Update March 2015: Asia Deli had a change of chefs end of 2014 and – sadly – the food isn’t of the same quality anymore. Read a short new review here.
I still like to believe that somewhere in Berlin there’s this fantastic Chinese restaurant, serving the most delicious and flavorful dishes, giving you goosebumps thanks to its Hunan freshness and makes you cry thanks to Szechuan pepper numbness. When I found the seriously good Tian Fu and Hot Spot though, my search didn’t end. Because I heard about this one place where you had to ask for a special red menu, a place that looked like any other cheap “Asian” deli, serving fried noodles but also Sushi and Thai-style plates. But if you asked the right questions, they’d serve you the best Chinese you can get in this city. I finally went there: it’s called Asia Deli. (No joke)
For a long time I didn’t dare going, because I heard one needed to speak Chinese to get the special menu, a skill I never acquired. And I also didn’t know many Chinese speaking people well enough to ask them to join me. At one point two weeks ago, I just went there with two Austrian friends in toe. Because what the hell, I wanted that food!
Nevertheless, I nervously sent texts to Ash, who I met on the Somewhere weekend last fall, where she prepared great Chinese food. I asked her what to do if they refused to give me the menu. If they spoke no German at all.
In front of my friends I pretended to be confident, I had fueled their expectations, had told them they were in for a special treat, still I was never sure all we were in for was nothing more than some greasy fried noodles.
We arrived at this place that looked nothing more than a prototypical cheap “Asian” place, with no decoration whatsoever, broken down plastic chairs in front of it. We sat down at one of the yellow wooden tables and awaited our destiny.
And then the waitress just came out with two menus in hand, the much awaited red one glowing form afar, and in an instant all my sorrows were gone. She asked wether we wanted the normal menu or the red, Chinese one. No question! And then we went through page after page filled with delicious sounding Hunan dishes and couldn’t decide what to order. Although it was already clear we’d order more than we needed…
I was so happy this place obviously opened up to those not able to speak Chinese, because what great food they make! We started with cucumber salad, house made pickled cabbage, filled dumplings and tofu with tomatoes and cilantro. All fresh and intense, the flavors complex and appealing with the right amount of chili on the cabbage and cucumbers. And then the mains, my friends opted for a giant noodle soup with beef ribs and Mappo Tofu (not as spicy as expected – I might have warned my friend one time too many). And I went for the tofu with green peppers, delicious!
Just in time I received a text from Ash telling me to order the fish-fragranced aubergine, which she assured me was vegetarian and along she sent me the dish in Chinese which I showed to the waitress. While my friends wondered how I’d be able to eat another main, I was more than happy when the dish arrived, it was soooo good! Rich in flavor, with a velvety texture. Normally it’s served with minced meat, but I couldn’t help but think that this dish needed no meat at all to be great. Will order it again next time. And I hope this next time is a lot sooner than later. I love the Asia Deli.