Berlin’s dining scene is eclectic and exciting. It’s certainly far beyond schnitzel and the ubiquitous currywurst—though there are plenty of opportunities to indulge in these traditional dishes. From Katz Orange http://www.katzorange.com to the food hall at KaDeWe http://www.kadewe.de, Berlin has something for everyone’s palate. Two of our most memorable dining experiences were at Cordobar and Pauly Saal.
We arrived at Cordobar just as the dining room was beginning to fill and the bar wasn’t yet three deep. Cordobar www.cordobar.net is a wine bar for the cool kids, for sure, though there were plenty of folks in their prime enjoying the wine and food, too.
The small and lively space has an extensive wine list, a short list of small dishes for sharing and features one large plate each evening, also for sharing. The menu changes constantly but the website gives an indication of the sorts of dishes the kitchen prepares. While some things may sound strange—take a chance and order them anyway—you’ll be glad you did.
When I see a glass of Salmon Billecart for less than 10 Euro a glass, I order it— a little bubbly is the perfect start to any evening. While I sipped my champagne, our knowledgeable and friendly waitress guided us through the extensive wine list, which focused on German and Austrian offerings, though it is not limited to producers from these countries. The list also included many natural/biodynamic wines that are so much in vogue in Europe right now. We chose to order by the glass so we could sample more wines and we were delighted with all of our selections—from Hirsch Gruner Veltliner to Zantho Muskat to Shelter Spatburgunder (pinot noir) to the Joschuari 2012 (gamay)—all new to us and perfect with the food we picked. Guests may also select from the bottles that line the walls.
We started with the fresh baked bread and butter—we spend a lot of time in Portland, so paying for bread and butter was not a new concept for us. Served in a paper bag, the warm bread was perfect.
Some of the dishes we chose sounded like odd combinations but were all absolutely wonderful and unexpected. We shared the eggplant with pineapple, pepper and saffron, and the grilled zucchini prepared with almond milk and miso to start.
Next up was the main event—the featured large plate of the evening—lamb neck tacos. The lamb was perfectly prepared with Middle Eastern seasonings and presented as a large chunk of meat on a separate plate.
The “tacos” were cabbage leaves topped with a creamy sauce to which we added the tasty lamb. Different and delicious!
Cordobar is extremely popular so if you’d like to be assured of a table in the small dining room, make a reservation. The bar area was packed all night and tables in the dining room were empty only long enough for staff to clean them. http://www.cordobar.net
We were really excited to try the Michelin starred Pauly Saal http://www.paulysaal.com, another highly recommended Berlin restaurant on our list. Pauly Saal features a beautiful dining room, a terrace (closed during our November visit), a lovely bar area and an open kitchen with the very talented Chef Arne Anker at the helm. We had a chance to ask chef about the significance of the rocket above the open kitchen (in banner photo) but it turns out no political statement was intended, just a touch of whimsy that adds a fun focal point to the room.
The restaurant is open for lunch, cocktails and dinner daily. Three menus are offered at lunch—two, three or four courses. Dinner guests choose from two multi -course prix fix menus, either a four- course “little menu” or a six-course meal. An additional cheese course is also available for a surcharge with both options.
We chose the four-course meal, which sounded deceptively modest: pike prepared with elderflower, oyster and radish; kale salad with mustard, squash and wheat; lamb loin with parsley root, eggplant and zucchini, and for dessert—blueberries with yogurt, white chocolate and rose. While each of these dishes may sound simple, they most assuredly were not. Each dish was truly a culinary creation designed to delight every one of the senses.
The finale came after dessert — a small dish of chocolate “stone” truffles—presented with real stones.
Pauly Saal’s wine list is quite extensive with more than 600 bottles on offer. We toured Europe in our by- the- glass selections, choosing two different wines for each course. A German Sauvignon Blanc from Weedenborn, Spanish Albarino by Picarana, a Klingenberg 2012 Spatburgunder and Chateau des Tours Cotes- du- Rhone were among the perfect pairings our extremely knowledgeable sommelier suggested.
Reservations are a must at Pauly Saal but if you aren’t able to secure a table, do stop in to the bar for a drink and a snack—the bar food looked pretty incredible, too. http://www.paulysaal.com
A walk to the restrooms was a reminder that Pauly Saal is located in a historic building constructed as a school for Jewish girls in 1930.
The building was designed by prominent Jewish architect Alexander Beer. He later perished in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. On the walls one finds numerous photos depicting laughing children at play and studiously attending to their lessons. Placards detail the story of the building and students who once walked these halls.
The building was officially returned to the Jewish community in 2009 and is meant to honor the past and be a part of Berlin’s “creative future,” as the sign above indicates. In addition to Pauly Saal, Camera Work Contemporary Gallery, The Kennedys Museum, Michael Fuchs Gallery, and Mogg & Melzer Delicatessen have found a home at 11-13 Auguststrasse.