What does Christmas Eve mean to you? For some of us, the answer is “Chinese food”. The tradition of welcoming Yuletide with lo mein and wonton soup dates back to the Manhattan of a century ago, when Jewish immigrants would gather for low-key celebrations at the only restaurants that were open.
But you don’t have to be Jewish to crave a Heiligabend meal that isn’t the same old sauerkraut and boiled goose – and your options aren’t limited to Chinese, either. What about Vietnamese pho, Indian chaat or Syrian maqluba? These restaurants (and deliveries) are the answer to all your alternative Christmas wishes.
A Spree-side spread at Ming Dynastie
There are buzzier Chinese restaurants in this city, but we’ll always have a soft spot for the riverside restaurant next to the Chinese Embassy (and its slightly less charming sister venue in the Europa Center). In keeping with the trend towards regionality, both branches have adopted more of a Sichuan bent in recent years. But the thick, people-pleasing menu still ensures there’s something for everyone: chicken feet and century eggs for the authenticity chasers, egg drop soup and fried rice for fans of the Euro-Chinese classics, Beijing duck and gong bao scallops for the luxury lovers, not to mention loads of vegan and vegetarian dishes.
Festive fine dining at UUU
Want a Chinese Christmas feast you’ll truly remember? Head to UUU, the culinary laboratory and nine-person dining room presided over by chef Yuhang Wu and host Jonas Borchers. For the holidays only, they’ve put together a 10-course extravaganza paired with the usual tea and homemade kombucha plus a welcome drink, an after-dinner drink and “a few surprises”. Past menus have involved fresh-made tofu, chilli-flavoured foam and Brandenburg spaghetti beans; we can’t predict the actual contents of this one, but for €189 a person, expect fireworks.
Sprengelstr. 15, Wedding, 19:30, reserve here
DIY dipping at Xiao Long Kan
Let the normies have their fondue. A pot of Sichuan broth, as fiery as a Yule log and as red as Santa’s suit, is what you should really be dunking your food into this Christmas. And there’s currently no hotter place to get it than Xiao Long Kan (aka Shoolongkan), the recently opened Wilmersdorf branch of an international Chinese chain. Choose from a vast array of meats, veggies, seafood, noodles, rice cakes and more, to be cooked in a meat or vegetarian soup base and spiced up with a sauce you mix yourself. The bigger your party, the cheaper the meal gets, so round up all your friends who haven’t left town.
Spice Christmas at The Indique
It’s been overshadowed by the likes of Saravanaa Bhavan and Tiffin, but with its focus on what people in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kerala are eating today, this Mitte newbie presents a refreshing change from the omnipresent static curry menus and traditional recipes. And with the five-course set meals it’s offering over the holidays – available in vegetarian, vegan, chicken or seafood variations, brimming with chaats, kebabs, biryanis, kathi rolls and Indo-Chinese fusion – now’s the time to try it out. Each two-person menu is €50, or €60 if you get it delivered.
Ziegelstr. 29, Mitte, Wed-Sun 17-23, reserve holiday menu here
Pho and a shopping spree at the Dong Xuan Center
Lichtenberg’s famous Vietnamese warehouse complex is closed on Tuesdays, and only Tuesdays. Meaning that as long as Christmas falls on any other day of the week, you can come here to get your fill of pho, goi cuon and bun cha, or simply stock up on Asian ingredients for a blowout dinner at home. Where else can you get your duck in both adult and embryonic form (don’t knock trứng vịt lộn till you’ve tried it)? Afterwards, those who’ve procrastinated on gift-buying can trawl the halls for chintzy plastic toys, accessories and fake plants made by – let’s say “elves”, if that soothes your conscience.
Herzbergstr. 128-139, Lichtenberg, Wed-Mon 10-20
Stay up for Santa at Schwarzes Café
Pour out a pilsner for Schwarzes Café’s legendary round-the-clock opening hours. Since August, the neon parrot on Kantstraße has gone dark between 3-7am, a schedule change apparently instituted after a number of attacks on personnel (what is wrong with people?). That said, this remains the only place in Berlin where you can sit out Christmas on your lonesome with a midnight beer and a Bauernomelette, and absolutely no one will judge you for it.
Kantstr. 148, Charlottenburg, daily 7-3
What would Jesus eat? Not goose, if we’re being honest. No, were the man resurrected in Berlin today, he’d make a beeline for the Palestinian restaurants of Sonnenallee, most of which stay as lit up as a Douglas fir over the holidays. Or the saintly Kreuzberger Himmel, where an all-refugee kitchen team cooks up home-style Syrian specialties. Personally, we’d guide him towards Friedrichshain’s Aleppo Supper Club, which just opened a larger satellite in Wühlischstraße. Creamy aubergine muttabal, a cashew-studded version of the rice dish maqluba and out-of-this-world kibbe make for a spread worthy of the King of Kings.
Rigaer Str. 58/Wühlischstr. 21, Friedrichshain, daily 11-22 (Fri-Sun till 22:30)
Mod-Med holidays at Night Kitchen
Speaking of the Levant, any Christmas spent with the fun-loving Israelis of Night Kitchen is bound to be a good time. We’re guessing the Mitte hotspot, known for the orgy of modern-Mediterranean flavour bombs that is its “Dinner with Friends” menu, will book out fast on the 24th. So act now if you want to make merry over challah, tomato carpaccio, sticky braised pork belly and the obligatory cocktail or three.
Heckmann Höfe, Oranienburger Str. 32, Mitte, Tue-Sun 17-24, reserve here
Christmas glitz at Borchardt
Is high-society brasserie Borchardt alternative? It is if you don’t normally spend your evenings on Gendarmenmarkt, sipping truffled chestnut soup or nibbling on king crab tartare. Anything goes when you’re in town for the holidays, so why not take the excuse to go all out? You might not see a celebrity, but with three courses starring Pomeranian free-range goose, pike perch filet or Müritz venison (€64-78), you’ll certainly eat like one.
Französische str. 47, Mitte, daily 11:30-24, reserve here
Feast of seven (or more) fishes with Fish Klub
You don’t have to be from southern Italy to mark Christmas Eve by eating all the seafood you can get your hands on. You just have to think fast: Through December 21, the small-scale, sustainable vendors at Fish Klub are taking orders for fresher-than-fresh French fish (say that three times fast) or, if you’d rather not cook, decadent shellfish platters brimming with oysters, crabs, shrimp and once-a-year delicacies like sea urchins and Breton lobster. Pick up your briny bounty at either of their two locations.
Markthalle IX, Kreuzberg/Wilmersdorfer Arkaden, Charlottenburg, email [email protected] by 21.12 for pickup 22-24.12 or 29-31.12
A very kimchi Christmas
Deck the halls with bowls of banchan! Following her sold-out Thanksgiving dinner delivery, Korean-American street food purveyor Fräulein Kimchi has put together two heat-at-home Christmas menus: one Korean, one, well, sort of French. Duck leg confit in red wine sauce sounds tempting, but not quite as delectable as radish miso soup, braised oxtails with chestnuts, and sides like marinated bean sprouts, cucumber pickles, garlic-sesame spinach and BBQ pork and kimchi egg rolls. Dinner for two is €70, but you can also order kimchi pancakes (or Käsespätzle) a la carte. What if you miss the Dec 19 deadline? Make a reservation at Mitte’s Choi, where owner Sue will be serving up her usual €60, six-course Korean set meal on Christmas Eve.
Dip into Japan with Zenkichi
Want to celebrate Christmas like they do in Japan? Then… go to KFC. What, that’s not Japanese enough for you? The sukiyaki package from still-shuttered izakaya Zenkichi (via upscale delivery service Voila) might do the trick. Actually, the soupy Japanese beef dish might be even more comforting than fried chicken: think thin-sliced beef, tofu, noodles and veggies, cooked in a soy sauce-sugar-mirin mix with a soft-boiled egg for dipping. A seared salmon salad and a matcha gelee for dessert round out the cosy €98 dinner for two.
Order here by 22.12 for delivery 23.12