City's high-end restaurants a feast for foodies

BERLIN — While the big news is that a smoking ban has been introduced in Berlin restaurants, the bigger news for foodies is that the city’s chefs continue to innovate. Berlin saw a local eatery gain its first two-star rating from Michelin while fierce competition at all ends of the market makes for delicious deals.

Congratulations are due for Christian Lohse, chef de cuisine at Fischers Fritz, for doubling his Michelin gongs and taking his Gault Millau points to 18/20.

Calling his creations “high-class fish and seafood specialties inspired by a modern French cuisine” is factually accurate but doesn’t come close to the sensation of what Lohse puts on a plate.

You could opt for lunch (up to three courses for €33), sampling, say, tartar of smoked eel with Granny Smith apple and horseradish, fried filet of plaice with stewed cucumbers and mustard creme, and pineapple ragout with passion fruit and banana.

As always, though, it’s the evening menu where the real action’s at.

Start with oysters or saute of lobster, or potato tarte stuffed with blue gambas, melted suckling pig with lukewarm vinaigrette of red onions with mashed quail egg. Move on to supreme of turbot with roasted cepes, veal jus and capers, perhaps, or the knuckle of suckling veal or wild duck. There are also set menus with three to six courses.

Matthias Buchholz oversees all things culinary at First Floor, which has one Michelin star and 18 Gault Millau points.

Select your wine with the expert advice of Gunnar Tietz, Sommelier of the Year for 2008, or choose from the water menu. And then fasten your seat belts for a detail-obsessed procession of appetizers followed by, say, ravioli with smoked pike-perch, horseradish ice cream and beetroot creme.

Main courses include codfish wrapped in bok choy, drizzled with a curry sauce and served with noodles, eggplant, stuffed mushrooms and a lemongrass sauce.

With its panoramic city views, Hugos, with one Michelin star and 18 Gault Millau points, offers stratospheric quality to match.

Chef Thomas Kammeier’s creations include Canadian lobster with Perigord truffle and cauliflower or Brandenburg deer with elderberry, or loup de mer with smoked capers, leek and onion. Hugos offers set menus and a la carte menu.

What with all this high-end competition, you can be sure Berlin’s other top eateries are also pulling out all the gastro stops — Facil, Lorenz Adlon, Margaux, Parioli, Paris-Moskau, Restaurant 44, Shiro i Shiro and Vau should be able to handle the competition.

Meantime, Wolfgang Rischl, owner of Paris-Moskau, hits with his latest venture, the Traube. Critics have described chef Kevin Nathan’s southern German and Alpine style (including Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Alsace) as tradition that goes in new ways without crossover gimmicks. Popular with politicos as well as VIPs, the Traube serves up very reasonably priced set menus (three courses for €37, all four at €43) or a la carte.

Again, lunch is an even cheaper way to go, but make an evening of it, take your time and savor the accompanying German and Austrian wines. With Traube being the German word for grape, Rischl has put a great deal of thought and care in matching food to drink.

At Remake, Michel Wendel may be just 27, but his cooking has earned the eatery 13/20 Gault Millau points.

A committed believer in “food being as healthy as it can be, nothing mass produced, nothing genetically manipulated, going back to the origins as far as possible,” his “French world cuisine” features such dishes as lamb sourced locally in Brandenburg, served with truffle and Savoy cabbage, and grilled dorade on dill polenta and ricotta with tomato.

Maitre d’ and sommelier is Jack Cholat, who served his apprenticeship under Margaux’s Michael Hoffmann.

The menu is reasonably priced, with such dishes as red snapper, blood sausage, Irish veal, black salsify, poulet de Bresse, Charolais beef and better than 200 wines.

Bandol is what happened when club organizer Hans Wichmann got together with restaurateur Peter Ullrich, roping in friend Jean Cohen: a French restaurant so good it attracted Brad Pitt.

Furnished in a style defying description (including fixtures from the former DDR parliament and wine cupboards on the ceiling), this is where to come for a small but beautifully prepared selection of classics, such as fish soup and steak. “Honest, modern and no schnickschnack,” Wichmann says. “Everything’s homemade, all ingredients are fresh, convenience foods don’t get a look in.”

Some pleasures are so guilty they have to be shared. For the hamburgers and steaks, head for carnivore heaven the Bird.

Expat Americans Gregg Lockwood (he cooks) and Jonathan Cook (he doesn’t) take the finest beef, grill it, apply various toppings, put it in a bun and add french fries from Dutch potatoes (not from the freezer) for gut-busting portions of sheer, greasy joy. This is where you come to chow down, quaff beer, listen to great rock music and kick back.

Service is unfailingly friendly. Prices are ridiculously low.

Tokyo Haus specializes in Japanese teppanyaki cooked to order on a hot grill. Fronting the house is the welcoming Yoko; her husband, Yamaoka, is, she says, “a teppanyaki master from Tokyo” who has resolutely kept the cuisine authentic.

Lunchtime means an extensive buffet, and the menu also covers other bases such as meat, fish and sushi. Vegetarians can’t go wrong, either.

Ever wanted to eat Devon Aoki’s Bed? Slurp down a Deep Throat Mango or risk Five Deadly Venoms? Diners can try them all at alternative Chinese eatery Toca Rouge.

Guanfeng Guan (“My friends call me Afon”) has created “a fusion of Chinese and all possibilities. I combine things on a Chinese basis, but there’s no set direction. I experiment: Things vary according to my mood. It’s all very spontaneous.”

Romiosini is a Berlin institution. Defying the laws of economics, the eatery serves large and very edible portions at prices that wouldn’t even get you a sandwich elsewhere.

Actually a citywide chain of Greek restaurants, with a menu that extends well beyond the standards, it serves up Wiener schnitzel, French fries and salad for less than €4. The entire menu tops out at around €6.

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