My most exciting restaurant discovery of 2018? If I had to pick one, it has to be the Turkish grill Örnek in Wedding. But let’s rewind and take that story from the beginning.
A decade of culinary exploration in Berlin have left few stones unturned for me and the unearthing of a true hidden restaurant gem (per definition a top-of-its-category eatery that’s been operating under the radar for a significant amount of time) is rare. This, of course, doesn’t mean you stop looking.
“ "My most exciting restaurant discovery of 2018? If I had to pick one, it has to be the Turkish grill Örnek in Wedding"
In early September 2018 I followed up upon the rumor of an unusually good Turkish hole-in-the-wall in Wedding near Gesundbrunnen. With me I had the crew from Ernst, for whom the outlook of a new staff meal joint close to their restaurant encouraged them to join this explorative mission. All it took for us that day at Örnek (also known as Örnek Lahmacun EVI) were a few bites of our Adana Dürum kebaps and lahmacuns to stare at each other in silent agreement: This stuff was next level.
“ "The moment you squeeze your way into Örnek and stand in front of the counter, you’ll notice: this place is different."
Berlin has one of the best Turkish food scenes in the world outside of Turkey. Still, the average quality of the Turkish food here is mostly a pale comparison to the vibrant and eclectic offering you’ll find back in Turkey. The moment you squeeze your way into “Örnek” and stand in front of the counter, you’ll notice: this place is different. The counter itself is not full of the usual, sad vegetable offering you see in kebab shops. Instead a brimming full display of vibrantly fresh looking tomatoes, sauces, salads and meats ready to go on the grill. Four guys in tiny kitchen working eclectically, making sure the food keeps on coming in frantic volumes seven days a week, all while meat skewers sizzle on the smoking grill, dough is being tossed and stretched into round shapes and steaming breads keep on flying out of the oven. Örnek is always busy, it’s merely a question of how busy.
“ "All it took for us that day were a few bites of our Adana Dürum kebaps and lahmacuns to stare at each other in silent agreement: This stuff was next level."
The people behind Örnek are from Şanlıurfa (or Urfa), a gastronomical focal point in South Eastern Turkey famous for its cuisine, and they decided to not take any shortcuts when to comes to their food offering. Örnek specialises in grilled kebap skewers and lahamacun and as everything you order is cooked fresh a-la-minute for you, an average order will take 15 minutes to complete. But the wait will be well worth it, because regardless of what you order from the menu, it’s all been made by hand and it’s all bloody exceptional.
“ "...they decided to not take any shortcuts when to comes to their cooking."
Skewers can be ordered rolled in a lavas flatbread or as a “porsion” plate. A favourite is the magnificent “Adana Porsion”, a pair of chargrilled and juicy Adana minced lamb kebaps, served on a hot lavas flatbread with a side of grilled tomatoes and peppers and a dollop of homemade acılı ezme, the magnificent Turkish chili pepper mixture. Also on the plate: Fiery spicy green chilis, a usual condiment in Urfa, but highly unusual in Turkish Berlin. The juiciness and intensity of the Adana kebap in combination with the fresh condiments and spicy chilis sauce is mindbogglingly good and the meat quality is only matched by Adana Grillhaus and Doyum in Berlin. But at Örnek, the quality of the bread and the vibrant condiments take this dish to the next level. The “Tavuk Sis” or “Kuzu Sis” (Chicken and Lamb Sis kebap) are equally great and the brilliant “Ciger” (minced liver) and “Nohut” (Chickpea) testament to the fact that everything on this menu is exceptional.
But the true highlight of Örnek, and the one reason why people travel to this shop from all over the city, are the glorious lahmacun. Also known as kıymalı in Urfa or “Turkish pizza” in Berlin, these thin flatbreads are readily available in the city, but nobody does them like Örnek. Fresh out of the oven, covered in a generous layer of the minced lamb/peppers/spice mix, Örnek’s lahmacun pack an explosive flavour punch and put a fulminant end to discussion on where the get the best lahmacun in Berlin: It’s here.
“ "The juiciness and intensity of the Adana in combination with the fresh condiments and spicy chilis sauce is mindbogglingly good"
My visits at Örnek have been a true revelation and an affirmation that my gloomy view on the quality level of much of the Turkish food in Berlin is justified. Especially Döner kebap sellers, with their heart-wrenchingly sad meat skewers, tasteless vegetables and magnificently shit sauces that come in a can. You can eat at a hundred Döner joints in Berlin and none of them will even come close to Örnek. Are you visiting Berlin and looking for the best Döner kebap? How about skipping that Döner and instead having a spectacular Adana or Sis with a side of lahmacun at Örnek. It will cost you the same and I promise that you won’t regret it. It might in fact change your whole perception on how Turkish food should taste, just like it did for me.