Let's face it - despite all the talk of gentrification in Prenzlauer Berg, truly good restaurants are few and far between compared to the likes of Savignyplatz.
But now there's some hope for improvement on Helmholzplatz: Vis à Vis has taken over the former home of a bland discount sushi-noodle-cocktail factory and transformed it into a classy-casual eatery that serves a mix of French, American and German food. The devoted father-son team, who recently repatriated to Germany after many years in the US, seem to have brought back a certain American touch. There's exposed brickwork inside and a burger or two on the menu! Still, Vis à Vis seems to take the upscale Parisian brasserie as its culinary inspiration: it offers fresh oysters, onion soup, and elegant yet uncomplicated meat and fish dishes.
Our starters were gourmet mini-treats: delicate liver terrine on brioche bread, and thoroughly palatable home-smoked char (a pungent fish) on pumpernickel slices with cabbage and a dapple of horseradish - all topped with a tiny Rösti. One of the favourites here are the freshly-ground beef burgers (€10.50; if you want yours red be sure to ask the waitress, as ours came slightly overcooked) served on English muffins (a Berlin custom) and accompanied with a decent portion of delicious, chunky homemade fries, a dollop of rather vapid coleslaw and delicious crispy fried onions. The true highlight of our meal was, in fact, the luxurious home-baked lemon tart dotted with bits of meringue (perfect pastry, delicious lemon cream); the crème brulée was only slightly better than average. Inspired by Paris' all-day eateries, Vis à Vis is open for breakfast, lunch (croque monsieur, anyone?) and dinner, with excellent cakes and coffee in between. There's also a lounge area for slumping back in a vintage chesterfield, cocktail or long drink in hand.