After you’ve sampled all the warehouse parties and love parades and art collectives that make the Last Great Bohemian city in Europe, it’s time for dinner.
I’m not going to wax lyrical about fried chicken and beer in Berlin. Henne is a century-old, world-renowned restaurant in Kreuzberg that serves a sublime brine and milk-soaked half bird and nothing much else, except kraut salad, potato salad and some bread. All for €7. The place is bedecked in tartan and cuckoo clocks. The steins are frothing. Kennedy wet his lips there just before his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech. Like most things in this city, value for money and good times are freely available.
However, after all the beer and currywursts and that “luxury” insult to anyone outside Bavaria, leberkäse (we who wonder why Spam just shot up to €9 a bloody portion), one’s palate begins to crave less broad pleasures. There becomes a need for a touch of refinement among the rampant creativity and earthy craziness that Berlin still affords. While it will be remembered, ironically, as the Western Empire’s last flourish of bohemian vivacity, a reassuringly expensive slice of global capital elite fayre is most welcome.
Reinstoff sits in an old AEG lightbulb factory, located in Berlin’s Mitte district. You wonder how many AEG factories there were in Berlin originally. Then you dwell on the history. Then, as you are obliged to do, you stop and peruse the menu and the room. Elegant, industrial with a light array of metallic spheres that insinuate the building’s original function and, perhaps, the embodiment of harmony. The music of the spheres on your tongue…?
The Edison Höfe complex is in counterpoint to the “other” Berlin. Lofts and galleries and offices, all ordered and redeveloped and high end. In 2009, Reinstoff was opened by chef Daniel Achilles, his restaurant manager/significant other, Sabine Demel, and sommelier Ivo Ebert. Achilles had been at Christian Bau’s three-star Schloss Berg and with Juan Amador at three-star Amador. Achilles has no heel when it comes to high-end cooking. He now has two stars of his very own. My guest and I are faced with a very tough choice: we can degust two ways. The “Ganz Nah” (nearby) is a menu of dishes made with local/regional ingredients or we could plump for “Weiter draussen” (further away) where local, regional and global ingredients all dance together. We go far, far away. Under the interior’s simulated twilight (none of the old bulb stock is available, apparently) we just about make out the menu, but ultimately leave it to Daniel and his excellent front-of-house team to take us on that outbound journey. We strap in for nine courses with seven wine pairings of such precision and simplicity and cleanliness that I think it only appropriate to list them here and then you, dear reader can salivate at leisure. Take my word, all of them are exemplars of the very top end and we both revel in the delicious ride. Special mention goes to the artisan bread served in a bowl that my guest, a local, noted as a new grocery must.
First, razor clams and cockles, fresh as daisies, with gooseberries and mini-purslane is paired with a Weedenborn sauvignon blanc that erases any bad memory of acidic New World versions. The gooseberries are all on the plate.
Pigeon breast with “Amish Deer Tongue” lettuce nestled on a creamy celery puree, served with a small bocadillo baguette filled with smoked haunch. Meaty and pleasing and refined all in one and washed down with a rosé from Baden.
Grilled haddock, Kujyo vinaigrette and spring onion is zing and freshness, salty soy and umami smiles. Crisp skin and sweet leeks. A rain on stones Grenache Gris by Leicestershire girl in Languedoc, Katie Jones, carries it to another level.
Root plant curry, baby carrots, parsnips and young coconut and a suckling goat shoulder with salami, artichokes, poppy flower and broccoli sprout are both lessons in letting the produce do the talking. By which point, my talking is slurred thanks to a muscadet from Pfalz in western Germany. A sweet and spiced beauty whose perfume never wears out the palate.
The star attraction is served over two stages – a classic Bavarian ox muzzle salad served with proscuitto-like dried entrecote flakes and then perfect squares of roasted hanger steak, grilled tomatoes, Provencal herbs and lavender, all embraced with a unique thing. A great German red – a lemberger that insinuates the best gamay or malbec, all silky then peppery, juniper, dark berry with a long, long finish.
There’s another few courses of cheese and two light-but-not puddings and some mouth-twatting petit fours, including a lollipop of white chocolate with celery, filled with Granny Smith sorbet. Yes, *that* good. More wines are involved, including an ice-cold marsecco, a Venetian desert red cultivated by a relative of and named after Count Dracula. Let us just pull over and say, for all its refinement and grace, Reinstoff is like Berlin itself. Great value, full of creativity and maybe just a tad too dark for its own good.
Reinstoff GmbH, Schlegelstraße 26c, 10115 Berlin. Five courses €100, six courses €120, eight courses €160. www.reinstoff.eu.