Think dining in Germany is all beer, pretzels and sausage? Think again. In capital Berlin, there’s a thriving culinary scene where you can nosh until the wee hours (this is a club city, after all) on anything from around the world, even Michelin-starred vegetarian!
Pull up a fur-pelted chair at Nobelhart & Schmutzig, and gather round the U-shaped open kitchen for some dinner theater focusing on all that’s local thanks to sommelier and host Billy Wagner, who’ll guide you through 11 amazing courses (that yes, sometimes even make a masterpiece out of radishes). It’s a symphony of flavors and service, and up to four hours sampling products from only the capital and its surroundings — meaning no lemon, pepper, chocolate, tuna or curry. Think herbal and savory, especially with the spirits pairing, when Billy — the ringmaster of sorts — makes the rounds chatting and pouring. It’s about the four most comfortable hours you’ll ever spend fine dining, with the most international of experiences coming from your fellow feasters ready to see what brought this hot spot near Checkpoint Charlie a Michelin star.
The focus at Cookies Crème is more on the meeting than the “meat” as well — this Michelin-starred vegetarian restaurant is in a hip location that basically defines industrial chic. If you think you’ll be leaving hungry, think again; savory corn porridge with coriander and chili invokes any recollections of growing up in the American South and it’s just as toothsome without the pork products. Quail egg in brioche is enough for Sunday brunch alone, and vegetarian “caviar” with hazelnuts nails the texture of roe just right. Order a la carte, or as three- and four-course menus whereby you can mix and match however many starters, mains and desserts you’d like — Berlin is delightfully laissez faire when it comes to what you want. That is, unless you’re itching to take your phone out to capture the glory; both Cookies and Nobelhart discourage the picture taking that so often leaves dishes cold by the time you get the lighting just right. Part of the fun here is finding the entrance, too; hidden around a corner, you’ll have to do some Googling, and it’s unlikely your Uber driver is going to be able to suss it out via GPS. They’re more likely to drop you at Crackers, with another doorway “hidden” out in the open. The former club has been transformed into a casual noshing den with sexy blue plush couches and a DJ paying homage to the Mitte location’s former life, with dinner sets on Friday and Saturday nights.
Stay out late? It’s worth heading over to trendy Prenzlauer Berg the next day, where brunch at Restaurant Oderberger has a large outdoor patio and spacious inside, with a modern, airy aesthetic that spans three levels with 50-foot-tall ceilings and lots of natural light. Regionally sourced German cuisine is paired with German wines and there are also tons of local juices, pastries and cheeses. (Hint: Lounge for the day if you buy a pass for the adjoining Hotel Oderberger’s historic swimming pool in a soaring atrium open to visitors for a minimal fee.)
A bit further west, Benedict in the Wilmersdorf district nods to the Tel Aviv fascination with breakfast all day long. Brinner offerings — a fusion of brunch and dinner — include eggs benedict 24/7, shakshuka all day every day and muesli at midnight. Floral wallpaper and wooden furniture make this new restaurant feel like your Grandma’s.
In the mood for something sweet minus the syrup? Coda Dessert Bar, helmed by Rene Frank, a Michelin-starred pastry chef, pairs cocktails with sweet concoctions for “dessert cuisine based on pastry techniques.” Two seatings in the Neukölln district include a seven-course tasting menu with paired drinks and snacks, and the 10 p.m. bar menu of one to four courses and cocktails.
Anyone who’s been to Berlin is familiar with donar kebab, thanks to the storefronts’ late-night hours and the city’s large Turkish population. Fes Turkish Barbecue in Kreuzberg offers an interactive experience with electric grills for diners to cook their own kebabs, paired with mezze and raki shots. And nearby Ssam Korean Barbeque also features Korean cuisine prepared the same way, cooked on sunken tabletop grills.
It would be a miss for any fan of the Netflix series Chef’s Table to miss out on visiting a Tim Raue establishment, and his newest — Brasserie Colette — is worth adventuring to Schöneberg. He puts a spin on brasserie fare with classic dishes interpreted in unconventional ways; think Croque Madame with truffle, sea bass with bacon foam or lobster with melon, served in a dining room with cozy vintage apothecary cabinets.