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Last night, I met Food & Wine’s super-plugged-in Berlin-based correspondent Gisela Williams for dinner at Weinschenke Weinstein in Berlin. Gisela, among others, had told me that this rustic-looking wine bar in the trendy Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood was a must-try. The smallish, super-casual room, low-lit and lined with shelves of empty wine bottles, was a bit of a local secret. Gisela thought it would be a good first introduction to traditional German food. It also turned out to be my first lesson in why Berlin is such a cool food city: It is unbelievably affordable!
In addition to an intriguing wine-bar menu, with dishes like goulash made from necks of organic Mangalitza pigs with Bohemian dumplings, there were two seasonal tasting menus. Gisela and I opted for a fourth option: the “Less Is More” tasting menu, an eight-course feast of market specials that included marinated lamb on a bed of fennel couscous and fried vendaceon (a small white fish) over potato and mustard-gherkin salad, all for just 38 euros per person. Most wine by the glass on the stellar, Germany-focused list was around 5 to 7 euros. Weinstein, I learned, operates on the Chez Panisse philosophy of highlighting excellent local produce in straightforward, delicious (and super-traditional) preparations.
By the time course number four—an incredible roasted fish called Zander (kind of like perch or pike) that was caught by fisherman Wilhelm Gehrt in the pristine waters of Lake Zechlin in Brandenberg—was served, we were joined by Telse Bus, the creative director of an innovative catering company/art group known as the Foodists. Telse was there to fill us in on her latest food/art project, a collaboration with Mario Grünfelder, the star mixologist at Berlin’s coolest bar, Tausend. The idea was to open a secret restaurant behind the bar at Tausend that will serve modern riffs on traditional German food (“Cool German food,” according to Telse) in an interactive, thought-provoking, artistic manner. She wouldn’t spill more details except to say that it opens next Wednesday. I’m heading to Bar Tausend tomorrow night, so I’ll have to see if I can get Mario to illuminate me more on the new project.