Most Indian food in Berlin simply sucks. The restaurants are decorated with giant, garish flags, and no matter how many dozens of dishes they list on their menus, you always get a dollop of the same mush smothered in the same generic, spiceless sauces. And the meat is often deeply dodgy…
Who hasn’t had the urge, at least once, to spit a cringe-inducing blob of chicken back onto the plate and shout “WTF!” at the clueless waiter? But, of course, that waiter would probably just shrug, or say that German customers don’t like it spicy, anyways. But what about fresh? Or edible? And forget about eating tandoori here. Order it, and you’ll inevitably receive a metal platter of flavourless meat and veg served as a sizzler – the plate might be hot, but not the food!
Buddha Republic, a swank new Charlottenburg restaurant with a somewhat misleading name – Europeans don’t usually identify “Buddha” with Indian restaurants, even though Siddhartha did in fact achieve enlightenment in India – and a Persian owner (but Herr Armand Rez actually grew up in Bangalore), might well serve the city’s first good Indian food. It specialises in real tandoori: meat, seafood and veg on a skewer cooked in a proper ceramic tandoor oven – and you can tell the difference.
We ordered a plate of sautéed shrimps (€5.90) with some fresh coriander naan (€2.70) for a starter. The shrimps – larger and fresher than most you’ll find in Berlin and prepared with garlic, chili and coriander – were just delicious. The naan, baked in the traditional tandoor oven, was addictive. Tastebuds teased, we didn’t have to wait long for a princely mixed tandoori plate for two.
Comprising chicken and lamb tikka, fish and shrimp, it was brought to our table still sizzling hot on giant skewers (tandoori prices range from €13.90 for the chicken to €16.90 for the scampi). Not only was the tandoori marinade perfectly seasoned (don’t hesitate to order it ‘hot’ for a more authentic experience), but the meat (Buddha Republic also serves tandoori panir for vegetarians) was grilled to perfection: the high temperature of the tandoor oven allows for brisk cooking, leaving the meat moist inside. In particular, the lamb (which we ordered medium rare) – was uniquely tender and juicy. Skewered with some courgettes, and accompanied by a small well-dressed salad and a side of spicy tandoori sauce, it was a real feast… and a unique experience for Berlin.
We couldn’t leave without tasting their gulab jamun – a popular Indian dessert of deep-fried milk-dough balls bathed in rose water and cardamom syrup – with a wicked cup of chai and a vegan (milk-free!) cardamom tea: the perfect sweet end-note to a thoroughly gratifying dining experience.