After telling you that this one grim imbiss on Seestraße is serving delicious Chinese food last summer (only to row back on that recommendation when their chef left this winter) I am now asking you to enter a completely unremarkable guesthouse in Prenzlauer Berg, take a seat in their lobby/restaurant area, and enjoy some very delicious Chinese dishes.
A bit too much, you say? Yes, the place looks seriously unremarkable and advertises its food with a sign saying “Asian European Kitchen”. Besides their food business, the same space functions as reception desk, bar, lobby and breakfast area for the guesthouse on the upper levels of the same house. However, its kitchen is run by a very talented Chinese cook, and serves delicious traditional dishes to adventurous eaters (who don’t care about interior design). Seriously.
I knew Shan Shan was supposed to be inside a hotel’s lobby and expected something quite grand. However, we had to take good care to not just walk past this place on Gleimstraße, close to Schönhauser Allee, with its many restaurants, shops and bars. Because the hotel is more of a guesthouse and the lobby / bar / restaurant looks like a place serving the average Schnitzel.I thought… why does delicious Chinese food has to play so hard-to-get in Berlin??
Luckily, we had a date with Ash, my favorite Chinese chef, who also pre-ordered our meal over the phone and invited three additional eaters – you know the game, the more people at a Chinese place, the more fun.
I had also heard that in order to eat here, one had to call in to get the menu sent via mail and then pre-oder the food via phone. An endeavor that sounded a bit much and I was happy to hand this task over to Ash. However, they do have a menu available (in English, German and Chinese) for you to order on the spot, no need to plan your visit days in advance. Some dishes, like goose in a stone pot, Yang Zhou lion heads or freshly made soybean milk and cheese, are only available when pre-ordered, but most of the menu’s item are available on the spot.
We started with a mix of cold plates, among them this slippery mung bean salad with cucumbers and a crazy delicious peanut butter sauce, as well as a Chinese pickled cabbage that was really unusual with a nice hint of aniseed. The cold starters were followed by a giant bowl of fish soup that made my friend Florian (who wrote that praise on chili-dealer Pfefferhaus) utter “there is spice involved”, which definitely means something. The broth was made using the whole fish that now swam on the bottom of the bowl, topped by fresh fish and preserved Chinese vegetables.
The others also enjoyed a fabulous meat dish with fresh garlic shoots, while I munched a very nice lotus roots dish with a sweet-and-sour sauce that still has me mouth-watering just thinking of it. As a final I had (all the others were sated by that point) Shanghai vegetables (which you should pre-order) arranged in a pretty flower and finished to the last piece of broccoli by yours truly.
There are many more dishes on the menu that sound very enticing, I will surely come back with people who don’t mind that the food is not served on “Chinese” plates, the waiter is boosting Berlin’s distinctive “charm”, or that there’s absolutely no “Chinese” decoration up. Definitely a hit on my “10 Restaurants You Have To Try This Winter”-list.