Sauerkraut brings us back to Berlin’s heritage but remains fusion with a twist: namely sauerkraut, Wurst, burgers Russian-style and more.
With the never-ending proliferation of Pan-Asian fusion attempting to survive and thrive in the insanely contested Berlin restaurant market, sometimes it’s nice to get something that’s a bit, how should we say this without sounding like a Spießer... German.
But just like most Germans in Berlin these days, Sauerkraut on Weinbergsweg in Mitte has a “migration background”: specifically, German-meets-American cooking, conceived by a Russian, the owner of Gorki Park next door.
For a new restaurant, Sauerkraut is pretty damn gemütlich in a modern way, with kitschy references to German hunting lodge culture – antlers, deer statuettes, wood panelling. One curious painting shows a Donald Duck in a brutal fight with Hansel and Gretel.
This German-American Kulturkampf is only fully apparent once you dive into the meaty menu. The clash of cultures (which really aren’t that different, truth be told) is embodied by the juxtaposition of a list of sausages and a list of burgers. The Wurst (€7-8, all homemade) range from currywurst to lamb and fennel, veal with truffles to pork with apple and coriander. The burgers (€10) are also quite creative, with everything from conventional beef to lamb and eggplant and a fish-burger served with (Russian) salmon eggs.
We began, however, with some “tapas”, a very good deal at €3 for rather generous portions – and a nice way to stave off hunger while downing a beer. We had the Tafelspitz (boiled beef) strips in horseradish mayo, some delicious trout mousse served with homemade rye bread and salmon eggs, and the lamb sausage with a dab of potato salad. The latter – coarse-ground meat with a tinge of cumin, spiced up with red pepper – was the best draw, and reminded us of the best gastropub sausage from the UK.
For our main course, we thought we were playing it familiar with a beef burger but ended up with something a little more risque – a “unique Russian recipe” more Boulette than burger, denser than the American version and, again, interestingly tinged with cumin – probably from the homemade mayo on the bun. It is served with credible coleslaw, nice potato wedges and two versions of their excellent signature ‘kraut: plain and beautifully spiced, and with bacon.
We also opted for a good old Schlachtplatte (€13): Kassler, well-done blood sausage and a pretty nice pork and apple sausage piled on a hot plate over mash and sauerkraut, naturally. Sadly, Spätzle – served with baby spinach and salmon – isn’t their strong point; it was way too greasy.
For dessert, the Kaiserschmarrn was a little disappointing (fried-buttery taste and a stingy portion) while the almost dough-less Apfelstrudel – layers of apples, cream and puff pastry with a blackcurrant sauce, served in a glass – was as remotely related to the Austrian dessert as it was unexpectedly tasty.
Sauerkraut’s strengths are really burgers (good) and Wurst (great); it looks like the Germans are winning this Kulturkampf. We’ll return for a rematch: the €7.50 daily lunch special.
Sauerkraut, Weinbergsweg 25, Mitte, U-Bhf Rosenthaler Platz, Tel 030 6640 8355, Mo-Fr 8-1, Sat-Sun 9-1
Originally published in issue #123, January 2014.