And here’s to you Mrs. Robinson, the new Berlin restaurant and modern lovechild of Samina Raza and Ben Zhee who first laid eyes upon each other at Berlin’s #1 reality refuge – Berghain. It’s our luck that their romantic affairs eventually translated into the opening of a restaurant and one year later, the doors of Mrs. Robinson’s opened with Samina in charge of front of house and Ben ruling the kitchen affairs.
“It’s our luck their romantic affairs eventually transcended into the opening of a restaurant”
Against all odds, Mrs. Robinson’s is not named after the famous Simon & Garfunkel song, but after the former client of a Lifestyle Management company in London, which owner Samina used to manage: “Mrs. Robinson was the sort of person you would want to eat dinner with. Funny, clever, stylish, warm-hearted. A little bit saucy, but really infectiously in love with life.”
Today she can add a name on a glass door of a restaurant in Northern Prenzlauer Berg to that résumé. The glass door we’re talking about can be found on Pappelallee, right before it hits Stargarder, where this restaurant hovers a couple of steps above the street, and where in the open entry you’ll find a modern and sleek eating institution with white brick walls, simple wooden furniture and a semi-open kitchen.
“Mrs. Robinson was the sort of person you would want to eat dinner with”
Eating at Mrs. Robinson’s is a mix of classical and modern with plenty of Asian flavours and the necessary sophistication is derived from the solid skill set of Head Chef Ben Zhee, an Israeli with plenty of experience from high-end kitchens across the globe and who also is responsible for the curation of the menu at Yafo – one of my favourite Israeli restaurants.
The beating heart of the menu at Mrs. Robinsons’s is steamed, filled bao buns, ranging from classical, Taiwanese versions with pork belly and pickles or fried chicken with a black bean mayo or to more exotic ingredients like fried soft-shell crab. Whilst the baos themselves already belong to the best of its kind in Berlin (a city full of mediocre and doughy bao “burgers”) and the pork version takes me back to vivid memories on Taiwanese street-food markets, it should be pointed out that the baos on occasion can be slightly dry and that both the soft shell crab and fish bao don’t entirely convince when it comes to the quality of the seafood.
“The beating heart of the menu at Mrs. Robinsons’s are steamed and filled bao buns”
The rest of the menu is constructed around smaller dishes to share and there are always daily specials. This menu is where you might find fantastic creations like the crispy fried Brussel sprouts with mint, pine nuts and coriander. Or the fried silken tofu with Szechuan tosazu, crispy garlic and aromatic herbs – an excellent dish where crispy textures meet the zing of the Chinese pepper. A vivid memory from the specials menu was an insane scallop carpaccio with green apple, kaffir lime, bacon and a pork head vinaigrette.
“In fact, the deep fried bao is already a contender for a the hall of fame of the greatest Berlin dishes.”
And if you think these dishes sound great you should know that Chef Ben always saves the best for the end, his extraordinary talents as a pastry chef come alive in creations like edamame ice cream with tofu foam or deep fried baos with Valrhona chocolate ice cream and the quality and texture of his non-dairy ice creams are second to none and worth a trip alone. In fact, the deep fried bao is already a contender for a the hall of fame of the greatest Berlin dishes.
“..the Szechuan Gin Tonic with homemade tonic is sensational”
Potential has a smell to it. I can always smell it once I walk through a restaurant door and the sweet scent of looming greatness definitely came out strong that cold winter night I first walked through the doors of Mr. Robinson’s. I’m not raising this restaurant to the skies just yet, many dishes are spectacular but others still fall short. Keeping in mind the great cocktail list (the Szechuan Gin Tonic with homemade tonic is sensational) and Samina’s interesting selection of wines in addition to the lovely service, I’m not worried at all though. Mrs. Robinson’s is already one of the most exciting restaurants of 2017.