Vladimir Kosic is the man who’s brought fresh seafood to Berlin plates with traditional recipes from his Montenegro home prepared from unfrozen, mostly Baltic and Mediterranean species: fish with no fuss but plenty of flavour. On any given day, you’ll find this top chef cooking at one of his two restaurants: Lesendro East on Kollwitzplatz, or Lesendro West near Bundesplatz. The new Wilmersdorf location is a little off the beaten path, but deserves a visit for its unique vintage flair – cosy wood-panelled interior, gorgeous upholstered benches and original lamps and furniture all taken over from legendary gastropub Zwiwwel and religiously brought back to mint condition by Kosic, who’s planning to resuscitate Weimar evenings in his new food temple.
What type of food do you cook?
Fish! I cook in a traditional style from the Balkan part of the Adriatic Sea where I am from in Montenegro. We use a lot of garlic, lemon, olive oil and rosemary. Most importantly, we always have fresh seafood. We go to the market every day and get fresh fish for our restaurants. I prefer the wild-caught fish in terms of quality and flavour. We always have a catch of the day that our guests can see on display. I am from the sea, but I didn’t go to school to be a professional chef – I was a fisherman who loved creating recipes and sharing them with my family and friends. So all of this kind of comes from my hobby.
What’s your best-selling item?
Octopus is very popular at my restaurant. We have three different types of octopus: octopus carpaccio, octopus salad, and grilled octopus. And people seem to like them all!
Which food trend do you hate the most?
I’m not so much a fan of trendy restaurants. I like traditional family-style restaurants. With trendy, gourmet, fusion-everything cuisines it’s more important how the food looks than how it tastes. The portions are usually too small, so you go home hungry! I guess that’s what some people like, though. For me, I prefer the traditional family style, I can’t say it means that I am right, but that’s what I like.
A cooking tip?
You must love what you cook. I am proud of the food I serve and I am always excited to prepare it for our guests. Food should be something personal. I’m from the sea, so I feel connected with the dishes I make. So my advice is to cook with passion and love.
A dining tip, other than your own restaurant?
I am extremely busy so I rarely eat at home. It’s cool because I’m always eating out and trying new things. I’ll try anything that looks interesting. French, Asian, German. Chez Michel in Kreuzberg is delicious, I really enjoy their quiche. One of my favourites for breakfast is a Russian restaurant called Pasternak in Prenzlauer Berg. I could go on and on, there are tons of them!
The best thing about owning a restaurant here in Berlin?
I am really proud of my restaurant because nobody thought a fish restaurant would be so successful. Just the fact that I am in one of the most interesting cities in world and my restaurant has made a name for itself here makes me happy.
And the worst…?
One of the hard things about having a restaurant here is that people have a lot of choices, so you have to work to stay relevant. The competition is steep, so you really have to have a great staff who understands your mission.