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Next Week in Berlin + A Birthday

p
pace Jan 6, 2010 09:13 AM

We'll be in Berlin for a week and celebrating a birthday while there.

In trying to decide where to eat, I've done my homework on this board and with guidebooks and so want to ask for your comments on:

1. A list of best restaurants that I've put together from this board;

2. Where to celebrate a birthday dinner in Berlin;

3. Restaurants you'd recommend in or near Charlottenburg, where we will be staying; and

4. German wine suggestions.

For background . . .
We're looking for a mix of cuisines and price points. Rather upscale, romantic ambience (no screaming kids), lively but not loud (no screaming adults!), and good service are all important at dinner. And good food, of course, at lunch and dinner.

One of us eats light -- fish, poultry, vegetables, not big on creamy or heavy sauces. The other likes big hunks of meat and potatoes slathered in as much cream and heavy sauce as possible (OK, I'm exagerating, but only a little!) So, we need either restaurants that offer both types of food, or a variety of restaurants where one of us will be in heaven one night with the other able to get by, and then vice versa. Getting light food by ordering appetizers for the main course works for me, too.

OK, so here goes . . .

1. Restaurants highly recommended on this board (in no particular order)

Dinner:
Lutter & Wegner
Renger Patzsch
Tratorria Paparazzi
Tim Raue's Ma
Fischers Fritz
Sale e Tabacchi
Marjellchen
Henne
Ottenthal
Engelbecken
Pata Negra -- is it closed??

Lunch/Cafes:
Lebensmittel
Weinstein Weinschenke
Winterfeldtmarkt
KaDeWe food hall
Quchnia
Imren
Cafe Einstein
Bier's Curry

If you have any thoughts about what you'd take OFF this list, send 'em on!

2. Birthday dinner -- I'll be celebrating my birthday while in Berlin, and don't know if I want to blow it out at a place like Ma or Margaux. I might prefer someplace more fun and less formal. Being from NYC, I've done the big name, high price places there and somehow usually come away feeling like "was it really worth it?"

So, can you recommend a lively (but not loud), fun restaurant that might be memorable -- in a good way :-) -- for a birthday dinner? I'm the light, fish and poultry and vegetable eater of the two.

3. Here are some places in or near Charlottenburg that sound good in guidebooks. Would like to know if you'd recommend them or not.

Alt Luxemburg (saw the menu on this board, but not in English)
Florian
Diener
Galerie Bremer
Schwarzes Cafe

Any other ecommendations for dinners in Charlottenburg would be welcome.

4. We're both wine drinkers, rather than beer drinkers. Any suggestions of German wines/vineyards that we should look for? Red, white, or sparking are all OK with dry preferred.

Sorry this post is so long, but I wanted to provide as much info as possible to make it easy for you to reply.

Thanks!!

  1. Trip Klaus Jan 6, 2010 01:38 PM

    I will defer to lingua on most of your requests however, I will comment on your wine questions. I have found Berlin in the last several years to be more international and less German (I've met more South Africans working at restaurants than Germans) therefore like most German cities German wine in restaurants is at best ignored and at worst shunned. The one exception I have found is the Weinbar Rutz. Along with a great international list, they offer the best cross section of German wines I've found in Berlin. (Glad to hear others) http://www.weinbar-rutz.de/wein/index...

    As you said you prefer dry wines I suggest you look for the wines labeled as gg or gc: grosse gewachs or grand cru. These are wines from the best sites throughout Germany which have to pass a (somewhat) rigourous test to earn the right to be called gg or gc. Based on their current list online I would look to the wines of the Pfalz. On the other hand, if you wish to try two excellent and lesser known "fructig" producers I suggest Vollenweider from the Mosel and Eva Fricke from the Rheingau.

    Two of the best German Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) producers are not currently on their list but I would look for them: Frederich Becker of the Pfalz and Rudolf Furst of Franken. However, from the list I would suggest the wines from Salwey in Baden.

    Finally, one restaurant with a surprisingly good wine list near Charlottenburg on Savignyplatz is Mar y Sol, a perfectly acceptable Spanish/tapas restaurant. Not as inventive as Pata Negra but affordable and very good afforable wine list.

    1. linguafood Jan 7, 2010 07:16 AM

      Danke, Klaus '-D

      Glad you took care of some of the wine issues for me -- I drink a lot of wine, but have hard time remembering specific vineyards/vintners I like. That said, I'm a big fan of Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, and Lemberger (for reds), and Grau- & Weißburgunder for whites.

      Weinbar Rutz actually sounds like a safe bet, maybe even for that birthday dinner of yours. While I myself haven't been there (gasp), it gets great reviews all over, and one of my gourmet friends is a big fan, particularly of the wine list.

      Paris-Moskau or Traube come to mind as well for a fairly varied menu, though I don't know much about their wine list.

      Pata Negra, much to my dismay, had to close. Let's hope the dude opens up a new place at a different location some day soon!!

      Pace, of your resto list, Fischers Fritz & Mâ are probably THE most expensive places. I don't know if you have any budget restrictions, but keep that in mind. F' Fritz has a pretty good prix fixe for lunch, tho, and if you go easy on the wine (think 14+ per glass), it shouldn't set you back that much, and you get to experience a 2 Michelin star resto -- something I have to def try this spring...

      Henne has GREAT fried chicken & a particularly "Berlin" atmosphere, but if you can't make it over there within the week (rez is a must), don't sweat it.

      Imren has great döner, but Neukölln is a bit of a haul from Charlottenburg, and personally, I'd never travel through town just for döner. They are all over, and generally decent. Plus, it's drunk food, really. Something you will crave at 2 a.m. after a night of boozing. Same goes for currywurst. Yes, Bier's is pretty awesome as far as currywurst goes, but unless you're in the vicinity, not worth a special excursion.

      Schwarzes Café is a neat place & open 24 hours. Never ate there, but good for a night cap.

      If I had to cut your list, I'd cut Sale e Tabacchi & Ottenthal.

      KaDeWe and Winterfeldtmarkt are an absolute must.

      Please let me know if you need further information, I'd be glad to help!!

      1 Reply
      1. re: linguafood
        Trip Klaus Jan 7, 2010 12:16 PM

        Bitteschoen lingua,

        I have not visited Weinschenke Weinstein and I haven't found a wine list on line. Pace, if you visit WW I would also suggest you look for the gg wines from Diel in Nahe, the wines from Keller in Rheinhessen and the Pfalz wines from Rebholz and Werheim (including Weisserburgunder: pinot blanc)

        Prost!

      2. p
        pace Jan 7, 2010 09:44 AM

        Thanks to both of you! We will certainly use your suggestions to narrow down where we eat and drink.

        One other question. Our hotel has suggested the following places within walking distance of the hotel. Would very much like to know if you think they're eating at or not.

        Leibniz Klause
        Austeria Brasserie
        Literaturhaus
        Via Condotti
        Belmondo
        Balthazar
        Hugo's
        Heising

        Thanks again!

        1 Reply
        1. re: pace
          linguafood Jan 7, 2010 11:04 AM

          If you dig oysters, Austeria Brasserie is the place to get 'em. Balthazar gets consistently good reviews, so does Hugo's -- neither one of them are particularly different from mid-high class restos in NYC, tho.

          I've translated Heising's menu, which looked promising, but haven't eaten there, so cannot really say anything helpful... sorry bout that.

          PS: If you like sushi (and maybe you don't, since you didn't mention it), there is a FANTASTIC sushi place on Olivaer Platz/Schlüterstr.: Mr. Hai Kabuki. It's fairly expensive in the evening, but they have a great lunch deal.

        2. p
          pace Jan 7, 2010 03:55 PM

          Hi lingua and Klaus --

          I liked Austeria's menu because of all the seafood. Glad to hear that it's a good oyster place. mmm!

          The Hugo and Balthazar menus look like the same old to me, so thanks for confirming that.

          I couldn't read much of Heising's menu, but I like the way the place looks in its on-line photos, so of the fine dining places recommended by the hotel, I would lean towards that one.

          I love sushi, but have been reading things lately about how it's not very good at all for you -- even the freshest. So, I'm trying to stay away from it. :-(

          Klaus, I am printing out your wine suggestions and taking them with me. Thanks you for that!

          And thank you both for your most generous help!

          10 Replies
          1. re: pace
            Trip Klaus Jan 7, 2010 06:35 PM

            Just remembered if you visit Rutz, either the winebar or the restaurant they offer raw milk cheeses from Waltmann, IMO the best cheesemonger in Germany. You must take advantage! I'm suddenly jealous and hungry.

            1. re: pace
              linguafood Jan 7, 2010 07:55 PM

              Pace, I'm surprised Heising doesn't have an English language menu online.... I used to do the translations for them a while ago, and thought they went with someone else. The fact that they have no English at all at this point is certainly a bummer.

              But if you go, I hope you enjoy the food. It really did always sounds great.

              1. re: linguafood
                p
                pace Jan 8, 2010 01:05 PM

                We've been narrowing down our dinner restaurant list. Wanted to show you what we have right now and ask what you think.

                Heising

                Marjellchen

                Liebniz-Klause

                Renger-Patzsch or Lutter & Wegner

                Engelbecken or Balthazar

                Rutz -- Klaus, I think this would be a good brithday choice, too. Should we go to the wine bar or restaurant?

                Is Henne open for lunch?

                Had another question I thought I'd ask you before adding a new post. It has to do with evening entertainment and food. We want to go to Chez Nous and were wondering if they sell food/snacks (I can't find their web site) or if it's better to eat after the show. If so, do you know of anyplace good nearby?

                Thank you!

                1. re: pace
                  linguafood Jan 8, 2010 01:14 PM

                  OK. To reiterate, I've NOT eaten @Heising, Marjellchen, Liebniz-Klause, Lutter & Wegner, Engelbecken, or Balthazar. (Or Weinbar Rutz, for that matter, but I trust my friend on this one).

                  Renger-Patzsch has very good German food and a decent wine list at very budget-friendly prices.

                  Henne is NOT open for lunch.

                  No clue about Chez Nous (is that the transvestite show? oh, my).

                  1. re: linguafood
                    p
                    pace Jan 8, 2010 01:23 PM

                    Thanks for being so speedy, lingua!

                    So, we'll put Renger-Patzsch and Henne on our dinner place list.

                    You know you're a regular at Chez Nous and just don't want to admit it here. lol

                    1. re: pace
                      linguafood Jan 8, 2010 01:25 PM

                      psssst. i'm one of their stars. on hiatus '-D

                      1. re: linguafood
                        p
                        pace Jan 8, 2010 01:31 PM

                        somehow i had that feeling . . . ;-)

                        Forgot to say earlier that Maxwell sounds good, too.

                  2. re: pace
                    linguafood Jan 8, 2010 01:33 PM

                    PS: Berlin's Chinatown (mostly Cantonese) can be found on Kantstr. which is not THAT far away. And a lot of the restos are open late. Good friends and Aroma come to mind.

                    1. re: pace
                      Trip Klaus Jan 9, 2010 02:17 AM

                      Sorry it took so long to reply, I've eaten at both the bar area and the dining room. As I remember you can get the full menu at the bar as well as the bar menu. The bar menu is more "meaty", lots of charcuterie etc. The full menu has more fish. The experience in the bar like most places is less formal, so it depends on your mood. Unless you really only want the charcuterie or the burger with Pfalzer saumagen I would probably suggest the dining room.

                      1. re: Trip Klaus
                        p
                        pace Jan 9, 2010 06:54 AM

                        Thank you, Klaus. We'll go with your dining room rec.

                2. p
                  pace Feb 9, 2010 04:29 PM

                  Back from Berlin and want to thank you, lingua and Trip Klaus, for your time and great suggestions by reporting on where we ate and what we thought.

                  First, we loved Berlin and wished we could have stayed longer! And, we were very happy with all the restaurants we went to. The ambience, service, and friendliness of a restaurant are as important to us as the food, and we were very pleased with all of those aspects as we ate our way through Berlin.

                  While there are jokes floating around these and other food boards to the contrary, in all the places we ate we found restaurant staff to be extremely friendly, happy to chat, and downright jovial!

                  If we had one complaint it is that we found the food – across the board – to be too heavily salted. In all fairness, I should say that we never add salt to food we eat in restaurants and use very little salt when cooking at home. So, while it might just be us, we thought the food was on the salty side everywhere we ate.

                  I am including the specific dishes we ordered, because we were very pleased with each.

                  Of the restaurants we went to, our favorites were Weinbar Rutz and Renger-Patzsch.

                  At Rutz, we had dinner upstairs and ordered the 4-course “surprise menu” with wine pairings. They were very accommodating about substitutions, when I asked that my meal not include any meat other than poultry. (Note that they do not serve the upstairs menu downstairs, nor the downstairs menu upstairs.) The place is visually striking, with its full glass wall downstairs that has floor-to-ceiling shelves on which empty wine bottles are treated like pieces of sculpture. A flight of pink stone-looking stairs (are they alabaster??) lead to the upstairs restaurant, which is dimly lighted with a candle on each table. The upstairs room is shaped like a “U” and is open in the center, allowing a view of the downstairs bar. We were seated along the front window wall, where -- outside the glass wall -- there’s a narrow balcony with concrete flower boxes planted with grape vines.

                  Each of the four courses consisted of about 4 wonderful small items, presented on narrow, rectangular white plates. Sorry I can’t recall everything we were served, but it was all terrific! Here’s what I can remember, but some courses included one item more than listed below.

                  1st course: sliced duck breast, foie gras, elderberry sorbet, aspic

                  2nd course: pike perch over cubed Jerusalem artichokes, potato and sauerkraut mash

                  3rd course: venison and pumpkin 3-ways (for the meat-eater)
                  vegetable dish for the non-meat-eater – spinach pasta topped with fresh spinach leaves, beet root puree, golden beets, baked feta cheese

                  4th course: apple strudel, port wine ice cream over honeyed apples, cubes of green apple aspic, chocolate/coffee cake

                  The cost for this 3-1/2 hour feast was 62 euros pp for food, 43 euros pp for wine. I regret that I cannot say what the wines were, but they were German and French, all white wines except for the venison course, sweet wines for the duck and dessert courses, all moderate pours – not huge, but not stingy.

                  The room at Renger-Patzsch looked stark and bright to us at first, but we fell in love with the place’s black and white photos (taken by the restaurant’s namesake) and its overall ambience – wooden benches, wainscoting, and table tops, frosted hanging globe ceiling fixtures, pretty bar upfront. We had read that seating is at communal tables, but there are two- and four-tops and all parties were seated individually while we were there. We got there at 8:30 PM and the room started getting busy at about 9:30 PM.

                  For a starter we shared the vegetarian Alsatian tarte of leeks, walnuts, and blue cheese (8 euros). It was so good that I wish I had one right now! It was very large and we were only able to eat half, then took the rest home. It would still be a lot to eat if ordered as an entrée for one person.

                  For mains, we had the beef shoulder (in red wine sauce with carrots, parsnips, dates wrapped in bacon, and potato rosemary cakes – 14 euros) and the quail chops (with porcini risotto and grilled vegetables – 15 euros). The quail was excellent, but the risotto was a little undercooked.

                  So, having said that those were our favorite restaurants, we also loved Reinhard’s and
                  Lutter & Wegner.

                  We had a fantastic dinner at the Reinhard’s on the Ku’damm. First, 6 Fines de Claires “G” oysters (15 euros) and 6 Tsarskaya oysters (17 euros) to share. Then, Barberie duck breast with cassis sauce, green beans, and an entire BOWL of creamy potato gratin. Yum, one of the best entrees of the visit! Our other main was beef bourguignon with mashed parsley potatoes and vegetables (17 euros). For dessert, we shared what was called a “chocolate parfait.” When we asked what was in it, our waitress explained that it had “Christmas spices,” which turned out to be cinnamon and nutmeg.

                  We had a late, light lunch at Lutter & Wegner, which is right across from the Gendarmenmarkt. We loved the room, with all the modern art – paintings and sculpture – on every surface, even the room’s columns. Lovely, with white tablecloths and warm service. We started with Celeste consommé (7 euros) and cauliflower veloute with smoked duck (7 euros). Next courses were beef tartar (16 euros) and what was called a smoked sturgeon “parfait”, although it did not at all resemble what we call a parfait. Attractively laid out on a plate were slices of wonderful smoked sturgeon and salmon along with quail eggs.

                  We also enjoyed Marjellchen and Leibniz-Klause, which seemed similar to us in that the dining rooms and menus of both were more traditional than modern.

                  At Marjellchen, where the room was very cozy and the service very accommodating, we started by sharing fried and breaded mushrooms in garlic cream, too large a portion to finish. One of our second courses was the cold appetizer of Pomeranian duck breast (with apple rings and cream). The other was calves liver with mashed potatoes, onions, and baked apple rings. As good as all that was, dessert turned out to be the highlight of the meal – “Tipsy prunes”, which were prunes in a sauce of brandy, rum, sugar, and crunchy oats, served with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. OMG good!! (Sorry, I did not write down prices at this meal.)

                  At Leibniz-Klause we started with broccoli gratineed with gorgonzola (delish – 11.50 euros and worth every bit of it) and oxtail soup (6.50 euros). Our mains were chicken fricassee (white wine sauce, peas, mushrooms, white asparagus) with buttered rice (13.50 euros) and pork stinko (riesen eisbein) with sauerkraut, horseradish, mustard, and mashed peas (15 euros). For dessert we had apple strudel with vanilla ice cream (6.50 euros) plus chocolate mousse with whipped cream (7 euros). (This was late in the trip and we were past sharing a dessert!)

                  We had a very nice lunch at KaDeWe’s Silberterrasse Restaurant. We did not have starters there. One main was Kalbsschnitzel (2 huge pieces) with warm potato salad with bacon (17.90 euros). For the other we had “graved lachs” – a beautiful salmon plate (with the edges dredged in finely chopped dill), the best potato fritters, honey mustard dill sauce, raw vegetables, and lettuces (14.90 euros). This dish was actually listed on the menu as an appetizer, but was large enough for a light main course.

                  We also had a pleasant light lunch at Literaturhaus Café. Rigatoni with rabbit ragu and a tomato, mozzarella, and olive pesto sandwich on ciabatta. It’s a calm, quiet and relaxed café on a pretty side street.

                  My least favorite dinner of the trip was probably at Austeria Brasserie. While the food was good, I just didn’t think it was up to the same standards as the restaurants listed above. The service was very professional and very friendly. The room was rather stark and bland. (I feel badly writing this because there was nothing really wrong with the place. The food was good and our waiter could not have been nicer. I just didn’t love it like I did the other restaurants we went to. Plus, when we were there, all the other diners were also tourists, a situation I really do not prefer.) We started with cucumber salad (6 euros) and lobster bisque with a seafood ravioli (9 euros). For our main courses we had a ½ cooked lobster (27 euros) and a “ladies portion” (150g) of filet with bérnaise sauce and potatoes (18 euros). For dessert we shared a 3-cheese plate – goat, cow, sheep – accompanied by grapes, walnuts, and mustard fig.

                  As for wine, we ordered only German wines and followed Klause’s suggestions – and as a result, we were very pleased. We had mostly red wines with our meals. As aperitifs, we discovered sekt and aperol sekt. Despite reading in Time Out Berlin that German red wines are not very good, we found them to be very enjoyable. We liked the 2007 Kasleberg Spatburgunder from Salwey (there’s an umlaut over the first “a” of each word, I just don’t know how to make the correct marks with my keyboard), the 2007 Mathias Gaul Pas de Deux , and the 2006 Mathias Gaul Spatburgunder, from Pfalz.

                  We also discovered German bitters. Our favorite was Borgman, followed by Underberg. Also tried Radeburger Bitter, which was a little too strong for our taste.

                  I believe that’s it! Thank you again for your help in finding memorable restaurants and meals in Berlin. We can’t wait to return!!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: pace
                    linguafood Feb 9, 2010 04:36 PM

                    Thanks so much for your extensive report! Makes my mouth water... and I'm glad you had some fine meals in Berlin. You can always go back '-D

                    1. re: linguafood
                      p
                      pace Feb 10, 2010 10:09 AM

                      And when I do go back, I'll hope to hear from you about what's new!! Thanks again, your advice was invaluable and spot on!

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