So the NY/LA deli experience remains beyond the pale of Berlin, but there is one spot – only one, alas – that allows the actual German delicatessen experience in its full, chaotic glory, and that is the legendary ROGACKI, family-owned since 1928 and, god knows, some of its original staff are still working there. With dozens of West Germans slurping unpretentiously at long cafeteria stand-up tables, you can see what degraded into the Ossi milk bar.
Granted, one is in the former heart of West Berlin, but still, the variety at the multifarious deli counters is astonishing to one used to hunting at half-a-dozen supermarkets just to get a pork steak dinner together. Though it may superficially resemble a public bathroom (another truth of the tradition), Rogacki maintains counters filled with fish, meats and salads: more than one type of lox or herring at one spot?
The mind reels (as will the wallet: 100g of gravlax will run you €8.95). There are a few nods to modernity, of course: a 135g jar of chili schmalz goes for €3. Oyster and champagne are consumed with the casualness of matzos ball soup in the Lower East Side and, in fact, the flavor of the broth of my fish soup (€4.50) overflowing with red perch and served with lemon and fresh dill, was not unlike that of the matzo ball soup at the 2nd Avenue Deli, formerly of the East Village, NYC, now in Murray Hill. The Matjesfilet (€5) tasted fresh and was served cold with a thick, creamy dill sauce with apple slices in it, and two boiled potatoes that were peeled in front of me. My matronly server then picked up my pen, put it in her ear and went “ding ding ding”. That was my reaction, as well.