls is part of the original Berlin Wall and that 2 michelin star chef extraordinaire Tim Raue is behind it. Tastefully decorated, its clean but warm design achieves a modernly creative and well-balanced result that is inviting any time of day or night.
Above photo credit: Studio.
While Tim specializes in souping up reasonably priced small lunch dishes that are a mix of modern and classic German cuisine, the other side of his restaurant business is upscale Thai, with 3, 5, 7 and 12 course menus and a great selection of wines.
The restaurant just opened in March 2015, so they’re still testing out combos, however to give you an idea of their current 5 course menu at only 58 Euros a head, he starts you out with green asparagus with mango and violet, followed by Red Prawn and Tom Kha Gai, before moving you onto a lamb yellow curry with banana (yum) and finishing you off with coconut, pineapple and vanilla.
The 12 course menu is only 108 Euros a head and has a water spinach tofu and truffle dish that sounds heavenly. The more classic lunch menus offer much smaller dishes and are great options for locals during the week. For example, some of the dishes we tried included a Chicken Salad with pickled cucumber, chives, green beans, mayonnaise and tangerine, a Mustard and chive soup and Codfish with sweet sour cucumber, dill and mashed chervil.
They also had a classic German pork schnitzel with parsley, served over pasta with sauce, which consisted of mushrooms, carrots, ginger, tomato, vegetable stock, tomato paste, garlic, sugar and butter. Hey, the chef came out and I wanted specifics! The lunch menu changes every two weeks and the Thai menu changes every three months. For dessert, they offered a red fruit jelly served with vanilla and passion fruit.
Above photo credit from La Soupe Populaire courtesy of photographer Boetzow Berlin. Cookies and Cream moved to Behrenstraße 55, a fine dining establishment that serious foodies all seem to know about, especially vegetarians. Decadent and chic in every way, it’s well worth a stop if you want to have a luscious but healthy experience in the heart of Berlin.
Entrees include a roasted cauliflower and couscous with wild herbs, raisins and purple curry, a crunchy potato lasagne with fried asparagus, swiss cheese truffle and mushrooms, Parmesan dumplings with cream of artichokes, served with tomatoes, tandoori and herbs, a Celeriac root baked in salt dough with sesame, spinach and onion and a Baked eggplant with fava beans, peanuts and papadam.
A must-order appetizer is their Quail’s egg in brioche, which they serve with port wine shallot, potato foam and truffle jus. And, don’t forget about dessert while you’re there. How about a white bubble chocolate and pistachio concoction served with homemade cassis ice cream and mascarpone? Two thumbs up!
Above photos courtesy of Cookies and Cream site.
Located in the former Cookies and Cream space, you’ll find Crackers Bar & Restaurant, a relatively new restaurant on the Berlin scene. Unless you know where you’re going, you could very easily get lost. We finally found the back entrance after trekking down an alley and past a set of trash bins, however the front entrance is equally as mysterious.
Located behind a large steel door on Friedrichstrasse, Crackers Berlin is a welcome retreat once you find it, since behind this massive door with no windows is a modern chic space with a hip bar that serves outa this world cocktails and modern cuisine.
Because there were several of us, we ordered a mirage of starters and main courses so we could sample as many dishes as possible. Some of the call-out appetizers include Fresh peas with mint, basil and sun-dried tomatoes, Fried courgette flowers with romesco, sage and almonds, Burrata with olive oil, chives and rye bread and the raw scallops, which are then grilled and served with sesame, piscou and goah cress — oh so delicious!
They had a Oxtail soup with praline I didn’t try but let’s just say it stood out on the menu. For mains, we had the Filet or Entrecote beef with salt flakes, pepper stock, and smoked beetroot, the Portobello in Tempura with pumpkin mash, tandoori and herbs, the Stewed Lamb with roasted couscous, and the Pan-fried surgeon with juniper, celery and Beluga caviar (my personal favorite).
For sides, we went with the cauliflower and djah oftadeh, Ricotta with sage butter, broccoli with ginger-chili, marinated fennel and beans with basil and almonds — all things healthy and fresh.
In an area that has a touch of London’s Brixton and Hackney but growing in trendiness every day, lies two fabulous restaurants worth a visit. First on the list is michelin star Horvath on Paul-Lincke-Ufe (aka Paul Lincke Ufer Quay in English), which runs along a river known as the Land Wehr Canal, which we had to cross to get to from metro stop Kotbusser Tor, a ten or so minute walk from this quay.
Photo credit: New York Times. Think modern and chic in every way from the presentation of the dishes to the decor itself.
Dishes selections include a combo of pork chin, trout and eggplant and a veal dish with root vegetables. While the area seems a bit grungy, great restaurants and bars are popping up in this formerly less than stellar area of Kreuzberg.
Photo credit: FoodieinBerlin.
A few restaurants down from Horvath is Spindler Berlin which specializes in a seasonal menu and German wine although it’s worth pointing out that the chef is French. How about this for classic? A “Dry Aged” Schlegel with mushrooms, baby romana and a Schwarzbier sauce or for dessert, a fresh Rhubarb panna cotta?
Above photo credit: Spindler.
Since we were running around town with Henrik Tidefjard, one of Berlin’s ever so chic personal lifestyle guides, we only had a main course at Spindler since we made two previous stops and were planning to wind up at Japanese concept restaurant Zenkichi later in the evening for dessert. Out came an ever so classic Lamb dish with root vegetables which apparently they’re known for, paired with a rich German red I can’t seem to recall the name of despite my anal note taking.
From there, we headed to Zenkichi on Friedrichstadtpalast in the Jewish Quarter — the closest metro stop is Oranienburgerstr. This unique Japanese upscale eatery is owned by an Israeli Japanese husband wife team and they have a restaurant by the same name in New York’s Brooklyn.
Referred to as a concept restaurant, Israeli born Shaul Margulies stopped by our table to chat with us over cocktails about the restaurant. While we had our own private room for our 12 or so group on a Saturday night, the rest of the restaurant was open and airy with bamboo dividers throughout for added privacy should you wish.
Credit: Zenkichi site.
They served up a selection of homemade desserts and cocktails for us, starting with Fresh Indulgence, which is a Shiso-infused vodka drink with pink grapefruit juice and calpico-milk, and the Bee’s Devotion, which they make with Kuma Rice Shochu,
Yuzu Japanese citrus juice and wildflower honey. The saki choices were a Nishi no Seki from the Kayashima Brewery and a Garyu-Bai from the Miwa Brewery.
Homemade desserts included milk pudding with heavy cream and Japanese kudzu root starch, Azuki red beans and strawberries, Frozen Black Sesame Mousse and a Walnut Chocolate pudding with roasted walnuts! My favorite? Hands down, the Frozen Black Sesame Mousse.
An unusually decadent and exquisite experience is the “must try” Fragrances in Berlin’s Ritz Carlton Hotel, the first bar dedicated to the art of cocktails in combination with the world of perfume and aromas.
Hand-picked fragrances of renowned brands by Giorgio Armani, L’Artisan Parfumeur and Annick Goutal, Yves Saint Laurent and Guerlain, in combination with high-quality spirits from the world-class portfolio of Diageo, are the inspiration for the unique drinks created by bar manager Arnd Heissen. The culinary team serves bar snacks to match the creative drinks at Fragrances, which concentrates the aromas of the perfumes and cocktails using the principle of food-pairing.
For example, their sweet “Macaron Énorme” with vanilla and raspberries ideally matches the drink “Signorina”, which was inspired by the fragrance of the same name by Salvatore Ferragamo.
Photo credit: Ritz Carlton Berlin site. Apparently there’s a special “Luxury Perfume Weekend” you can sign up for at the Ritz Carlton in cooperation with the Berlin perfume manufacturer Frau Tonis Parfum. At an exclusive workshop, you can discover more about the beguiling world of aromas, and can create your own personal fragrance together with a perfume expert. Champagne, canapés and exotic fruits round off your stay in the perfumery at Checkpoint Charlie.
Very impressive and innovative idea!
Photo credit: Ritz Carlton Berlin site.
Relatively new on the Berlin scene, Kantine Kohlmann Restaurant and Bar falls into the creative category more than decadent bucket. This trendy eatery focusing on “bites” along Skalitzer Strasse, has a number of meat and vegetarian friendly small plate options as well as unique drinks, main courses and desserts.
You can choose from a selection of 3, 6 or 9 sides or order any dish on its own, whether it be a small bite or one of their larger entree dishes, like the Beef Ossobuco, which they serve with Couscous and Gremolata, the Marinated Beef Pot Roast with Cassava, Radish and Leek-n-Carrot Sticks or the Wiener Schnitzel with capers and potato cucumber salad.
There’s also a vegetarian stuffed cabbage with Marjoram gravy and lemony mustard seeds and Pearl Barley Jam with Espuma and bacon to Halibut with mashed peas, cucumber juice and asparagus.
Also worth a try is their Aubergine with Chickpeas, cilantro and sesame, the Beetroot Cilantro Tartare (yum), the Roast Beef with Molten Onions, buttermilk and lovage, the Lentil salad with carrots, celeriac and fennel, the Herring Tartare with green apple and dill, the Blood Sausage with creamed sauerkraut, a Walnut Garlic Gazpacho with grapes (loved this) and the infamous German meatball, referred to as Konigsberger Klopse, which they serve with potato form and capers.
For dessert, go for the Elderflower cream cherry compote with pumpernickel and because the place has a great selection of drinks, skip the wine and order a Hugo (prosecco, elderberry flower syrup and mint) or an Aperol with an orange rind to kick things off. Yum!!
Pauly Saal is a mixture of old classic English (leather, classic oriental carpets and kilims on wide wooden floors) and edgy and chic, with their modern sculptures on cocktail tables in its adjoining bar.
I discovered this place in the Jewish District in the former Jewish Girls School on the ground floor. As you enter, you’re greeted with colorful tiles in the hallway until you reach the check in desk where a young handsome German man takes your name.
Below is inside the restaurant itself, which is a bit more formal than its more classic styled bar which is what you hit when you enter.
Photo credit: coolhunting.com.
There’s a sommelier in the house to help you with wine pairing for any of their classic dishes, of which include decadent dishes like a Pork belly Bavarian style with caraway sauce, baked snails and soured onions and Pikeperch with lobster, crunchy vegetables and caper hollandaise.
This is on my top 5 list for my next trip — did I mention that they have over 600 wines? Kafer Restaurant is located on the top of the Reichstag, which is not only one of Berlin’s main highlights and iconic buildings, but is now the modern home of the German Parliament. It has been burned, bombed, rebuilt, buttressed by the Berlin Wall, wrapped in fabric before its transformation.
The original building was designed by Paul Wallot in 1894, and since 1999, it is the place where German Parliament, the Bundestag, works. This followed a total makeover by Lord Norman Foster, who preserved only the building’s historical shell while adding the striking glass dome, which is accessible by lift.
The view is awe-inspiring, as it not only presents Berlin in all its grandeur but gives you a glimpse into the building structure itself around you. There’s a balcony you can walk out onto or you can simply take in the view from your seat in the restaurant.
The dishes are modernly European in style and half the group ordered a crisp Sauvignon Blanc to go along with salad, a delicious Rhubarb soup and the Pike-perch fillet which they served with green asparagus risotto, spring onion, mushrooms and lemon sauce.
They also had a veal dish, which was medium fried and tossed in a Frankfurt green sauce with an almond broccoli salad. For dessert, a delicious yogurt ginger ice cream with crumbles. Yum! Two thumbs up. I loved the open air kitchen as well as I could get a taste of some of the other dishes we didn’t order.
The Westin Grand Hotel Berlin along Friedrichstraße and in a more touristy part of town doesn’t necessarily boast food worth writing home about, but it’s trendy outside Relish Bar & Restaurant with comfortable couches and purple blankets in case you get cold, is simply a fun place to make a stop for a drink and appetizer. Order a lager with Berliner Weisse, which is almost never consumed straight.
Instead, it is drunk “mit Schuss,” that is, with a shot of raspberry or woodruff-flavored syrup, which is very hard to find in the states. If you get a shot with Woodruff, your beer will be green, so the Irish among you will be completely at home with this combination.
This beaux arts-style destination is only a ten minute walk from Brandenburg Gate at Großer Tiergarten. Berlin’s oldest park. There’s also free wifi in case you need to surf the web or catch up on email. Berliners often order their Weisse simply by asking for a “red” (left) or a “green”(right) one.
In the 19th century, Berliner Weisse was often served fortified with a shot of pure or caraway-flavored, vodka-like schnapps, a custom that has now fallen out of favor. Some restaurants now serve Berliner Weisse with a straw, a practice that is apparently frowned upon by the true Weisse cognoscenti.
Be sure to check out my Ultimate History & Culture Guide to Berlin, which is an extensive list of recommendations that cross boundaries — from art, culture and history, to design, fashion, shopping and tours, you’ll learn a lot about the known and the not so known Berlin. Note: I used hashtag #BLNHoods for my trip to Berlin so be sure to check out my Instagram and Twitterfeeds for some great photographs and observations.
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Berlin has a number of Michelin Star Restaurants to choose from as well. Have a look:
- Facil: www.facil.de/en/, S+U Potsdamer Platz (2 michelin stars)
- Fischers Fritz: www.fischersfritzberlin.com, U Französische Straße (2 michelin stars)
- Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer: lorenzadlon-esszimmer.de/en/, S Brandenburger Tor (2 michelin stars)
- Reinstoff: www.reinstoff.eu/english/, U Naturkundemuseum or S Nordbahnhof (2 michelin stars)
- Tim Raue: tim-raue.com/en/, U Kochstraße (2 michelin stars)
- 5 – Cinco by Paco Pérez: www.5-cinco.com, S+U Zoologischer Garten (1 michelin star)
- First Floor: www.firstfloorberlin.de/en/, S+U Zoologischer Garten (1 michelin star)
- Frühsammers Restaurant: fruehsammers-restaurant.jimdo.com, S Hohenzollerndamm (1 michelin star)
- Horváth: www.restaurant-horvath.de, U Kottbusser Tor (1 michelin star)
- Hugos: www.hugos-restaurant.de; S+U Zoologischer Garten (1 michelin star)
- Les Solistes by Pierre Gagnaire: www.waldorfastoriaberlin.com/deu/Restaurants-Lounges/Les-Solistes, S+U Zoologischer Garten (1 michelin star)
- Pauly Saal: www.paulysaal.com, S Oranienburger Straße (1 michelin star)
- Skykitchen: www.skykitchen.berlin, S Landsberger Allee (1 michelin star)
- VAU: www.vau-berlin.de/en/, U Französische Straße (1 michelin star)
- Weinbar Rutz: www.weinbar-rutz.de, U Naturkundemuseum (1 michelin star)