Udi Cohen, the hyper-gregarious Israeli mastermind behind Luigi Zuckermann deli on Rosenthaler Straße, teamed up with his Italian friend Sebastiano Caraccia to open Ruben Carla – a restaurant almost entirely dedicated to beef in various incarnations: burgers, steaks and above all: pastrami – the famous beef cured in brine, coated in spices, then smoked and steamed to perfection.
In the daytime, they sell an awesome pastrami sandwich on toasted rye bread (€6.50), which you can take away or munch at the mini bar with an immediate view over the tiny, smoky kitchen.
When we visited at night, the restaurant, darkened and candlelit, was packed with Mitte web-business yuppies and (childless) German families. Édith Piaf songs and other random retro hits hardly covered the noisy ambient chatter. For some inexplicable reason, it felt very New York. The frantic, friendly waitstaff – the tireless Cohen and a friendly Italian girl – spoke mostly English, but that seemed to bother no one.
The food took its time, but at least the staff made an effort to calm our stomach nerves by bringing some raw vegetable sticks and vinaigrette for dipping, and when we asked for it, deliciously hot, slightly toasted bread.
We got an okay glass of pinot grigio (€4) and a bottle of Italian Peroni (€3) – it’s that or Pilsner Urquell, disappointing (if somehow very New York) house beer choices.
Finally, the meat arrives: the Classic Burger (€11) – actually two separate mini 100g cheese burgerettes between Lilliputian buns, held together by toothpicks and served with various sauces. Although suspiciously doll-sized, the dish manages to please, largely due to the quality of the beef (more bistec than burger) and the ample heap of excellent thin ‘n’ crispy fries.
For some reason, Ruben Carla doesn’t do sandwiches at night, so we settled for a Pastrami Plate (€11), featuring the deconstructed ingredients of the famous Jewish deli evergreen: pickle, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing, with a garnish of lettuce and tomato.
You might at first want to deplore the absence of rye bread (and some naggers – of melted cheese), but just a whiff of the freshly sliced, steaming-hot peppered beef will placate the worst grudger. A bite later and you won’t be able to contain a full-mouthed shriek: “This is absolutely delicious!” Ruben Carla sources its pastrami from Australia (the process originates from Romania and was exported around the world by Romanian Jews) and offer mammal-phobic carnivores a turkey version (inferior to the beef, be warned!).
The other main attraction here is an Italian tagliata-style sirloin steak grilled and thinly sliced – choose either Argentinean (€19/200g) or else the slightly pricier German organic roast beef (€23/200g). Ask for a side of grilled cocktail tomatoes – they’re delicious!
Unsurprisingly the crowd was overwhelmingly male with the exception of a few red-blooded women with matching appetites and city girls on leaf diets (green salad and herbal tea) – again, really NYC. Even vegetarians will find sustenance here – there’s always a daily special like quiche – though, faced with the beefy delights on offer, it’s hard to imagine how anyone would stick to bloodless morality. Ahhh, the incomparable carnal pleasures of good pastrami!