Destination: Germany: Berlin
SEE ALSO: Grill Royal
Spend twenty-four hours in Berlin and the phrase “this is so Berlin,” will become part of your lexicon. Tausend Cantina would qualify as an über-cool, speakeasy-style bar and restaurant, and its cuisine of Japanese/Spanish fusion helps with the cool-factor. Dishes, be they tapas, sushi or a morph of the two is as delicious as they are inventive.
Diners enter the space by knocking on an unmarked door under a bridge and are led into a very dark and very cool space. The bar is in a spacecraft-type long and narrow room (outfitted in all black, of course). Through the club-like area is the open-plan kitchen and dining area. Tables are set close together encouraging intimate conversation with your dining companion and neighbors. And the hipster wait staff adds to the fascinating panache.
This acclaimed vegetarian restaurant, owned by nightclub impresario Heinz Gindullis (nicknamed Cookie), is no longer a secret but finding it remains an adventure. A tiny sign bearing the number 55 leads guests down a long, dumpster-lined alley behind the Westin Hotel. At the end, there’s a small buzzer, which you ring to give your name (the restaurant is strictly reservations only) before taking a dimly-lit staircase to the restaurant on the first floor.
In New York or London, this type of underground restaurant is often jarringly hip with a cooler-than-thou staff. Here, it could not be more relaxed and cozy. An open kitchen greets diners who are seated in the intimate dining room. There’s a groovy soundtrack but it’s soft enough that one can have a good conversation, even with a group. The food is incredibly innovative and complex vegetarian fare with an often-changing, seasonal menu (three courses cost €32). Many think if they make a late-enough reservation at Cookies Cream, they can just mosey downstairs to Cookies nightclub afterwards, but the Berlin clubbing scene doesn’t really kick off until 2 a.m. or later, so most don’t make it.
Of all the restaurants I sampled during my recent trip, I would say Cookies Cream was my favorite and should be top-of-the-list for travelers looking for really interesting, flavorful food in a cool setting. Those who prefer a more classic approach to fine dining will be happier at one of the Michelin-starred spots like Facil, Fischer’s Fritz or Reinstoff.
There are fewer than fifteen tables in the sleek, all-glass Facil restaurant, situated in the fifth-floor courtyard of the Mandala hotel. Young chef Michael Kempf has won many accolades—and a Michelin star in 2003—for his light, Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. A meal might include fillet of bison with chanterelles and apricot or foie gras with truffles, pine nuts and apple-coriander confit. If it’s on the dessert menu, make sure to order the melon-and-buttermilk tart.
At Fischers Fritz, the Michelin-starred restaurant at the Regent Berlin chef Christian Lohse is impressing food critics and delighting guests with such haute seafood dishes as Breton lobster with foamed corail jus and smoked-eel terrine.
Expect masterful food, a stylish crowd and a panoramic view at Hugos, on the fourteenth floor of the InterContinental hotel. Highlighting only the finest ingredients, the inventive dishes—lobster with peach basil sorbet and venison with melted foie gras, apple chutney and porcini mushrooms—are served in an ultramodern dining room. Thomas Kammeier is one of the dozen or so chefs in Berlin who have been awarded a Michelin star. A wonderful cheese trolley provides the perfect finishing touch.
This sleek contemporary restaurant received a Michelin star in 2009, joining the ten other one-stars Berlin has to offer (only Fischer’s Fritz in the Regent Berlin has two). Reservations must be made well in advance, since this restaurant is not only considered the newest culinary bright-star but also one of the few that is not part of a hotel. Of course, keeping with its cool-kid vibe, Reinstoff is not easy to find (you have to walk into the courtyard off Schlegelstrasse). Diners choose between four-, five- six- and eight-course meals, which range in price from €64 to €124, a relative bargain considering that at a one-star in Paris, you might end up paying as much for an appetizer and entrée. Dinner only, closed Sunday and Monday.
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