Far from your average natural wine and small plates joint, the new venture from St. Bart alum Victor Hausladen blends the flavours of Brandenburg and Neukölln for a mindfully wild time.
Following this unexpectedly controversial piece on Café Frieda by Jane Silver, Clemens Niedenthal makes the persuasive case that this new wine bistro actually deserves the hype!
Small portions, big happiness
Wild Food. Wild Wine. Wild Times. That’s the Instagram tagline of this new restaurant, which took over the spot vacated by Neukölln’s dearly departed Café Bichou in late August. The small space has now been given an inconspicuously elegant makeover: off-white walls, unfinished wood, an open kitchen. The bar in front is given equal prominence, as if the plates and the glasses were encountering one another at eye level. The charming side effect: Ezra is a locale with lots of counter seating.
So: Wild food, wild wine, wild times. The slogan doesn’t quite do justice to the amount of great happiness in small portions (the plates are €8-12) hidden behind Ezsra’s floor-to-ceiling glass doors. After an evening on Schonstedtstraße – three of us going through the whole menu, including a double portion of the wild boar Köfte – we can confidently suggest a new catchphrase: “Mindful food, mindful wine, mindful people.” Whereby the mindfulness also gets transferred to us guests. Atmosphere, after all, is something contagious.
So how does Ezsra taste right now? Like halloumi marinated in honey and elderflower. In this case, the halloumi highway of Sonnenallee leads straight to Schöbendorf in southern Brandenburg, where Paul Thomas and Yule Seifert, aka Urstrom Käse, make a form of grillable cheese from Jersey cow milk specifically for the restaurant. It tastes like a plate full of pickled and fermented vegetables, given a clarifying sophistication by fennel pollen.
That wild boar patty, served in brioche, similarly nods to the flavours of both Brandenburg and Neukölln. But while it’s currently in vogue for fine dining spots to quote Berlin’s indigenous cuisine, from döner to “Jurkensuppe”, with ironic arrogance, host Victor Hausladen makes a plea for genuine interest. And it’s refreshing to see a purveyor of “new Berlin cuisine”, which is usually Nordic-based, engage so thoroughly with the flavours of the eastern Mediterranean (which shouldn’t be a surprise, given the presence of Turkish chef Yalin Özer behind the stove).
You might recognise Hausladen’s undogmatic thirst for discovery from St. Bart, that fryer-happy gastropub in Gräfekiez where he worked as sommelier. Now, his dedicated (and decidedly ethical) understanding of fine products reveals itself on the plate as well as in the wine glass. And if there was such a thing as an auteur restaurant, Ezsra would be it.
We each ordered our own portion of the sourdough ice cream – leftover bread from Albatross bakery toasted till almost black, combined with very rich Brandenburg cream to create something too incredibly delicious to share. To cap the night off, a glass of gentian schnapps from Schliersee, Hausladen’s other hometown.
Ezsra Schönstedtstr. 14, Neukölln, Wed-Sat 18-24, reservations recommended (website)