Okay, I should’ve written about this place weeks, if not months ago! It’s a Chinese restaurant with a quite contemporary and chic interior, serving only (!) vegetarian dishes! And it’s made by the same folks doing one of my favourite places for Chinese food in Berlin, Tian Fu. Better late than never: here’s Tianfuzius.
When I’m at a vegetarian place, I feel somewhat lost… I’m not used to be able to enjoy the full choice of a menu – normally I just skip pages until I find the (short) section titled “Vegetarian”. Having to read the whole menu is too much for me, also because it induces heavy fomo. I was even planning on bringing a set of tupperware so I could just order everything (but had to go to an event after, and was too embarrassed to arrive with totes full of plastic containers). Luckily, my friend Ash was with me and accepted the chore of decision making, and the waiter was super friendly and recommended the best dishes of the menu. (A feature that is still not common in Berlin – more often than not, staff drily replies “everything”, when asked what’s best.)
One note on the interior, it’s unusual for a Chinese place in Berlin to say the least. It’s bright, spacious, and features a choice of contemporary furniture and lighting fixture, but none of the known Chinese decoration objects. None. Just by the looks, it could be serving a spin on regional and seasonal dishes. Also, there were no other Chinese guests (except our own party). All in all, the common hallmarks for quality don’t apply, but don’t let this confuse you. The food is seriously good.
First, we had a choice of starters, mung bean noodles in a delicious and intense black vinegar sauce, crispy, spicy and sour cucumber salad, smoked Wuxian tofu with coriander, and a noodle dish with loads of chili-oil, which Ash asked to be served with a proper Chinese spiciness (so I only tried a tiny bit), that will definitely be a joy for those of you looking for the real burn. What I like about Chinese food is done very well at Tianfuzius – fresh ingredients are layered with sour, sweet and spicy sauces, creating a complex palate and interesting textures.
After finishing the starters, we ordered green beans with chili, Mapo tofu that sadly lacked the Sichuan pepper (must’ve been a slip in the kitchen, usually it’s served with pepper); my favorite, the fish-fragrant Yu Xiang eggplant that has loads of umami and a pleasant creaminess, as well as one of the meat surrogate dishes. There are many, very highly developed surrogates available in the Chinese kitchen, from duck to prawns, and Tianfuzius offers a nice choice. Most of them are probably made from seitan, or wheat, and feature very interesting textures, that are quite similar to meat (as far as I can tell). However, this is just a fraction of what they do, many dishes do very well without any replacements.
The menu is long, so I will have to come back to try the hot pots with cauliflower, mushrooms or radish; the Sichuan tofu, the Chinese broccoli, and of course some of the spicy and sour potatoes, the noodle soup, and maybe even the deep fried calamari rings with cumin and Sichuan pepper. Parts of their menu is on the website, so you can start planning now.