Pop quiz: You’ve got some fancy friends visiting and they want to eat “real Berlin food”. After the obligatory stops for döner and currywurst, and leaving aside tourist traps like Zur letzten Instanz, where do you take them?
Tisk, a “Berliner Speisekneipe”, seems to be the perfect answer. A sous-chef from Tim Raue’s La Soupe Populaire teams up with a dilettantish ex-Allianz agent turned TV cooking competition winner to serve twists on the foods they ate growing up in East and West Berlin respectively? The German press couldn’t contain itself. On our visit, Kristof Mulack (from TV) and Martin Müller (ex-Raue) were celebrating their Berliner Meisterköche nomination for “Best Scene Restaurant”. Which scene? We couldn’t exactly see clubbers from nearby Schwuz or Loophole sidling up to Tisk’s undulating bar and dropping €50-plus on dinner and drinks, let alone the Turkish or Bulgarian Roma residents of surrounding Rollbergkiez. German foodies and in-the-know visitors seemed more like it. We heard our American table-neighbours marvelling at the mayo on their fries.
Those Pommes came with Tisk’s signature “broiler”, a whole roast chicken for two. Over the restaurant’s short existence, the price of the dish has gone from €18.50 to €24 to a rather untenable €35, which might still be worth it if you’re sick of the flabby-skinned factory-farmed specimens at most of this city’s Hühnerhäuser. Tisk’s bio-birds lived decadently in France before being shipped over, sous-vided and crisped up in the oven – to either moist perfection or unpalatable dryness, depending on the night and whom you ask.
If you’re not a chicken fan, you’ll end up with an equally hit-and-miss selection of small plates. As at Soupe Populaire, there’s a take on Senfeier (€11); here, the mustard-coated egg was overcooked and could’ve used more acidity to counter the potato mash and caramelised cauliflower that came with it. Deep-fried sausage aka Jägerschnitzel (€6) failed to transcend its East German kiddie-food roots, while the “Jurkensalat” (yes, the menu’s in Berlinerisch; €6) went the fussy route, topping the cucumbers with a yoghurt-roe-jalapeño combination that didn’t gel. On the other hand, the asparagus “salad” (€9, really just four short white stalks with tarragon sauce and wild herbs) was some of the best-cooked Spargel we’ve had in this city and tasted of pure spring, and the rich decadence of the Blutwurst croquettes made it easy to forget their €2/mouthful price tag.
Müller and Mulack have put their heart into this place, and deserve credit for attempting to sex up some of Europe’s unsexiest cuisine (as well as for the cocktails, which use local spirits like Mampe to creative effect). But ultimately, with the memory of Soupe Populaire’s playful dishes and unparalleled industrial setting relatively fresh, it’s hard to say Tisk stacks up. Bring the out-of-towners here if they insist – or steer them to nearby TwinPigs, a Chileanand Swedish-owned gastropub famous for its pulled-pork sandwiches that just debuted a new “Polish-Peruvian” menu. You know, real Berlin food.