February 10, 2011

Dancing on Tables? If You Say So

Ypsilon - Kleistpark, Schöneberg

When I was about six years old I asked my mother at some point why Greeks enjoyed breaking plates. “They don’t”, she answered with a grownup sigh. I sneered back and said I had seen them with my own eyes. And I was right. My easily impressionable nature was repeatedly traumatised by the loud gentlemen standing in front of Greek “tavernas” on touristy streets. All they seemed to be doing was to shout “ouzo” and throw an endless supply of plates with impressive force on the ground. For me it was clear there was something fishy about these Greeks and their strange affection to smashing objects. I could not fathom what on earth would cause a whole nation to live in a perpetual Birmingham-City-fan state of mind.

What I did not understand at the time was that some restaurant goers actually perceived this useless display of violence as exciting. And that was exactly what Greek restaurants in Northern Europe are all about: they sell an image of a land abundant in hot-blooded and colourful agitation that is so much more exotic than the drab gloom present in all of our everyday lives.

And then, when a friend asked me whether I wanted to try out Ypsilon on Hauptstraße (just off U-Kleistpark) because he had seen people dancing on tables there, my reaction was simply “I’m in as long as nobody’s going to break any plates”. Dancing on tables was exactly the right amount of excitement I could deal with: lively and utterly pointless. I could not quite call it exotic, as the only time I saw people dancing on tables had actually been actually in Warsaw.

Considering the fact I was lured all the way to Schöneberg under pretence of seeing people dancing on tables to the sound of a buzuki, the place was awfully quiet. Ypsilon has quite a large space and the overall design was rather tasteful compared to what Greek restaurants in Berlin usually deliver. No in-your-face bright lights, no pillars and no random Greek gods lurking around the place. This is not to say the place was entirely pleasing. The walls were too red and it felt like a mash-up of a cheap cocktail bar and a posh restaurant. A stage with a microphone was set in a central location, looming. A promise of live music and dancing on tables. It was still too early for that yet. We could concentrate on the food instead.

We started by ordering dolmades (stuffed vine-leaves, according to Chris the only true test of every Greek restaurant, 4.30 €), melitzana (mashed aubergines, 4.20 €), spanakopitakia (puff pastry filled with spinach, 6.30 €) and kalamarakia (pan fried calamari, 5.90 €). The starters came on large plates, decorated with fresh looking vegetables. They were also rather convincing on the quality end. The dolmades were not too sour and the rice filling was soft and nice. The aubergines were bland, as were the spanakopitakia, but they were not entirely bad. The calamari, however were even quite good. Not too rubbery and not too greasy. For pan fried calamari they were even rather pleasing.

The Wall

The main courses were a bit less convincing. We ordered a souvlaki arni (lamb skewer, 15.50 €) a bifteki gemisto (a piece of minced meat stuffed with feta, 10.90 €) and the moussakas (a dish not entirely unlike shepherd’s pie: a casserole based on layers of minced meat, aubergines, potatoes and cheese, 9.80 €). Generally speaking, the portions were very large and the presentation was appetising. The seasoning of all three dishes was also quite convincing. The only problem was the quality of the meat, which was lower than simply disappointing. It did not matter much in the case of the moussakas which is all about the sauce and the seasoning anyway. It had just the right consistency and the right touch of just about everything. It was no work of art, but it was thoroughly pleasing, even though a tad overpriced. The bifteki was fairly mediocre – with the meat not being exceptionally good, but it was still alright with the chips served on the side. The souvlaki turned out to be the main problem. When the entire point about a certain dish is eating chunks of meat off a skewer, you can’t really camouflage its poor quality with anything. Add the fact it was the most expensive dish on the menu and you’ve got stuff bad reviews are made of.


As we turned to the perfectly friendly waiter and ordered the bill, we looked at the stage and the microphone one last time, feeling cheated and betrayed. The place had not become any more exciting or promiscuous, even though it was already long past 11. Without any dancing on tables to cloud my better judgement, I feel obliged to give Ypsilon three prints and feeling rather generous about it. It was not bad, but far from being good for the not-too-low pricing. Checking out their website I saw why we missed the action though: It says they have live music every Friday and Saturday after 11, but we went on a Sunday.

Overall mark: 

Ypsilon - Restaurant/Café/Bar/Sommergarten
Hauptstraße 163, 10827 Berlin

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1 comment:

  1. You forgot to mention that it has the added value of The Train cocktail bar next door, where you can get drunk in an S-Bahn carriage - so just like most weekends then..