Culinary Rise Through the Stars
Written by Oryx
Berlin resident Rachael Vance guides us through the culinary rise and transformation of this northern European metropolis. Still burgeoning with new ideas and a freedom of spirit since reunification a quarter of a century ago, many regional and global influences have combined here to create a unique dining scene.
Germany’s capital city is now the third most visited within Europe, behind the famed cultural hotspots of London and Paris. It was until recently, however, the elephant in the room among these cities when discussing the upper echelons of fine dining. But, in the last few years the acclaimed Michelin Guide has bestowed a number of stars on an ever-growing constellation of innovative chefs and restaurants, redefining Berlin’s reputation as a destination of haute cuisine. With a total of 20 stars divided among 15 establishments, the old seat of the Prussian kingdom now wears the fine-dining crown of the entire country, and is second only to France in Europe. It is a newer generation of talent driving this ascent and evolution, and it is within this paradigm that the current trend and real culinary force can be discovered.
No recent discussion concerning the city’s fine-dining scene is complete without mention of chef and entrepreneur Tim Raue. The 41-year-old Berlin native has a total of four restaurants within the city and has received many accolades for both his talent as a chef and the success of his restaurants – even appearing for a season as a judge on Germany’s version of television series MasterChef. He is the embodiment of a Berlin chef, with intercultural experiences that have influenced not only his professional ventures but also that of the constantly changing and evolving face of gastronomy in his home town. His flagship restaurant, which bears his name, is an Asian-inspired experience that aims, according to Raue, “to create a rollercoaster ride of aromas” for his guests. The restaurant, around the corner from the infamous Checkpoint Charlie, has boasted two Michelin stars since 2012 and continues to wow diners with its inspired flavour combinations of signature dishes such as wasabi langoustine and Peking duck with leek cooked in ginger butter. The deep royal-blue textiles, wooden panelling, and imposing presence of seat-to-ceiling-sized contemporary art, with views directly into the kitchen, create a composed drama that only serves to highlight the culinary experience.
Also holding a two-star status, restaurant Reinstoff with chef Daniel Achilles at the helm professes to “embody the so-called entrepreneurial spirit”, a recurring theme in the capital. Situated within a typical industrial courtyard in the central Mitte district, the stylish, restrained, and low-lit interior is a beguiling contrast to the building’s exterior. Achilles tries to steer away from the conventional luxury ingredients of lobster and caviar, preferring to surprise and excite with rarer products when they are in season. This is most notable in his ‘Ganz Nah’, or ‘Nearby’, menu. The result is a sleek, detailed expression of ingredients and technique, a journey for the palate that has seen pigeon from neighbouring Saxony and pickled trout from the Black Forest among its varied offerings. The expertly crafted main dishes create a sublime and intensely savoury mix that, upon first glance, may seem to have every ingredient striving for dominance. The result, however, is a striking chord of harmony. Almost theatrical at times underneath the expertly designed lighting, the serving staff of Reinstoff, wearing dark gloves and often serving and clearing the table in tandem, bring yet another element of control and expression to the experience.
One of the newest members of the starry Berlin constellation is the restaurant Skykitchen, on the 12th floor atop the Andel’s Hotel at the edge of the city’s inner east. Chefs Alexander Koppe and Eyck Zimmer also include a menu intently focusing on regional flavours and ingredients. “The way we cook reflects the city we live in: creative, fresh, and uncomplicated!” The ‘Berlin to the Sea’ menu manages to capture that spirit and, in the words of Koppe, “As a Berlin native, I place a great value on the use of regional and seasonal products to produce tasteful and highly flavourful meals. The result is a modern style of German cuisine that unites the love of my country, my city, with some international culinary highlights.” Think venison from the surrounding lake district of Gransee, just north of the city, paired with blackberry, Brussels sprouts, and carrot.
Also with one star is the restaurant Horváth, situated by the Landwehr canal in the city’s hip and multicultural district of Kreuzberg. Leading the kitchen is Sebastian Frank, originally from neighbouring Austria, who was Falstaff magazine’s Chef of the Year in 2011 and just 30 years old when he received his first Michelin Guide success. His ethos is also to primarily focus on regional ingredients while delivering the essence of his Austrian tradition directly to the plate. Again, the inspiration from cross-cultural experiences drives the direction of his menu and its philosophy. The flavours are sophisticated and expertly distilled to a point that aroma, taste, and texture constantly require a second assessment. Protein often takes the back seat as wild, earthy, and fresh flavours slowly unfold through each dish. Frank delivers his unique memories through meticulous techniques and combinations to create new memories for the diner, such as steamed red endive, smoked onion, marinated chicory with frozen pumpkin-seed-oil pastry, and a sauce of yellow beet, parsley root, and pumpkin seed oil. Complex, laborious, and exquisitely executed.
Back in Mitte, another restaurant with one star has made serious waves since opening in 2011. Pauly Saal, operated by the same team as the celebrity hotspot and meat temple Grill Royal, employs clever design both in the dining room and on the plate. The dishes are perfectly manicured, the emerald green banquette seating über comfortable, the service polite and efficient, and the view-through glass to the kitchen dominated from above by a fun and faux giant missile. Colours and textures abound, making the experience all the more vibrant. The ‘Surf & Turf’, lobster with three-months-aged beef, celeriac purée, peas, and brioche, is an example of luxurious, bold yet familiar flavours. Chef Arne Anker sources distinct produce of organic and free-range origin, transforming it into the utterly cool and contemporary.
Daniel Achilles from Reinstoff is a firm believer in utilising seasonal products: “We only work with products that are available in the season we use them in, as they only unfold their aromatic peak during this time.” Achilles enjoys serving his dish ‘Scallops’ with coral, radish pods, French sorrel, and aloe vera in December. Achilles counts his pickled Black Forest trout, spruce shoots, and chlorophyll juice as one of his signature plates.
Pauly Saal is proud of its sheatfish with kimchi, savoy cabbage, and sheatfish liver with barbecue onion bouillon. Finish your dining experience with its black tea cremus with mandarin sorbet and Speculoos biscuit crumble.
Sebastian Frank from Horváth favours his pumpkin in three ways, consisting of home-made salty hazelnut nougat and a reduction from roasted vegetables in the winter months. For dessert, his poppy seeds, parsnip and pear cream, cold horseradish chocolate, sweet cucumber, and wild chive dessert is an absolute must-have. Paul-Lincke-Ufer 44.
Alexander Koppe and Eyck Zimmer serve up modern yet down-to-earth reinterpretations of German and Berlin cuisine. To indulge your sweet tooth, try their cherry and mirabelle, kefir, macadamia nut, and Dulcey dessert.
Landsberger Allee 106.
The Importance of Sourcing Local Produce
Moritz Estermann, chief operating officer, Pauly Saal: “It is our conviction that the product and the talent of the chefs come first. So we source only the best products, which in our case means local produce, organic, home grown, free range, and mostly from producers we know personally. Our kitchen staff, under the lead of head chef Arne Anker, use their talent and ideas in order to bring these products to the table and create unique dining experiences.”
Distance: 4,393 km
Flight Time: 6 hours, 35 minutes