Say goodbye to canned corn and cream-drenched curries. In the past few years, a host of new restaurants have begun offering regional Indian dishes geared towards Berlin’s growing South Asian population (and Europeans who don’t fear the chili), joining the brave few that have been doing so this whole time. From Mumbai to Kerala, Amritsar to Hyderabad, here are our 10 favourites.
Tandoori temptations: Bahadur
A significant part of chef Bahadur’s menu overlaps with that of your average Berlin Indian restaurant, but here’s the thing: it’s better. Way better. Here, a ubiquitous dish like tandoori chicken becomes a revelation, tender and smoke-kissed from the hot clay oven. Similarly, the creamy lentil stew dal makhani transforms from a forgettable side dish to a star in its own right, thanks to a 12-hour cooking time that lends it a depth of flavour you won’t find elsewhere.
- Bahadur, Sigmaringer Str. 36, Wilmersdorf, details.
Punjabi pleasures: Agni
When in Moabit, make your way to this pint-sized spot for suitably spicy and very satisfying Punjabi-style vegan and vegetarian dishes. You could get full just off the selection of flatbreads, from the expected naan to potato parathas to the harder-to-find kulcha, puffy white bread stuffed with cauliflower, mixed vegetables or cheese. Anything from the tandoori oven, from paneer to a soymeat version of chicken tikka, is a must. If you simply can’t live without meat, Agni has a second, non-vegetarian location in Prenzlauer Berg.
- Agni, (Moabit) Kaiserin-Augusta-Allee 1, Moabit; (Prenzlauer Berg), Prenzlauer Allee 154, Prenzlauer Berg, details.
Dosa pioneer: Chutnify
Groundbreaking when it opened in Prenzlauer Berg in 2014, Aparna Aurora’s South Indian-inflected restaurant now boasts a sister location in Neukölln as well as three branches in Portugal. It remains one of the best places in town to get a dosa – thin and crispy, tangy from three days of fermentation and filled with spiced potatoes, tandoori chicken or a chili-cheese mix. Don’t sleep on the curries, which you can sample a la carte or as part of a generous vegan, vegetarian, chicken, lamb or fish-centered thali plate. Wash it down with the all-time classic Nimboo Pani, a surprisingly refreshing lemonade punched up with Indian black salt.
- Chutnify, (Prenzlauer Berg) Sredzkistr. 43, Prenzlauer Berg; (Neukölln) Pflügerstr. 25, Neukölln, details.
Gunpowder for gourmets: India Club
If the location in the five-star Adlon Hotel didn’t clue you in, this is the fanciest Indian food you can get in Berlin, elegantly presented on custom china in an immaculately designed dining room. It’s also some of the best. Chef Manish Bahukhandi makes no compromises in translating the food of Northern India to a European fine dining setting, using premium spices and organic meat in exemplary versions of butter chicken and mutton seekh kebab –plus tandoori broccoli and potato gunpowder salad for vegetarians.
- India Club, Behrenstr. 72, Mitte, details.
Killer dosas: Saravanaa Bhavan
No Indian list would be complete without this Potsdamer Platz behemoth, a branch of the beloved vegetarian chain that’s hugely popular among South Asians living abroad. What’s all the fuss about? In a word, dosas. There are literally dozens of varieties of the crepe-like South Indian dish on offer here, each as crisp and perfectly engineered as a box of McDonald’s fries. Our favourite: the Ghee Roast Masala, so huge it’s impossible to photograph without standing on a chair. The idli, uttapam and vada – all made from various formulations of rice and lentils and served, like the dosas, with sambar and chutneys – are stellar as well.
- Saravanaa Bhavan, Potsdamer Platz 5, Tiergarten, details.
Street food for the party crowd: Singh
“Indian street food” is what this Kreuzberg restaurant promises, and Indian street food is what you get – an entire special menu is dedicated to snacks like North Indian pani puri and South Indian dosas. Those with larger appetites can get one of the daily curry specials, served as a combo with rice, salad, poppadoms and fresh-baked naan. We prefer to stick to sandwich-like specialties like Punjabi puri chole and stuffed kulcha bread, either a tasty alternative to the döners, burgers and pizza normally found around these parts.
- Singh, Oppelner Str. 45, Kreuzberg, details.
Elusive but tasty: Swadesh
Opened mid-pandemic, Swadesh quickly became popular for its selection of South Indian street food classics (there’s a North Indian menu too, but it’s less reliable). The dosas are crisp and airy, nearly the size of your head and filled with creamy potatoes or paneer cheese. There’s also a particularly good version of sambar vada, donut-like lentil fritters served in a mildly spicy vegetable soup. Swadesh has two locations – one on Mercedes-Platz and a cosier, less tourist-packed restaurant in Schöneberg.
- Swadesh (Mercedes-Platz), Mercedes Platz 4, Friedrichshain, details; (Schöneberg) Maaßenstr. 5, Schöneberg.
Hyderabad in Halensee: Tandoori Nächte
Think you know what to expect at a Berlin Indian restaurant that advertises itself as a “Cocktail Bar” first and an “Indisches Grillrestaurant” second? Think again. The marquee dish at this Halensee hidden gem is the Hyderabadi biryani, a knockout mix of chicken or lamb, rice, saffron and spices slow-cooked in a sealed pot and served, along with raita and the nutty gravy mirchi ka salan, to nearly every guest. But the standard curries, made with dried chillis and whole spices instead of powders, deserve your attention too (you’ll have to convince your server you can handle a bit of heat, though).
- Tandoori Nächte, Bornimer Str. 4, Charlottenburg, details.
Shopping and samosas: Zora Supermarkt
You come to this South Asian supermarket for Indian goodies like spice mixes, frozen parathas and Alphonso mangoes. You stay for the crispy-on-the-outside, creamy-on-the-inside potato samosas, fried in huge batches. You can even make a meal out of them if you order them as a chaat, i.e. coated in chutney, chickpeas and chopped onions, tomatoes and coriander. Add in a cup of fresh sugarcane juice and you’ll feel transported to Mumbai right there on Kottbusser Damm, or from their second location on Boxhagener Straße.
- Zora Supermarket, (Kreuzberg) Kottbusser Damm 93, details; (Friedrichshain) Boxhagener Str. 80.