Dear Berlin Food Friends,
Welcome to the very last Berlin Food Digest of 2016! As usual I would like to use these last few days of the year for a bit of reflective thinking on the food highlights of the past year.
The year 2016 was pivotal for a lot of Berlin food projects, not necessarily a year of the groundbreaking restaurant openings but more so a year of established restaurant proprietors taking the step towards becoming proper restaurant groups by opening new projects. Several groups that founded their success in the Eastern districts took the step towards developing new projects in West Berlin, like the Kuchi group with Madame Ngo and 893 Ryotei, the Grill Royal group with Le Petit Royal and the Contemporary Food Lab with Panama
“Several groups that founded their success in the Eastern districts took the step towards developing new projects in West Berlin”
If I had to name one restaurant opening that truly stood out though I would definitely go with Lode & Stijn, the exceptional eatery by the two loveliest Dutch chefs in Berlin and the restaurant opening that in terms of food, wine and overall experience, convinced me the most in 2016 and just keeps getting better.
Two other, very significant openings and places that we will hear a lot more of, were CODA, the super slick dessert cocktail bar that established a new restaurant segment in Berlin, and Mrs. Robinson’s, the Asian fusion eatery that just opened and has an abundance of potential.
“..the restaurant opening that in terms of food, wine and overall experience convinced me the most in 2016.”
As much as we saw an onslaught of new restaurants we also experienced a lot of closings in a gastronomic reality that’s becoming increasingly competitive and professional. Not forgotten are projects that closed their doors for food this year, like the stylish Kreuzberg pastrami refuge Louis Pretty or the hot dog parlour Bourbon Dogs. Jo Lee, Ross and Bijou were three other, very ambitious projects that had to close facing a rapidly growing upscale offering. Then we have my favourite neighbourhood café Antipodes where owner Jane will never again put smiles on people’s faces with her sensational flat whites. And last, but not least, the very sad closing of Maxim, the German pioneer within natural wine and just a terrific wine bar. Now their service has ended. May they rest in peace.
On a different note, a personal highlight of early 2016 was having the BBC and Rick Stein visit me and I’m very happy about the fabulous Berlin episode of the show ‘Rick Stein’s Long Weekends’ that came out of it. If you get a hold of it, I would strongly recommend you watching it.
“As much as we saw an onslaught of new restaurants we also experienced a lot of closings in a gastronomic reality that’s becoming increasingly competitive and professional.”
The outdoor street food season was the busiest one we’ve seen so far and all the markets, including Bite Club and Street Food Thursday, were back and bigger and better than ever before. The very culmination was the epic Kebabistan, a sensationally exciting street food event I co-organized to celebrate kebab culture and the importance of the dish to Berlin food scene. Stay tuned for the next edition in 2017! And if you missed it, check out the epic movie clips we recorded in the week before, especially the kebab wine pairing with Billy Wagner at 3 o’clock in the morning at Kotti.
The year of 2016 was also the year of not one but TWO massive food festivals with Stadt Land Food and the Berlin Food Week and the fact that they happened on the very same weekend in October was, although unfortunate, not a massive problem for anyone. For the future I’d hope that these two events can happen every year on separate weekends.
“Check out the kebab wine pairing with Billy Wagner at 3 o’clock in the morning at Kotti.”
Another massive trend in 2016 was the boom within craft beer and natural wine and where we already saw a lot of brewing going on last year, 2016 sparked a literal craft beer boom across the city with every second joint putting craft beer on their menu and we saw the opening of massive craft beer and food projects like Stone Brewing and BRLO Brewhouse. And for natural wine, this year truly marked a pivotal point, what very recently was only a crazy niche product popped up all around the city’s wine lists and with Wild Things and JaJa we suddenly have two lovely and very casual natural wine bars that attract wine makers and chefs from all across the world.
When it comes to articles I wrote quite a few memorable pieces, highlights included the Eater.com Heatmap and the 38 most essential restaurants in Berlin, the story of my culinary escapades on VICE Munchies and my declaration of love to the Döner Kebab in the Welt am Sonntag. The latest list I composed was the 12forward list by White Guide where I highlighted twelve groundbreaking trailblazers in Berlin gastronomy. Another project that I was very stoked to realize this year was my very own Berlin’s Top 50 Eateries award, an eating bucket list for Berliners (not tourists) and a project I will update on a yearly basis.
But as much as the year of 2016 was a truly tasty one, we have a sensational year of food to look forward to in 2017. There are several, extremely promising restaurant openings on the radar, like the minimalistic terroir-focused restaurant Ernst around Canadian chef prodigy Dylan Watson or the modern Thai eatery by Dalad that popped up at Dóttir in 2016 and that will open with the Grill Royal crew in 2017. These are just a few though and we can be sure that next year will fulfil more and more of our wet food dreams.
I can’t wait to eat it all.
Wishing you and your families a very happy new year.