NaNum feels like an art installation where the atmosphere, along with everything else, is crafted by Jinok Kim. Like a surprising number of Korean restaurateurs in Berlin, Jinok is a former classical singer; she moved here on a DAAD scholarship in 1978 and spent three decades performing and teaching before abruptly deciding to teach herself pottery via trial-and-error. When, last year, she and her husband (a fellow artist) landed a four-floor space in the former flower market across from the Jewish Museum, she didn’t turn it into a restaurant out of any love for cooking, but because she wanted to be “among people” after years onstage or sequestered in the studio. She calls NaNum a “meeting point for artists”, though her main clientele remains white-collar workers from nearby Friedrichstraße.
Even within the confines of the €10 business lunch, Jinok approaches food, and fermentation in particular, with the same sense of experimentation as ceramics. NaNum’s secret weapons are the kombucha-like juices and vinegars she makes out of fruit from her Brandenburg Kleingarten. An apple version goes into the cabbage kimchi, which could well be Berlin’s best: fresh and effervescent, tasting of pure life.
Others are used to flavour the vegetables in the bibimbap, which arrives in a covet-worthy wide bowl that, like all of NaNum’s tableware, was made by Jinok herself. Despite being churned out assembly-line-style to feed hungry cubicle dwellers, it’s a masterclass in composition where almost every ingredient meets its best possible destiny. The cucumber is tart and snappy, the aubergine velvety, the bulgogi given a happy childhood in Bergsdorf, the egg… sadly scrambled, but we’ll allow it.
To really experience Jinok’s artistry, you’d have to try dinner, which changes every week but might include Korean classics like seafood stew, marinated tofu, or NaNum’s own version of galbi jim with ginger and pear juice – paired with a selection of mostly-German wines. There’s also a monthly seven-course “culinary evening” where just about anything goes and a reservations-only night devoted exclusively to dumplings.
NANUM | Lindenstr. 90, Kreuzberg, Tue-Fri 12-14:30 (lunch), Wed-Sat 18-22:30 (dinner), mains €15-20, lunch €8.50-11.50.