Sometimes I wonder, whether you – as in you, the readers of this blog – wonder, why I only post as few articles as I do. Well, the answer to this question is: if I have nothing to recommend, I can’t write an article. I constantly visit new (and old) places – often with the intention of writing about them, but sometimes they leave me less than impressed.
I decided to only write about places I liked, which is partly because I lack the funds to repeatedly visit a place that is disappointing to find out whether the lack of quality was just due to the kitchen team having a bad day or is rooted in a flawed concept. But this also means that there are times when I won’t find a place, that I think is worthy of your time and money. And yes, if these underwhelming experiences continue for weeks, I feel pretty bummed out. I don’t even mean that they need to be really bad (although, believe me, that happens), they’re mostly quite meh. But as we all know, too much meh adds up to a huge, numbing blah.
In order to not question whether Berlin’s food scene will ever stop making false promises and grow up to be diverse, high-quality, and creative, I then re-visit places I love and that have given me hope in the past. Last week, I was in dire need of a delicious dinner after too many mediocre brunches and lunches, so I decided to book a table at Lode & Stijn.
Lode & Stijn was the first idea that came to our minds when I talked to my friend about where to go, if we want to be sure to have a delicious and creative dinner, a casual yet professional service experience, plus a couple of glasses of great wine. Well, I was lucky enough to snatch the last two seats by the bar, their place is solidly booked and you’re well advised to call a couple days in advance, especially if you want to eat there on the weekend.
Their six course menu is 58 Euros, if you sit at the bar, you can order bar food only as well. We, however, went for the full thing, which starts with a couple of snacks. For once, a generous serving of their own bread – which in itself is one of my favourites in Berlin (and won the second place in our Berlin’s Best Bread competition) –, asparagus (because tis’ the season), hazelnut coated celeriac in fermented garlic sauce, and bitterballen (because both Lode van Zuylen and Stijn Remi are Dutch). I wanna say don’t eat too much of the bread because there’s loads to follow, but it’s so delicious, I can’t ever help myself. The crispy burnt crust develops a sweet aroma that balances out the perfect sourness of the moist crumb, it’s an utter joy.
The vegetarian version of the menu then included chicory salad with linseeds, roasted bread topped with leek puree, savoy cabbage, and salted lemons; potato gnocchi with wild garlic and whey; pak choi with rucola and king oyster mushrooms; finally followed by my favourite: cauliflower with browned butter, young spinach, and dried egg yolk. As much as Lode & Stijn is about the taste, I feel it’s about the colors of a dish – they never clash, rather compliment each other, and refer to the source of the produce with many shades of rich and light greens, bright yellow, and earthy browns.
However, I could barely wait for the dessert, because it’s a spin on the classic pavlova: a meringue is topped with yoghurt cream, rhubarb sorbet, and a hat of linseed mousse. The way the sugary sweet meringue is married with soft cream, and the sour rhubarb is a match made in heaven.
I kind of needed this full dinner (and a couple of glasses of the excellent Sauvignon Blanc) to lift me out of this state of constantly being underwhelmed by food in Berlin. Because unfortunately many places still opt for mediocre ingredients, prepared in mediocre ways, which is especially frustrating when paired with an arrogant hubris. But there are counterexamples of dedicated, motivated, and passionate chefs, who are working tirelessly to raise the bar of what good food means in Berlin.