When a new Imbiss-style restaurant opens in Neukölln, it’s tempting to immediately assume “döner” – not so for Kala, a new fresh fish restaurant in Schillerkiez. A Turkish nickname that translates simply to “fish”, Kala is also short for the expression kala balik, meaning “lots of people”-– that’s what the owners hope to attract with their deli-style front entrance displaying fresh trout, mackerel, gilthead and seabass.
The place has the feel of a small family shop, which isn’t surprising considering owner Nuray Scheck’s fish market Arco Marino stood in the same location just two years ago. Back when she was planning a business change from market to restaurant, she probably didn’t need much convincing to bless her daughter Estelik’s relationship with cook Pascal Gallus, who was also looking for a challenge after undergoing apprenticeships at Nola’s am Weinberg and his uncle’s Jamaican restaurant. Gallus spent six months carefully sourcing ethical fish from various local markets while he and Estelik updated the large storage room to cosy dining space. Vestiges of Kala’s market past remain – if you’re on your way to a picnic at Tempelhof, you can pick up some uncooked mackerel or trout stuffed with tomatoes, onions and lemon and wrapped in tinfoil for easy grilling (€5-8).
The cuisine here isn’t region-specific, but Gallus has created some unique Jamaican-style dishes – the patties, filled with fish and veggies (€2) or just veggies (€1.50), are served with house-made remoulade and an excellent Jamaican hot sauce. For the main course, you can choose from various fish options, ranging in price from the mackerel (€7) to seabass (€14). The mackerel we had, which Gallus grilled in his diminutive galley behind the counter, was well-cooked with a pleasantly crispy exterior and stuffed with fresh onions, tomatoes and rosemary. The sides were the only disappointment: not only was our order of grilled potatoes and veggies somewhat oily (it’s one of several sides which rotate weekly; other options on our visit included chickpea salad, Turkish rice and polenta), we had to pay separately for it (€3.50/one person, €5/two). Add in a big bottle of water (€6) and even without wine, you’re looking at a cheque in the range of €20 per person. A bit steep for Neukölln, but the quality of the ingredients and level of presentation, not to mention the friendliness of the owners, certainly warrants a slightly higher price tag.
Kala | Kienitzer Str. 95, Neukölln, U-Bhf Leinenstr., Tue-Fri 15-22, Sat-Sun 16-22