There are few things on this planet that excite me more than the prospect of a hidden restaurant-gem in an obscure part of Berlin. Asian restaurants are over represented in this category in Berlin and to unearth true greatness, hidden in plain sight from the onslaught of the digital masses, raises my food adrenaline to unknown heights. One person who shares this passion for discovering Asian gems with me is someone called Mr. Matthias Meyer, a man I like to call the greatest authority on Chinese food in Berlin.
“There are few things on this planet that excite more and raise my food adrenaline level than the prospect of a hidden restaurant gem…”
Matthias once guided me to the newly-opened and truly glorious Chinese restaurant Da Jia Le in Schöneberg, which has since evolved into my very favourite Chinese restaurant in all of Berlin. After that we became friends who would regularly embark on Chinese food missions, and when Mr. Meyer started raving about a new place called Fulilai, I knew I was in for a treat. It took me a while to visit this establishment since Fuiliai is located in Steglitz, a good 50 min drive from Northern Berlin. Little did I know that I was missing out on one of the most interesting Chinese meals in all of Berlin.
Fulilai is the classic no-frill Chinese eatery you walk past without even noticing, and even for the lost souls who actually do step inside, the slightly run-down venue will not get you excited. The food will though. The Fulilai owners, who recently took over this restaurant from the previous owners, cook a Northern Chinese mix of Dongbei, Sichuan and Xi An food, an eclectic and very rare mix of hearty food that’s not shy on the chilli and which might not conform to your current understanding of Chinese food.
“Little did I know that I was missing out on one of the most interesting Chinese meals in all of Berlin.”
Ordering the right things at Fulilai will not be easy since the owners hardly speak any German and the best dishes are scribbled down in Chinese on a secret menu. You will either need to be lucky or knowledgeable to order well at Fulilai, reading this article will make you a lot more knowledgeable and for luck you’ll have to come on a day when the owner’s German friend is helping out in service, a young student who studied in China, speaks fluent Chinese and is eager to facilitate ordering.
“…the best dishes are scribbled down in Chinese on a secret menu.”
The food at Fuliai differs quite a bit from the regular Chinese food offering in Berlin, especially the Xi An dishes which take inspiration from the substantial population of Muslims in this Northern part of China. One of these dishes is the Mutton Roujiamo (肉夹馍), a sensationally tasty and unique dish from the Xi An Ningxia region where braised lamb, juicy and rich, is served in a pita-type bread. This pita bread is used extensively in Xi An; in another, very interesting dish at Fulilai it’s soaked in a fresh and clear lamb soup (羊肉泡馍). The custom of grilling kebabs and kabob is also very common up North and if you spot them on the menu, definitely order a couple of grilled lamb skewers. Roll these smokey parcels in chilli powder and peanuts and brace yourself for a serious hit of cumin. Delicious.
“…a sensationally tasty and unique dish from the Xi An Ningxia region”
The standout dish from this part of China on the menu for me though are the cold handmade Sichuan noodles Shanxi-style in chilli oil, a magical version of one of my all-time favourite Chinese foods where the spice level will get you from 0-100 in no time and where the cold and the spicy work brilliantly with the perfectly chewy noodles. The Cantonese Dim Sum game at Fulilai is also strong, order a bowl of mixed Jiao Zi dumplings tossed in chilli oil and you’re in for a extraordinary treat that’s only matched by the steamed pork bun ‘Baozi’. These deserve a dedication of their own, soft buns that reveal a steaming filling of braised pork meat and which truly belongs to the very best pork buns I’ve had, not just in Berlin but elsewhere. The craft and love in these baos was second to none and something I wish upon every bao aficionado in this city.
You might have figured out by now that I’m a bit in love with Fulilai and that you might have to make your way there quite soon. The unique cuisine of Northern China is here interpreted with a lot of love and solid sense of quality and a meal here surely counts as one of the most interesting Chinese meals you can have in Berlin. At this point, there is truly only one thing that bothers me about this eatery, and that’s the fact that it’s in Steglitz