An ambitious experiment in Asian restauranteering, Hashi Kitchen is set to thrive in Berlin – assuming patrons aren’t overwhelmed by the “War and Peace” length menu.
Threading 15,000 chopsticks together with fishing line sounds like a Mr. Miyagi training session out of The Karate Kid. But 14 artists spent three weeks doing just that – and then hung them from the ceiling of Hashi (“chop-stick”) Kitchen, a new Japanese restaurant on Rosenthaler Straße in Mitte, to create an elegant space-distorting installation resembling a fluid three-dimensional wave.
Add to that ceiling-to-floor windows, wing-shaped interlocking tables and a long bar delineating the open kitchen where a team of Japanese chefs chop and fry away frenetically as trendy electro and house beats fill the expansive modern space, and you have the makings of a very metropolitan restaurant.
Owner Ethan Xu is a young Berliner who, after studying business in Canada, switched culinary allegiance from the Chinese cooking of his parents (they have a restaurant in Tempelhof) to Japanese cuisine, or rather the innovative take on it he encountered in North America.
The result is a vast menu with more than 200 items – perhaps a bit overwhelming for the first-timer paralysed upon choosing between an appetizer, a tapa or a salad. Add to that Maki, Uramaki, Nigiri sushi and sashimi plus long “Grill”, “Deep fried”, “Kushi” (grilled skewers), “Donburi” and “Rice & Noodles” sections… one could return 20 times and never eat the same dish.
Going on tips from the friendly, polyglot waitstaff, we kicked off with a seaweed, cucumber and shrimp salad dressed in a great amasu vinaigrette, the perfect and refreshing balance of sweet, salty and sour which we warmly recommend (Shrimps Sunomono, €3.20).
Our orders arriving in random, non-linear fashion, Beef Tataki Carpaccio (€7.90) came next – seared slices of Argentinian beef with garlic and red onions, dappled with ponzu dressing and mustard mayo. The huge Daikon Wakame salad – white radish, seaweed and nothing else but wasabi dressing – came as a nice neutral counterpoint to this meaty flavour bombshell.
As the kids chewed away on some tender teriyaki chicken (€6.90) and skewered chicken yakitori (€3.20), we sampled the Deep Fried Tofu and Eggplant. We enjoyed the squishy, marshmallow-esque texture of the tofu, and happily dipped the bits in fish broth while munching on an excellent sweet potato garnish.
Another “main course” highlight was the stir-fried Mentai Kimuchi Udon (€7.90), noodles blended with spicy fish roe and kimchi for a less spectacular but thoroughly satisfying effect. On the other hand, the Rainbow Roll (€7.90) was a most artful visual spectacle, an extravagant, multi-colour, multi-fish (salmon-orange, tuna-pink, and seabream white) California-style roll – almost too beautiful to be gobbled down in a few bites.
We also tried the prized Australian Hamachi (€8.90): a rare, velvet-textured fish, served simply with a sesame dressing (that didn’t lack in texture, but a bit in flavour), or delicately arranged around subtly dressed orange segments, a special concoction Xu is proud to have scored from a Houston chef.
We didn’t resist the lure of a bowl of homemade green tea ice-cream, which proved more flavourful than the crème brulée… but there’s more to come, as Xu will soon hire a dessert chef.
Hashi seems especially popular with women – lots of great salads; playful, often whimsical sushi-inspired concoctions; and simple grill plates (the well-seasoned Teriyaki Salmon) that the ladies from the women-only gym next door must devour after exercising.
With perhaps a little more clarity on the menu and more truly vegetarian choices (and maybe spices with more bite?), Hashi should thrive as one of Berlin’s most ambitious experiments in Asian restauranteering – and we’re not just talking about the chopsticks on the ceiling.