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Photo courtesy of Sage Restaurant
Ahhh, the “club restaurant”. Berlin has its fair share, ranging from the pretentious (Felix) to the legendary (the Cookies empire). Then there’s Tin Tin, an outgrowth of the Berghain community, with its well-designed interior: a place for feeding DJs of taste and their entourages with well-designed foodstuffs.
Sage Restaurant, too, is the product of a long-standing nightlife empire that includes the Sage Club (now also the venue of the Kitkatclub), a limo rental service and a charity that supports a hospital in Senegal. The place recently turned one, so we went to see if it lives up to the initial hype.
Upon entering, one is bowled over by the size of the place, a long club-like warehouse filled with the appetizing smell of pizza from the in-room oven. The design is, well, very ‘industrial lounge’ with fun touches: piles of wine glasses in aquarium-like dividers, and a glassed-off smoking area complete with chesterfields and a fireplace. Add to that a non-stop throb of high-volume techno, electro and house.
Considering we went mid-week, the place was surprisingly full with a mix of diners whose food habits superbly met international stereotypes. To our right, twenty-something Russian couples on a double date were ordering the most expensive dishes on the menu – the men, sporting wickedly pricey watches, devoured their bloody steaks; the two devushkas, erect on their seats, chest and chin up, eyes cast down, gazed disdainfully through mascara-heavy lashes at the pretty landscape of food on their plates.
To our left, a large table of Scots all ordered the cheapest dish: Pizza Margherita (€5.50). They liked it so much they asked for doggy bags. Across from our table sat a gang of post-techno German yuppies getting high on large, fancy glasses of red and white wine. The servers seemed quite diligent and were friendly, but it took an eternity to get drinks, let alone appetizers. We started with a salmon tartar with asparagus on a bed of “herb salad” (€8.50) and a Caesar salad boasting corn-fed chicken (€11), which came in aesthetic arrangements. While the former was a little bit ‘too much’ – the salmon was too oaky, the herb salad too salty – the Caesar salad fell short of its name: the dressing was a concoction of mustard and mayo, sans the anchovies which make the original so special.
When our main courses arrived, we were happy to see they were generously portioned: a large Schnitzel with white Beelitz asparagus nicely cooked al dente (€20.50) and a rack of Welsh lamb served with beans, oyster mushrooms and a potato gratin (€24). We didn’t care much for the Schnitzel – the breading was totally unspectacular and tasted borderline stale.
The high point was surely the lamb: the meat was so tender it literally melted on the tongue, and it came pleasantly accompanied by a rich gratin reminiscent of French tartiflette. The dessert menu offered unusual combinations. We daringly opted for a pleasant-enough concoction of glazed asparagus and strawberries, and a rhubarb chartreuse, in which the red nuances of the (undercooked) rhubarb contrasted beautifully on the plate with the unique tender-brash green of the estragon sauce. Was the €8.50 price tag worth the exquisite sight? We’ll let you decide.