Open-fire cooking definitely seems to be having a moment in Berlin. Is it a trend? Not exactly: the number of establishments serving dishes cooked over an open flame is still limited, but so far, they’re all knocking the ball out of the park when it comes to quality dining.
One such place is Neukölln newcomer Kramer, which opened in Reuterkiez over the winter. For chef and owner Fabian Beck, fire cooking forges a connection of sorts to nature.
It’s kind of a primordial cooking style
“If you’re a chef in a high end kitchen, it’s still just electricity: you bake in a stainless steel box that you can turn to a precise temperature, or you cook on an induction stove and you never see any fire. If you want to connect to a product and the nature and where it comes from, then fire is the obvious gateway.”
There are challenges, of course: Beck points out that chefs can’t exercise absolute control over fire.
“When chefs come here, they come from high end cooking. They have to get used to not being able to work so precisely. But you also don’t really need all of this precision and perfect colour and perfect consistency, because it’s kind of a primordial cooking style.”
Fuelled by a mix of beech, birch and ash wood from Brandenburg, the menu rotates frequently
A couple of open-fire dining destinations have surfaced in Berlin in the last couple of years (and fire-focused Stoke set to open in Kreuzberg fairly soon) but it’s unlikely you’ll see them cropping up everywhere. It’s logistically tricky: in the case of Kramer, Beck had to fit the restaurant’s space out with a special ventilation system to handle the heat and smoke – and (in an environmentally friendly twist) the restaurant now helps to supply the whole building above it with heat and hot water.
But those extra expenses are worth it for some fine, charred-yet-juicy plates. So which spots are already setting Berlin alight?
Fire is at the literal center of Kramer: the restaurant is in a rough U-shape so that pretty much every seat in the room can witness the char-grilling first hand.
Beck has experience at an open-fire beach restaurant in the Philippines
Fuelled by a mix of beech, birch and ash wood from Brandenburg, the menu rotates frequently, but fish and seafood such as grilled octopus figure prominently (Beck has experience at an open-fire beach restaurant in the Philippines). There’s also ample vegan options: the fire adds so much flavour that animal products like butter just aren’t so necessary for cooking, says Beck. Fittingly, mezcal (and cocktails made with it) are a key part of the drinks menu, offering a smoky compliment to the food.
Enjoy the restaurant’s greenery, too: the heat from the fire and two metre oven helps Beck keep a veritable greenhouse of lush plants alive through winter.
- Kramer, Pannierstr. 41, Neukölln, Wed-Sat 18-23 online
This pop-up settles into some fascinating locations for a few months at a time: last year, it occupied an old factory in Marzahn, and right now, you’ll find them once a week in a retro electrical substation in Prenzlauer Berg.
Ember’s menus look to an array of cuisines (naturally, all featuring fire-based cooking) from Argentina to Japan, typically with a seasonal bent. Dinners tend to be once a week with advance booking required: dinners at the current Prenzlauer Berg location will end on 29 April.
- Ember, Sonnenburger Str. 73, Prenzlauer Berg (until 29 April), Friday only, online
While not strictly an open-fire restaurant, this cooking style (done with a Konro-style grill) typically figures into Ernst’s exquisite tasting menu, which mixes Japanese techniques and influences with regional produce.
Chef-owner Dylan Watson-Brawn has also put his affinity for flames to work with yakitori pop-ups he’s hosted in conjunction with soon-to-open Kreuzberg restaurant Stoke. With just eight seats, bookings are absolutely necessary (and typically need to be made well in advance).
- Ernst, Gerichtstr. 54, Wedding, Tue-Sat 18-23:30 online
Flame cooking isn’t the sole raison d’être at this ever-hot Schillerkiez small plates destination, and it may be an exaggeration to call Barra an “open fire” restaurant. But in any case, chef Daniel Remers uses the maillard reaction-inducing power of flame judiciously for charring and searing all manner of fine meats and fresh vegetables.
- Barra, Okerstr. 2, Neukölln, Mon-Fri 18:30-22:30 online
This article originally gave the name ‘Fabian Beck’ as the owner of Kramer, the correct name of the restaurant’s owner is Fabian Kramer. The owner of the restaurant Ember has also been corrected to Tobias Beck.