Entering 893 Ryōtei is a bit like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia. One minute you’re standing on Kantstraße outside a dodgy-looking, mirrored building covered in graffiti, the next you’re walking into a low-lit Shangri-La, adorned with marble counter tops, plush interiors and a theatrical open kitchen and bar. The ‘893’ part of this restaurant’s name is Japanese gangster slang for a losing hand in cards, and from the outside the whole place (an old Schlecker Filale) looks like the exact part of town your mother warned you never to go near.
“One minute you’re standing on Kantstraße outside a dodgy looking, mirrored building covered in graffiti”
Duc Ngo is the man behind this outlaw establishment and his culinary credentials already cast an innovative web across Berlin. His Kuchi and Cocolo joints brought sushi and ramen to Berlin way before the trends had blossomed, and 893 is similarly ahead of the game. The root of the menu here is a twist on ‘Nikkei’ cuisine – the Japanese-Peruvian fusion food which Nobu thrust into the spotlight in the late ’90s. At 893, Ngo has opened up the Peruvian arm of the Nikkei legacy to include other South American influences such as Taquitos and Mexican-style ceviche. The result is a daunting menu which stretches across many kitchens, taking you on a long haul flight from Tokyo to Lima, and back via Mexico City with each new page turn. It’ll probably take you the best part of your first drink to get through it all, so order a large one.
“A daunting menu which takes you on a long haul flight from Tokyo to Lima, and back via Mexico City”
Ngo is no stranger to Japanese food and he clearly knows what he’s doing when it comes to the Japanese faction of 893’s menu. He’s emphatic about his sushi chef’s credentials calling him “one of the best in Germany”, and in the past he’s teased us with the promise of opening an artisan sushi restaurant where we’ll be able to fully worship his chef’s nigiri and maki skills. Until it opens, you’ll just have to book a table at 893 instead. But rest assured that the eight-piece Moriawase will sate even the most exacting cravings, it uses some of the freshest fish (including squid, eel and salmon) available in Berlin.
Elsewhere on the menu, the simplicity of Tako – a dish which falls under the Chef’s Recommendation category – will also stun you with a deliciously seasoned mixture of warm octopus, tomato, avocado and sesame oil. The Nasu Ponzu unites aubergine, ginger, radish and ponzu sauce in a way you’ll only ever be able to dream of recreating, and it’s also worth ordering the Monkfish liver, because although the quality isn’t up to that of Japan, it’s still a fearless choice.
“You cannot leave until you’ve tried the ‘Corazon’ veal heart skewers”
Come to think of it, ‘fearless’ is the buzz term here at 893 Ryōtei. The word sweeps you behind the velvet curtain, seats you in a dimly-lit corner, serves you a pretty neat bottle of Sake and then takes you on a culinary assault before kicking you headfirst back out the door when it’s done with you. It doesn’t even matter the South American part of the menu is mostly strange and a little bit underwhelming – 893 manages very well without it. That said, you cannot leave until you’ve tried the Corazon veal heart skewers. Ngo’s team serve this infamous Peruvian street snack exactly as it should be: pink to perfection so the heart muscle melts in your mouth.
Ngo has brought the Nikkei revolution to Berlin way ahead of the competition. Don’t get me wrong, everything about 893 will beat you up (especially the prices), but it’s a battle worth losing. Go on – be a gangster.
Photo: 893 Ryōtei Berlin