NEW OPENINGS: Beautiful pasta: Zosimo If you happen to venture to the side streets behind the Haus der Berliner Festspiele in Wilmersdorf, Zosimo is worth the detour. Their dazzling Sicilian concoctions (think Arabic influences as best expressed in their lemon pistachio pesto, and lots of shells and fish) outclass most Italian restaurants in town. Try the seafood cannelloni: it’s as ravishing for the eyes as it is for the taste buds.
Best dining experience: La Bonne Franquette Now a UNESCO-protected world heritage tradition, French cuisine ain’t just about the food: it’s all about enjoying the food. Finally, a French restaurant that strikes the right balance: expert but unfussy dishes with perfect service in a cosy, friendly atmosphere. Unbeatable prix-fixe lunch deals (always go for the homemade terrine). It’s a success. We predicted it!
Comfort Gumbo: New Orleans Haus We heard some meat-haters were disappointed by their bean combo – as for us, we swear by their gumbo and can’t have enough of that delicious spicy sausage they get custom-made for it in Neukölln. And of course there’s the sweet cornbread and the creamy cheesecake… the ultimate comfort food.
Best tacos: Ta’Cabrón We still love it Californian-style (Dolores is opening a second location on Wittenbergplatz in January!). But, when it comes to Mexican, nothing can match the homemade tacos and the chicken mole at Ta’Cabrón, a no-nonsense diner on Skalitzer Straße run by a friendly Mexican man and his easygoing Latino crew. Service has its own pace, but even the tofu and seafood tacos are great, and their chunky guacamole has never tasted so ‘homemade’. The only serious contenders: the Taco Truck guys and their mini homemade cornmeal treats. Spicy pollo with great fresh green salsa: delicioso! They’re rumoured to migrate to sunnier climes for the winter though. We’ll miss them.
Real tandoori: Buddha Republic If you can overcome the über-slick décor, this upscale Indian joint that took over the former location of The Kitchen serves up some great tandoori, well-cooked in the tandoor oven and served sizzling hot and perfectly spiced. Unlike anywhere else in Berlin.
Quiche Alternative: Ohlàlà Tartes Shop The secret to a perfect quiche is in the dough. Clarissa, a French punk burlesque performer trained by superposh patisserie Lenotre, achieves crusty perfection in her cute little shop in Mainzer Straße, of squatter fame. Ohlàlà bakes a new selection of savoury and sweet pies with yummy fillings every morning.
FOOD TRENDS: Yoghurt wave Berliners have always been avid Eis-eaters, but the new frozen yoghurt craze (low-fat, expensive, loads of funky toppings) suddenly went viral this year. As far as we can tell, it started at Yoli last October. A second Yoli shop opened in Münzstraße 11 in the summer. This spring saw the birth of Yobarca, another mini-chain (so far with locations in Simon-Dach-Straße 40, currently closed for winter break, and Schönhauser Allee 122), and even a yoghurt truck (YoMunchy, www.yomunchy.com), which makes the rounds in the warm months.
Korean attack Thai is passé; Japanese, stagnant (stuck in generic sushi), and Vietnamese has gone all fancyschmancy with design-overload lanterns and shit. The latest Asian gastro-tsunami is Korean bimbimbap: it began with a few old local favourites (Maru in Friedrichshain, Ixthys in Schöneberg), soared with trendy eateries such as YamYam in Mitte and Kimchi Princess in Kreuzberg (we were not impressed), and exploded in P’berg with three locations on or north of Danziger (Bibim, Core and the very special Korea Sori).
Mexican invasion Unheard of in Berlin only a couple of years ago, good, authentic Mexican grub (fiery homemade burritos, enchiladas, soft corn tacos, Mexican wrestling masks as decoration) has become a staple of the expat diet. Over the year the Maria empire spread its tentacles from its original Prenzlauer Berg (Maria Bonita, which started the wave last year) into Kreuzberg 36. Go to Maria Peligro for hipster leisure dining and to Santa Maria for tortas (Mexican sandwiches) and an agreeable atmosphere. Meanwhile, tiny Bonita has kept the Imbiss charm and damn good pico de gallo and guacamole of the first days. Also new on the Mex map is La Pulqueria, a sit-down restaurant which opened a stone’s throw away from the others in a rather ugly building on Spreewaldplatz and produces a decent meal while – refreshingly – not trying to prey on cultural tourists or hipsters unlike many new Mex places. For wicked tacos, Ta’Cabrón outsmarts them all (see above). Latest Mexican tip: Biohazard Bistro on the fringe of Friedrichshain. Watch these pages for our review.
*Be sure to check our other sections for the ‘best of’ just about everything else EXBERLINER covered this year