January 30, 2011

Show Me Your Teeth? Tapas in Kreuzberg

Las Primas - Restaurant - Café -Bar

Let’s talk about teeth. Do you find them aesthetically pleasing? Mildly attractive? Sexually appealing? I remember meeting this girl at a house party in Paris aeons ago. She was petite and her hair stank of unrecognisable substances (or just weeks of unhygienic neglect. It was France at the end of the day). She told me she found teeth sexy and that mine were just perfect. I thought it was a dorky comment and it provided me with the excuse I so needed to get away from her and try to mingle with the beautiful people around. As the evening unfolded I found myself drinking seventeen glasses of cheap vodka and puking on a kitten. In retrospect, I probably should have continued talking about teeth.

But teeth. And sex. Doesn’t it ring a bell? Isn’t it what True Blood is all about? It depicts vampires as highly sexualised beings. Just like that girl’s hair reeked of not-taking-any-showers à la Française, they emanate sex. And they convey their sexuality through their fangs. I must admit that those fangs are quite perfect: they are perfectly white and symmetrical, appealing to every human’s sense of aesthetics. However, this is not the case with everyone’s set of teeth (or fangs, for that matter).

When I was little, my mother used to scare me with stories about people who ate too many sweets and got black teeth which eventually fell out. Her scare-tactics did not, by any means, help combat my obsessive sweet tooth, but they added yet another phobia into my interminable arsenal: the fear of people with black teeth. I find it difficult to look people with bad teeth in the eyes, because I know I will, at some point, avert my gaze onto their teeth with a convulsively disgusted expression on my end. This was my reaction the first time I found myself ordering an espresso at Las Primas on Wrangelstraße. It was about two years ago and I had gone there with a friend of mine on a perfect summer day. As the waitress smiled at us I could not help but notice one of her front teeth was made of gold while the rest were pitch black with completely rotten gums. I cringed and twitched and vowed never to come back.

This ridiculously long introduction brings us to this week’s events. It was one of these days when you feel like eating many small things rather than a real meal. It called for tapas and I had to meet friends later in Friedrichshain. The turn of events made it clear there was no way I could avoid checking out the tapas at Las Primas. I braced myself and prepared to meet that revolting set of teeth yet again.

Having only seen the place from the outside, I had expected the inside to be utterly filthy. I don’t know why, but it was just an illogical premonition, which fortunately proved to be wrong. The café/bar/restaurant is run down in a way that cries both “Kreuzberg” and “Spain” at the same time: dirty-pastel walls combined with tables crammed up together and covered by unappealing tablecloths. There is an evening menu with an appealing selection of main courses, but we decided to go for the tapas. I was delighted to see the choice of tapas was rather limited and the menu did not go on for eternities. There are about twelve dishes for the unit price of 4.00 € and six more for 5.00 €.


We chose Pincho de Tortilla (a piece of tortilla, 4.00 €), Patatas al all-i-oli (fried potatoes in aioli sauce, 4.00 €), pintxo queso cabra (fried goat’s cheese with caramelised onions, 4.00 €), chorizo riojano (pieces of chorizo baked in white wine sauce, 4.00 €), pintxo de terena con reduccion de balsamico (slices of steak in balsamico sauce, 5.00 €) and gambas al ajillo (prawns in white wine sauce, 5.00 €). It was all quite endearing – small plates that were still large enough to get a good taste of the dish. The tortilla was unspectacularly nice, as tortillas are supposed to be like. The potatoes were nothing more than nice, but the aioli was fantastic. The cheese was very good quality and it came in a large portion with very good onions. The chorizo was also quite good quality, but the sauce was just alright. However, the two surprises were provided by the two 5.00 € dishes, with the meat being nothing less than excellent and the gambas turning out to be rather disappointing (the bland sauce killed them, which is quite annoying, as I find killing prawns to be a mortal sin). At the end of the day, most of the tapas were good,if not very good. The only real problem was the stale bread, which ruined the idea of truly enjoying the sauces. I then took a flan (the Spanish version for crème caramel, 2.70 €) to give the meal a good closure. It was alright, but not too convincing: Good size and perfect taste, but the texture (which is probably the most important part) was a bit scruffy.

Las Primas is a good choice of venue for good and hearty tapas. It is one of these places in Kreuzberg that manage to combine both roughness and pretentiousness, but it’s still pleasing enough as long as you avoid the waitress’s million pesos smile. I know it’s not politically correct to slag off people with bad dental hygiene, but I just can’t help it. Despite the bad teeth, the stale bread and the unconvincing flan, four prints seem like what the place deserves.

Overall mark: 

Las Primas
Wrangelstraße 54, 10997 Berlin (Kreuzberg)
Tel: +49 (0)30 60 03 11 32

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January 25, 2011

Food with a Moustache

Mimino - Georgisches Restaurant

Georgia (the country, not the state) has been an inseparable part of my world of references as far as I can remember. Even before I knew “Georgia” was a place, I knew “Georgian” was a perfectly acceptable adjective my Polish grandmother used in order to conjure the image of short, hairy and unhygienic men with thick, black and no less unhygienic moustaches. She could also use the word “Georgian” to describe my aunt’s obsessively tasteless collection of too colourful porcelain dolls. Sometimes she would say she’d just been to a “Georgian” restaurant, but by that she usually meant she had just been to a hole-in-the-wall that served greasy food and whose owner was a useless bum. Georgian food was something I only discovered later.

I cannot recall the first time I had Georgian food. I know I liked it and I know I could not help thinking of fat men reeking of cheap perfume and sweat. What I can clearly remember was the last time I went to a Georgian restaurant: it was a popular restaurant in Tallinn, hidden somewhere around the higher floors of a seedy Communist block. Inside it was decorated with the best overdose gold, red and bad taste paraphernalia could account for. Everyone seemed to be holding cigarettes in their hands and most men’s faces were hidden behind large moustaches. The icing on the cake was a short and husky woman with a microphone on an improvised stage in the centre of the room, titillating her bosom, singing the same Russian song in loops: ochen krasivaya zhenshina, a very beautiful woman. Oh, and yes, the food was delicious. Georgian food is just splendid: it is this fantastic fusion of Russian, Turkish and Persian food. It can be rich and tasty, both comfortably well-known and exotically intriguing.

When I was asked whether I wanted to go and try out Mimino in Charlottenburg, it did not take long for me to cancel other plans I may have had and storm out of my flat in the direction of the U7 towards the Old West. The place’s name is based on a classical Russian film about two (moustached) Georgian men, whose comic-like figures decorate the menu and the windows. Apparently, it’s a must-see comedy in the world of Russian film making. The restaurant itself is also a strange mixture of bad taste and attempted poshness. The walls are off-white and the tables are all set to raise expectations. However, TV screens are strewn around the place, showing mute football. As much as I was disappointed the place did not remind me of that Georgian place in Tallinn, all hope was not yet lost: the obligatory stage, microphone and playback cassette-recorder were all set in place and a small man was howling something that was supposed to be Frank Sinatra.

The menu was promising. It had a pleasing choice of fairly affordable Georgian dishes. As a starter (and I should probably state they were also listed as such), we ordered Chinkali (dumplings, the Georgian version of Russian pelmeni and Polish pierogi. The menu suggested them in three versions: with meat, potatoes and cheese. They were only available in the meaty and cheesy versions. We tried both, with cheese for the unit price of 0.90 € and meat for 0.80 € min. 5 units). For the main round, we ordered an array of things: Ostri (veal in spicy bell-pepper sauce, 9.50 €), Tschachochbili (chicken in tomato-coriander sauce, 8.50 €) and two chatschapourris (a sort of dough with cheese filling and topping, once with double cheese and one with garlic, 9.00 € and 10.00 €). As the main courses all come without sides, we ordered two more dishes of potatoes (3.00 €).


It was then the chaos started. It seems like the division between “starters” and “main courses” was but a mere recommendation, as the first two dishes that appeared on the table were the first chatschapourri and the ostri. The ostri was not that spicy, but it was absolutely delicious. The meat was tender and the sauce was spectacularly good. The huge pot came without the potatoes or any other sides, and it took us a while before we realised we had to eat it before the other things came, or else it would get cold. The same goes for the chatschapourri. It was good, but a bit too monotonous and heavy: it was just dough with cheese, and lots of it. I’m the last one to say anything against dough and cheese, but it felt like eating a pizza-shaped brick. With those two dishes on the table, a waitress came out with a tray of butter cakes and asked us how many we wanted to reserve for the dessert, as “they are delicious and there might not be enough left once you get to the end”. We frowned, but could not take the pressure and reserved three.


Slowly but surely came out the other courses. The second chatschapourri seemed like an even heavier brick, but tschachochbili compensated for that by being delicious, yet still lacking its side dish. All the portions were very big, so that we were all more than satiated after the four main courses without the sides or the starters. This did not matter much for the waiters, as suddenly the chinkali decided to arrive. They were huge. Perversely so. The ones with the meat were utterly tasteless. The ones with the cheese (served with double cream and prune confiture) were fairly good quality, but so heavy they were difficult stuff down our throats. Just as the last bit had gone down, the waitress came out with our sides of potatoes. We managed to explain it was a bit too late for that, and after a bit more squabbling we even managed to cancel our pre-ordered dessert, as the last thing we were able to handle by that time was a butter cake with cream on top.

At the end of the day, it was quite an experience. The restaurant was chaotic and the service was miserable and pushy even for Berlin standards. But then again, it just made things strangely authentic. The food balanced between absolutely delicious (the meat dishes), good quality but too in-your-face heavy (the cheese dishes) and rather tasteless (the meat chinkali). A meal based on meaty main courses ONLY would probably be quite a success.

Overall mark:

Mimino - Georgisches Restaurant
Waitzstraße 1, 10629 Berlin

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January 16, 2011

Berliner Spezial no. 1: The Best Bagel in Kreuzberg?

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Which Bagel is the most Brilliant of All? 

I greet thee to the first ever Berliner Spezial. And this time – bagels. I can already see those wrinkles on your foreheads, your curved eyebrows and that questioning look: why bagels? Aren’t Berliner-Spezials supposed to be about something representative of Berlin? What happened to Currywurst? Eisbein? Döner? Worry not! They will all receive their due place in the footprint annals of history. However, it somehow felt right to start with bagels. Let me explain...

It may be a fairly new thing, but bagels seem to have been adopted by Berliners. I believe it started with the Bagel Company. A few years ago it was still nearly impossible to get bagels in most places. Cafés in Berlin were mostly about coffee, cake and breakfast, with the odd sandwich out every now and again. And then, just about the same time as the hipsters had invaded Neukölln and Berlin had become a European Tourist Mecca, a wave of bagels suddenly came upon us.

I like bagels. I also like that international flair they convey: at the end of the day they are the culinary outcome of what the academia would define as “trans-national border crossing”. Poor Jews had left their home countries and came over to seek a better future in the New World, just to turn bagels – as they eventually turned themselves – into an essential and innate symbol of the worldliest of world cities: New York. Bagels to New York are like the Big Ben to London. Any city wanting to stand in New York’s worldly limelight needs its own local bagel culture. And this is where Berlin enters the picture, with bagels becoming ever more present in the city’s café culture.

The last week was spent in the company of bagels from five different cafés in Kreuzberg and Neukölln. Those cafés were marked and ranked according to four criteria: Variety, bagel quality, quality of the filling and ambience (an inevitable factor, as we are talking about cafés. Nevertheless, I tried to avoid including the quality of coffee or cake into the picture. There will be other posts for that). Feel free to comment on the results:

Overall rank no. 5: Cuccuma, Zossener Str. 34, 10961 Berlin

Price: 2.50 €

Variety: 5th. A very small and unspectacular variety. Mostly lox, salami and Gouda. The bagels stand in the display case ready with the filling. Visual selection is easier than choosing from the menu, yet it still makes me think it’s less fresh and it gives me the creeps because I don’t know how many hands have already touched it.

Bagel quality: 2nd. Yes. The bagel itself is fantastic. Doughy, tasty and light. Highly good quality.

Filling quality: 4th. The filling itself is alright, even though it’s fairly unspectacular: it tastes fresh (even though the fact it’s been standing outside in the display case might awaken other instincts) and the quality is alright. It’s even healthy, with two slices of tomato and salad. Quite good, really.

Ambience: 5th and my real beef with the place. It is the most Starbucksy of the lot, trying to be a real iBook-café, but without the space needed for a comfortably professional atmosphere. As it is, it just reminds me of what I dislike about Manhattan: Not enough space, too quick and too plastic-fantastic. Americans in need of a less “European” vibe might appreciate it, I just thing it’s useless.

Lox bagel

Final remark: Not a bad bagel, really. It’s a shame the variety and the ambience couldn’t be more convincing.

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Overall rank no. 4: Ringo, Sanderstraße 2, 12047 Berlin
Price: 3.50 €

Variety: 4th: You can choose between three types of filling and cross it with three types of bagels. I’m not impressed by gouda and ham fillings, but you can’t blame them for being basic.

Bagel quality: 5th: I’m sure it was a frozen bagel from Kaiser’s or even worse – Lidl? It was warm, which was nice, but it still tasted of what ready made bread from the freezer tastes like after a good toasting. It was fluffy without being good. I don’t mind fluff when it comes to English white bread, but bagels? No.

Filling: 5th: It was very generous and just right, really: the cream cheese, the lox, the rocket leaves, everything smudged together was basically right. But it wasn’t fresh. Not at all.

Ambience: 1st: Which brings me to why Ringo was such a bagel disappointment in the first place: It’s a really nice café! It’s one of those “wannabe Brooklyn cafés”, yet it is so much better than anything you’d ever find in Williamsburg. It’s got the space, the cake and the prices only Berlin can offer with a touch of inclusive “coolness”: even though it’s a hipster café, you won’t feel bad about yourself sitting there not being one.

Lox and cream cheese

Final remark: Brilliant café, just don’t go there for the bagel!

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Overall rank no. 3: Goldmarie, Grimmstraße 29, 10967 Berlin
Price: 3.20 – 3.70 €

Variety: 3rd: A few more options on the menu than the former two. Officially, you can’t choose the bagels to go with the fillings, but you could if you asked the waitresses.

Bagel quality: 4th: What can I say? Not very good. Really, why do you offer bagels if you can’t find a good bakery to produce them? It was small and didn’t taste of much.

Filling: 3rd: Oh joy. It was great. Quality and quantity all combined. Heaps of vegetables and healthy stuff, carrot and cucumbers cut into small shapes and forms just to give you the impression of being king. Yay. The only problem was that it was difficult to discern one main taste to give the whole filling a bit more character. But still – go for it.

Ambience: 2nd: It’s a really nice café. Just by the canal, comfortable seats, pleasant service. An address to remember (and I am biased by their cake. I know, I said I wouldn’t mention it, but come on, like, rhubarb or gooseberry cake? How can anyone resist THAT?).

Lox and cream cheese

Final remark: Nice café, good bagel presentation, with the filling compensating for the poor bagel quality. It gets even nicer in summer, though.

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Overall rank no. 2: Wilhelmine, Gneisenaustr. 67, 10961 Berlin
Price: 2.80 – 4.00 €

Variety: 2nd: The menu didn’t have more options than Goldmarie’s, but they were a lot more exciting. Not only the usual sesame bagels with lox and cream cheese, but also a za’atar bagel (za’atar is a Lebanese/ Middle Eastern mixture of spices and herbs). Quoting Glee’s Kurt: Vive la difference!

Bagel quality: 2nd: Just about together with Cuccuma, really good bagels. The overall quality of the bagel might have been a bit inferior to Cuccuma’s, but then again, together with the za’atar it was quite fantastic. And anyhow: just right, doughy and joyous.

Filling quality: 2nd: The bagel came out with fewer slices of carrots and cucumbers to decorate the endeavour, but it was generous with the right things. It provided the bagel with a strong, distinct taste of what you had ordered. Very good quality.

Ambience: 4th: I really like Wilhelmine, but mainly because of the friendly service and the fact it’s so close to home. Otherwise, its design and choice of furniture, lights and atmosphere are far from perfect. It’s all very functional and comfortable, but can seem a bit sterile at times.

Za'atar, goat cheese, sun dried tomatos

Final remark: The perfect place to take your parents for a bagel. Cosy and suitable for dark wintry days, it’s a pleasant café with good quality bagels.

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Overall rank: 1: A’horn - Café und Fahrradladen, Carl-Herz-Ufer 9, 10961 Berlin
Price: 3.80 €

Variety: 1st: A list of eight types of homemade bagels to be selected with eight possible types of fillings. No traditional lox bagel, but then again, the world has more to offer than just smoked salmon.

Bagel quality: 1st: What can I say? Absolutely delicious. Perfect quality with the increased joy of choosing between things like olive or tomato bagels. They have the perfect texture and taste. I wouldn’t mind them being bigger though.

Filling: 1st: Again. Very good. Generous amount of high quality filling together with just enough vegetables and pesto to make it all taste as it should. And it even gave me the satisfaction of eating something healthy looking.

Ambience: 3rd: The A’horn is a new place, opened just on the corner of Baerwaldstraße and the canal, which used to be quite a dead and drab corner. Livening up the area is a blessed idea and the design is nice. It’s a perfect café if you want to get some work done: it’s quiet, spacious and you won’t get disturbed. One downside: I had to wait for a LONG time before getting served. Take it into account.

Olive bagel with goat cheese

Final remark: Probably the best bagels I’ve had in Kreuzberg so far, all packed in a pleasant atmosphere. Go there for the bagel or if you’re around the block (because there aren’t any other real options to begin with), but if you are looking for the perfect café, there are better places on this list.

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And a few general remarks about bagels:

1. Size does matter. I couldn’t help thinking how much I missed those bulky bagels from America. You know? The ones you can’t just fit into your mouth. They might be over the top, but they reflect the true essence of bagels: being as large as they are, they’re all about the dough. I believe this is the reason even my Brooklynite family’s embarrassingly horrid taste in food was not able not ruin a bagel. Even though they managed to wham every possible culinary (kosher) atrocity on their table (which was, same as the rest of the furniture, covered by a plastic foil), turning dinner into the most painful experience I have ever endured, the bagels still remained an island of edibility: my own private survival cord through painful Shabbat dinners.

2. Bagels are not necessarily the “healthy American option”, which they seem to be hailed as around these parts. Big, chunky and fat bagels are not any worse than healthy ones. It also means the filling should be treated accordingly. I definitely enjoyed receiving bagels I could eat without worrying their grease would kill me within the next couple of hours, but I did wish I could choose options like “eggs and cheese”. Personally, I would be in favour of starting a petition to introduce bagels with scrambled eggs into the local variety. Who’s with me?

January 12, 2011

Gentrification and Food

Silberlöffel - Neukölln

One of the incredible contradictions inherent to Berlin is how mellow and low-key it can seem, when in fact it is in the process of going through extreme changes. Walking down Berlin’s quiet and slow paced streets, it is hard to imagine that they change their wardrobe a lot more often than the buzzing streets of Paris or to some extent even Manhattan. Just think of the pace in which most of Berlin’s central districts have ceaselessly been reinventing themselves in the last couple of decades following the fall of the wall. Yet nowhere has this change been as complete or rather as intense as in the northern end of Neukölln AKA Kreuzkölln.

Talking about Kreuzkölln is always quite an ordeal. It fills me with tears and makes me feel like an old spinster talking about the good old times that will never return. My recollections are always about a different, primal and naïve Berlin; the way it was when I had only just arrived with my oversized bags at the Zoologischer Garten on the night train. I love wallowing in memories of things long gone. However, there is still one disturbing fact attached to my endless Berlin-nostalgia; even though I may consider myself to be older than the hills, I’ve only been here for a mere six and a half years. And within such a short time, Kreuzkölln has managed to change beyond recognition. Hell, forget six and a half years, why won’t you make it three? Up to roughly three years ago, the very name Neukölln had been enough to scare off most decent folks. True, people had talked about the possibility of Neukölln becoming the next best thing, but frankly – nobody had taken any of it seriously.

And then it happened. It started out of nowhere and within mere months the area between the canal, Kottbusser Damm and Sonnenallee all the way to Pannierstraße suddenly metamorphosed into hipster paradise. By the time Zitty dedicated its cover story to Neukölln, it had already been clear that Kreuzkölln was the most up-and-coming area east of the Atlantic. Weserstraße had already been paved with bars and Friedelstraße had gained a reputation for being Kreuzkölln’s culinary heart. Did someone just say the word “cool”?

Yet I, I still remember what it used to be like before the invasion. But as hard as try to conjure up a positive picture of it, I just keep coming to the same unavoidable conclusion: despite the romantic edge attached to talking about places before the hipster takeover, the place was quite a dump. I just remember Friedelstraße as one of these generically plain, empty streets you could also find in Wilmersdorf or Steglitz.

The only two points of interest on Friedelstr. were the Mona-Lisa and Eckbert, both on the corner with the canal. The Mona-Lisa was a dodgy pizzeria, now replaced by another dodgy Indian restaurant. The Eckbert, however, was a real institution. It combined a splendid location inside a corner-building alongside the canal with good, hearty German food, a ghastly aquarium and the most obnoxious waiter Berlin has ever produced (which is – as almost everyone would agree – quite a thing to achieve, with waiters in Berlin constantly competing for that one). It was precious. And then it moved out in December 2009 and a few months later a new restaurant, Silberlöffel, opened its gates. The new owners changed the dodgy interior into something more upscale, with the smudgy pink walls painted white and the plain massive tables replaced by posher dark wooden furniture. Oh, and yes, that sordid aquarium is gone, too. The large and simple menu of the old Neuköllner institution was also replaced by a rather small variety of traditional German dishes with a changing daily menu. Now that the place has been around for nearly a year, I thought it was about time to check out that symbol of Neuköllner gentrification.

As we walked through the door, I saw my old Eckbert habits refused to die: my eyes were swerving into a frown and my muscles were ready to flex to fend off an obnoxious remark to be made by the waiter. Instead, we were greeted with a smile and a friendly “guten Abend”. We ordered a large Lübzer (3.50 €) and a glass of nice French Cabernet Sauvignon (3.40 €) and started examining the menu.

Schnitzel and Spätzle

Being in a carnivore mood, we opted for the very meaty options. However, it feels like I should at least mention that the menu is very accommodating for vegetarians, with roughly half the main courses and starters being completely without meat. We started by sharing the standard appetizer-plate (the one with meat on it, 7.40 €, also exists in a vegetarian version for a couple of cents less). It contained a variety of the usual German sausages, grilled salmon, antipasti-like vegetables and a vegetarian paste. All in all, it was good. The portion was pleasingly large and the quality of the produce was definitely good. The grilled vegetables were sometimes too grilled though. It was a nice dish, but not all too refined. The pleasant surprise came with the main courses. We ordered the Wiener Schnitzel (it usually comes with a potato salad and another cucumber salad, but as I despise both, I ordered Spätzle instead. All for 14 €) and a Hüftsteak (sirloin steak, with fried potatoes and a salad, and by far the most expensive thing on the menu 17.50 €). The schnitzel was absolutely perfect: a large portion, tasting of meat and not only the batter, whereas the meat was thinly sliced, as it should be. The batter was also extremely tasty and not too greasy. The spinach-green Spätzle I got on the side were also very good. The steak was pleasing as well: good quality meat, with medium being medium. Not too charred and not too bloody. It reminded me that eating real meat was actually great fun.


We ended the meal with a crème brûlée (3.80€), which was very good despite the fact I thought it was a bit too lemony, and a splendid Kaiserschmarrn (5.50 €). The Kaiserschmarrn was one of the best I have had in Berlin so far – perfectly doughy and soft, and yet caramelised where it should be. It was spectacularly enjoyable.

And that brings us to the end of the meal: it was not perfect, but it was definitely worth more than four prints, which leaves us with five. To be fair, the less spectacular parts of the meal were also priced accordingly (the appetizers cost almost half of what one would pay elsewhere for a large antipasti plate and were not any worse for it). It will thus have to be remembered as a positive side of gentrification. And about that legendary Eckbert: it moved to Görlitzer Park to a new location called Eckbert Zwo, which will have to appear on this blog at some point in the near future.

Overall mark:

Maybachufer 21, 12047 Berlin
Tel: +49 (0)30 629 000 43

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January 06, 2011

Fighting Winter Depression No. 2: Fast Food the Vietnamese Way

Hamy- Café-Foodstore-Fast Food

I’ve never been a sucker for weather talk. I usually think it eats up way too much of people’s time and energy. Yet living in Berlin has taught me some of it was just inevitable. For instance, it’s difficult to explain why your body is overwhelmed by positive vibes in spring or why you fall into a well known pattern of chronic depression in winter without talking about the weather.

And speaking of the weather: it’s cold, bleak and oppressive as we speak. Even without it I would have had enough reasons to reverberate into my usual winter depression, yet then again, the current drabness is not much of a help either. One can therefore understand how astonished I was to see that Hamy on Hasenheide still had its summer benches standing outside, inviting people to have a seat in the bitter cold. Needless to say, my non-masochistic (and some would say self-indulgent) nature was appalled by the very thought of spending time in sub-zero temperatures.

And yet, these benches did manage to strike a cord somewhere deep inside me. They suddenly reminded me of summer and of how full of life the place could be with the weather permitting. To be fair, I’ll never understand the charm of sitting outside on a street like Hasenheide, which is as loud as it is aesthetically displeasing. But for some reason Hamy has made people overlook both of these factors and sprawl all over the place. It has been around for a while, offering a limited number of Vietnamese dishes for very little money. Being low on the dosh (that month after Christmas and New Year’s) and feeling like having a warm soup, I decided it was time to check out Hamy’s winter clothing.

I was not surprised to discover it was nearly impossible to get a table, as the place was absolutely packed. However, as the place defines itself as a “fast food” restaurant, it also means one never gets to wait that long to get seated. Hamy’s insides are a bit less appealing than the outside: a small space with walls painted in radioactively disturbing colours of peach and orange. Again, it just added to the fast and cheap vibes.

We started with the house cocktail, described as a mixture of rum, banana, coconut milk and brown sugar for the price of 3.20 € for 0.2 l. It came in a glass with the straw stuck in the middle of a lush slice of grapefruit. Simplistic, yet not a bad idea. I like. The cocktail tasted like coconut milk with a bit of rum in it, which was a bit less exciting than what we had expected, but it wasn’t bad either. We continued to check out the rest of the menu. The concept is very simple: there are two daily dishes and a few other soups and salads – all for 4.90 €. We chose the Hamy Wan-Tan, which was just a chicken Pho with Wan-Tans and green stuff in it and the two daily dishes: Ghà Kho Gung (chicken breast in a mild peanut-coconut-milk sauce with rice and other vegetables) and Bún Mang Hanci (soup with thin rice noodles and chicken).

Wan Tan Soup
Ghà Kho Gung

The food came in promptly. I think we had not waited for more than two minutes when the dishes came out. The portions were not huge and would not be enough to satisfy me in a hungry mode, but they were more than enough for the price. The chicken dish was extremely good – with a strong taste of its pleasantly seasoned peanut sauce. There was very little chicken involved, but hey, what do you expect for 4.90 €? The wan-tan soup was also very good. The basic Pho was of a very good quality and its size was acceptable. The wan-tans were a bit less spectacular, with what tasted of instant filling. The daily soup was a bit more disappointing. Again, the basic Pho was very good, it was quite spicy, but its contents failed to inspire (well, there wasn’t much else other than unspectacular rice noodles and a few slices of chicken breast swimming around).

Hamy is probably not the place that will dazzle you with its splendid creations, but it delivers exactly what it promises: good quality “fast food” à la Vietnamienne. It costs very little and still remains very pleasing. If you feel like staying longer and eating more, try out Miss Saigon on Skalitzer Straße, but for a pleasant time out with friends, Hamy will be more than enough.

Overall mark:

Hamy - Café - Foodstore -Fast Food
Hasenheide 10, 10967 Berlin

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