Once upon a time, in the early 1980’s, Meinekenstraße 10 was perhaps THE leading restaurant destination in all of Berlin. It was here that Henry Levy famously cooked his “Maitre” to two Michelin-star fame with his take on French haute cuisine. Three decades later, it seems that at least some of Levy’s magic has permeated the walls forever as the current tenants also are making a name for themselves that’s echoing way past the Charlottenburg West Berlin enclave.
We’re talking about MINE, the Italian restaurant of Aram Mnatsakanov and his son Mikhail, with Aram being the main protagonist in this story. You might not be familiar with his name, but with his four restaurants in St. Petersburg and soon-to-be-two in Moscow along with his tv-shows and long line of awards and accomplishments, he is easily one of the most famous characters of modern, Russian gastronomy.
“Three decades later, it seems that at least some of Levy’s magic has permeated the walls forever as the current tenants also are making a name for themselves that’s echoing way past the Charlottenburg West Berlin enclave.”
MINE is his first venture outside of Russia, and it was his Berlin-based son Mikhail that inspired Berlin as a location. A turn of fate caused them to abandon their original Kreuzberg plans and open up MINE in Charlottenburg, just a stone’s throw of the lavishly famous shopping street Kudamm.
The Mnatsakanovs are gastronomic professionals through and through and this is something you will notice with every minute you spend at MINE. The attention to detail spent on food and drink as well as service experience are only matched by the flawless design of the stunning restaurant space. Moroccan tiles line the floors, design wallpapers cover ceilings and walls and tilted mirrors above the seats create an intriguing sense of space along with unanticipated opportunities to spy on neighbours.MINE is nothing less than a designer’s wet dream with its hand-picked pieces of design furniture, among them a magnificent Aldotura bar cart that will make you green of envy, and one of the most beautiful bathrooms in the city.
“The Mnatsakanovs are gastronomic professionals through and through and this is something you will notice with every minute you spend at MINE.”
The answer to why Russians from St. Petersburg came to running a line of Italian restaurants can be found in the Armenian ancestry of Aram Mnatsakanov and his profound interest for Italian cuisine, a passion that originated from the wine import business he operated in the late 90’s. This business eventually evolved into the current restaurant empire and 25 years of continuous and relentless search for excellence in recipes and ingredients have left Aram with a unparalleled understanding for cross-regional Italian cuisine. This mindset is the base of the menu at MINE, where unchanged homages to classic, Italian cooking peacefully co-exist with contemporary interpretations.
“25 years of continuous and relentless search for excellence in recipes and ingredients have left Aram with a impressive understanding for cross-regional Italian cuisine”
Like the Spaghetti Vongole, essentially a very classic affair at MINE, but an incredible one never the less; perfectly cooked Gragnano pasta is married into an insane clam sauce that seeks its counterpart in Berlin (it won’t find it, it’s the best). On a less classic note, you will discover that the addition of tuna sashimi to your Vitello Tonnato, despite your initial doubts, actually makes all the sense in the world. The same applies to the deconstructed, glazes Sicilian eggplant served with tomato marmalade and burrata, although the eggplant could be cooked a bit softer.
This is immediately forgotten though after tasting the magnificent and buttery Stufato beef cheeks covered in a red wine sauce laced with 26 Tuscan herbs on smoked potato mash, just like you’ll also sign any petition that declares every Tortelli on the planet from now on should be filled with burrata and served with black truffles, like the sensational version at MINE. Mouth-watering seafood risottos you only experienced from vacations, beautiful meringue desserts with rhubarb and strawberry, dry-aged U.S. prime rib eye steaks – the list of truly great dishes is long and it becomes clear, that such an eclectic and unorthodox Italian menu only can be conceived by someone who is in fact, not Italian.
“..just like you’ll also sign any petition that declares every Tortelli on the planet from now on should be filled with burrata and served with black truffles…”
MINE certainly also distinguishes itself among its peer Italians when it comes to price point (main courses are around 25€, Pasta Vongole will set you back 26€), but it’s not possible to argue against the spectacular cooking that’s coming out of this question. Add to that a wine list that will make even the slickest Berlin sommelier raise their eyebrows with its mix of rare Italians, French low-intervention classics and German top Rieslings, all served in Zalto glasses.
A meal at MINE is a firework of revelations, operating in a stunning setting, and an experience that inevitably will make you ask the question “Can this possibly be the best Italian restaurant in Berlin?”. Personally, after careful deliberations with myself and many friends in Berlin food, I dare to say; Yes, it might just be.