June 10, 2011

Turkish Delight

Mercan - Kreuzberg

Parents are strange creatures. And stranger still is how often we can anticipate each and every one of their reactions. And yet, the strangest of all is how we – after dozens of years around them – still let these reactions get to us. My father is easiest to anticipate in restaurants. He has very clear tastes and preferences. They start and end with the word “simplicity”.

Everything that is not “simple”- which might mean dimmed lights, a structured menu and superfluously agreeable design - is quickly branded with the annihilating Hebrew umbrella term “faltzany”, which literally translates to the adjective form of “farting through one’s teeth”. For the sake of transgenerational fairness, I should state that this is a fairly modern word (unlike the rest of my father’s Hebrew vocabulary, which usually remains a relic from the jolly 1970’s, when Israelis still wore khaki trousers and wrote songs about peace). The only thing is that my dad uses it generically to slag off whatever he might dislike or consider as too middle class.

My own interaction with my father is usually based on feeble attempts to hide the fact I have become an espresso-drinking-blog-writing-twat who likes working in cafés – unmistakeably middle class to the bone. Making it work requires the right background, which is to take him to places he’d like: family owned cheap restaurants with good and hearty food. Plastic flowers and strip lights are only an advantage set in place to put him at ease. And yet, even with Berlin’s abundance of Eckkneipen, finding a down-to-earth place that actually serves good food is quite a challenge.

Which is why I was bound to end up at Mercan on Wiener Straße at some point. Never has there been a place so perfect for a father-son talk as Mercan. It is one of the few accessible places left in Kreuzberg that remind you the place had originally been a Turkish neighbourhood. The space inside is generous, with over two rooms decorated with the best colourful overdose of oriental kitsch you’d find in living rooms of the likes of my aunt (whose porcelain dole collection epitomises her life’s work). It all seems to be just right – the bright lights, the plastic flowers, the mirrors and the colours. It is just right.

It was a warm summer’s evening though. We chose to sit in the improvised garden outside and went inside to order. Dinner is based on a fixed-rate menu of 6 € that includes one main course to be chosen from a collection of promisingly steamy pans, a side of either rice or bulgur and another small dish from the display case, which can be either a salad (tomato salad or yoghurt dip) or a dessert (either sütlac, kompot or revani). Any additional element costs one Euro. Now that’s a pleasingly simple system.

Meat balls

Our main courses were meatballs in yoghurt sauce and a stuffed aubergine, both with a side of bulgur. We then had a tomato salad, a revani (sweet semolina cake drenched in rose water) and a sütlac (rice pudding) for dessert. Everything had a pleasingly high quality. The meatballs were tasty and the yoghurt sauce was rich and savoury with a touch of spiciness that enriched its general taste. The aubergine was good as well: soft and juicy with flavoursome filling. The sütlac was good, assuming the person eating it was into it (I personally think that rice pudding is one of the most repulsive inventions made by man, but I was assured by my partner in crime that it was good quality Turkish rice pudding, which is generally softer than the Greek or German ones). I enjoyed the rivani very much as well. It was soft and pleasing and it kicked the sugar level in my blood up to levels I do not wish to imagine.

Next time my father finds his way to Berlin I will have to take him to dinner at Mercan’s. The food was basic and far from being a revelation, but it was a throroughly pleasant experience with high quality, firendly service and stuffed bellies as a result. It felt like the right place to appreciate Turkish food.

Overall mark: 

Wiener Straße 10, 10999 Berlin
Tel: +49 (0)30 612 85841

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1 comment:

  1. 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!
    Please visit