March 23, 2011

Putting Turkey on Berlin's Map

Gözleme - Neukölln

Imagine the following conversation taking place in German:
Me: „Let’s go for food.“
Some blond person: „Sure, any suggestions?”
Me: “There’s this nifty Turkish place down the road…”
That blond person: “I thought you meant real food? I’m not in he mood of having Döner right now.”
Me again: “Urgh… I didn’t mean that either. I was talking about going to a restaurant.”
A bewildered blond person: “Yeah, but a Döner on a plate is still just a Döner, right? I think I’ll pass. I need real food.”
An irritated me: “But… like… a restaurant? With real food? Cooked and all? What’s not real about that?”
An irritated blond person: “Listen, let’s just do something else, I told you I didn’t feel like going for a kebab.”

That dialogue of the deaf can go on pretty much the same way for a couple more minutes before I end the discussion with a sigh and lead the way to the warm embrace of the closest Schnitzel. Not that Schnitzel is bad. I love Schnitzel. But I’ve always found Teutonic disinterest regarding Turkish food to be quite baffling.

As true as it may be that food can be overrated as a sign of entrenchment of genuine multicultural understanding in any society, it’s still bleeding important on an everyday level. In some ways, it’s always the first contact between people, an excuse to start talking to each other and a symptom of people’s readiness to test their own limits and boundaries. Which is why I find it so strange that the Turkish cuisine – although so present in Germany – has not yet been embraced by most Germans to be included into the local food culture, as is the case in France with couscous and in Britain with curry.

The thing about the Turkish cuisine is that it is strikingly rich, encompassing a whole myriad of dishes, shapes and tastes. Yet ask any of the inhabitants of the largest Turkish city outside of Turkey whether they know any Turkish food and most will not get anywhere past Döner. And let’s face it, Döner isn’t even that Turkish, being a local creation invented around Kottbusser Tor. And still, Berlin offers a range of many good Turkish places. The trick is to find them.

Gözleme in Neukölln was initially a friend’s tip. One of the few traces left by an unspectacularly boring relationship with a Turkish ex was a love of Turkish pastries and dough-based dishes. Two of them are Gözleme – the Turkish version of a crêpe – and Manti – the Turkish dumplings. She said we could find both on Karl Marx Straße.

At first glance, the place is barely distinguishable from any Döner joint in town, just a bit larger. This impression is heavily influenced by the fact that the décor is a marriage made in hell between radioactively yellow walls, in-your-face lights and a touch of pink whenever possible. But there is a real menu, the spinning kebab is nowhere to be found and the owner of the place is incredibly nice and welcoming.

The menu is not overwhelmingly large. It offers a fairly limited choice of soups, a never-ending list of gözleme, two different manti and a couple of meat dishes from the grill. We decided to concentrate on the doughy options and started by ordering a lentil soup (2.80 €) and an aubergine gözleme (that Turkish crêpe for 2.50 €) to start the meal. One has to remember that the lentils in Turkish lentil soups are pureed, giving the soup a very smooth texture. Unfortunately, this one came out fairly bland at the end. It was still alright, but just not inspiring. The gözleme was far better: The dough was thin and the garlicky aubergine filling was superb. It was also large enough to serve as a main.

Lentil soup
 We then continued to our main courses and ordered manti for each, but one dish was vegetarian (with potatoes, 5.50 €) and the other had a meat filling (for 6.50 €). Manti are basically dumplings the size of a dice. Their size is probably one of the biggest challenges when it comes to their preparation, as it is very easy to either stuff them with too little filling and just taste dough or to stuff them with too much and to miss the point. They are served swimming in a yoghurt-garlic sauce. The meat manti were just perfect. The dough was good and the filling had a strong presence despite its miniscule size. The yoghurt-garlic-pepper sauce was so good I did not mind leaving the place smelling like a vampire slayer. The vegetarian manti were, unfortunately, a bit of a disappointment. The sauce was just as good, but the dumplings were fairly watery and the filling did not taste of much. It was still alright, but it felt like eating slices of dough swimming in yoghurt-garlic sauce, which is not as spectacularly good as eating delicious manti.

Gözleme
Manti

 I’m being fair here and rewarding gözleme with three prints because the bland soup and the watery vegetarian manti were far from perfect, but it doesn’t mean the place isn’t good. It is quite marvellous if you know what to order and feel like having a simple, hearty and inexpensive meal. Otherwise, in case you live and Berlin and have never tasted gözleme or manti, just go there without thinking twice (and when I say gözleme, I do NOT mean those greasy atrocities they sell at the Maybachufer market).

Overall mark:

 

Gözleme - Türkisches Restaurant
Karl-Marx-Str. 35, 12043 Berlin
Tel: +49 (0)30 613 4134


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1 comment:

  1. Please visit
    Well I don't know if I'm ever going to come to Berlin, but thank you for this guide, it's very well done!

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