This recommendation comes with a bit of a catch, because this is not a place you can just go and order anything. Some items on the menu are delicious, some are surprisingly bland. And while I am usually the first to rule a place out because of inconsistency, the dishes that are made well, are so good, you won’t find them anywhere else in Berlin… Like the Doengjang Jigae, a stew made of Korean fermented soy-bean paste.
I’ve been looking forward to eating in this restaurant on Sonnenallee in Neukölln for a long time. Not only because it’s been on the list of the 10 restaurants I want to try this Spring, but mainly because people have been raving about it, asking if I’ve already been, how I liked it, etc. With some of them even adding that they really wanted me to like this place. And… I do. I don’t only like it, I downright fell in love with their food. With their beautiful radishes, their tempura lemon (!) and their divine veggie bacon… I loved it! And I am pretty sure you will too.
Dining at Zenkichi is an all-around experience, beginning when you open the door to the stairs leading you to the basement, in this bleak, completely unremarkable office building. Once you’ve descended, you’ll wander through a lobby that looks like a bamboo forest, to immerse into a selectively lit dining space composed of small, semi-private booths. As with the upstairs bistro called House of Small Wonder, Zenkichi’s perk is its all-embracing conceptual design – the basement has been completely remodeled from floor to ceiling to re-create a truly Japanese – In’ei Reisan – atmosphere, using black lacquered wood and bare bamboo, where guests enjoy a seasonal Omakase menu in seated in alcoves.
While most food-trend-forecasters (that’s a real job, yes) might bet their money on Mexican food to rule Berlin this coming months, I am personally rooting for the rediscovery of West, Central and East African food. Admittedly a region to big to assemble under one label, it seems so unjustifiably underrepresented in the Berlin food scene, that creating a generous label might proof handy for my own discovery. However, the least underrepresented of those national cuisines is definitely Ethiopia’s. And one very delicious example is located just off the canal in Kreuzberg: Langano.
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.