Shan Shan is an authentic North Chinese restaurant operating out of a cheap looking hotel in Northern Prenzlauer Berg. Looks are deceiving though when it comes to this splendid eatery and if you order your meal a couple of days in advance, the Shan Shan chef will prepare a true Chinese feast for you.
On a first glance, Shan Shan is not really a place you necessarily want to visit. It's the visually unappealing restaurant of a Berlin hotel/hostel and a quick look at the interior would make me turn the other way any day. Especially the signs advertising an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet for the humble price of 5,50€ are not really indicators of a quality meal. But there is so much more to this place and under the hood of this establishment, we might just have one one of the best Chinese chefs in Berlin cooking his heart out.
“ Basically one home run chasing the next, especially the vegetable dishes, which were all crazy delicious and perfectly executed.
My first visit at Shan Shan was in late 2013 when I received a tip that the Chinese owners secretly offer off-the-menu Chinese dinners upon request. "Super authentic" Chinese dinners were the specific words used. Challenge accepted and soon thereafter we called them up to book a seating. A couple of days later I found myself sitting in an empty restaurant with my crew feeling very skeptical about the whole thing. The whole interior looked like something from Oranienburger Straße, the total absence of a single other customer on a Thursday was far from assuring and the menu gave no hints on the Chinese cooking skills of the chef. On the contrary it actually made me wonder what the hell we had walked into. But as a friendly Chinese lady appeared and started dishing out a variety of cold starters, explaining every dish and the cooking technique behind them, I knew we were off to a good meal. Plates were passed around, everybody tucking in, contemplating silence kicking in, people looking up. And nodding. This was good, very good. Pickled vegetables, cold pork, duck and cabbage. Northern Chinese staples which are hard to get in Berlin cooked the real way with bones and cartilage crunching in your mouth. Oh yeah, this was the real thing.
“ The normal a la carte food is far from as good as the things the chef prepares if you order ahead though and I would strongly recommend doing that.
And that was just the start, because while the cold starters were good, the rest of the meal was outstanding. We were served an additional 8-9 hot dishes dishes, ranging from vegetable stir fries, dumplings, tofu patties, lamb stew and braised pork belly, and it was all very good. Basically one home run chasing the next, especially the vegetable dishes, which were all crazy delicious and perfectly executed. Same thing goes for the dumplings, the fried lamb and fennel variety we got killed it (only the green part btw, amazing). The meats were also very good but not as outstanding as the other dishes.
Since then the owners have introduced an a la carte menu of Chinese items while still offering several items that are pre-order only. This setup finally offers the possibility of spontaneous visits to Shan Shan and to enjoy lovely things like their killer Dim Sum or their seasonal dishes. One of the best dishes on the normal menu is probably the Mapo Tofu with minced meat, the chef is a great at making tofu and this might just be my favourite Mapo Tofu in Berlin.
Shan Shan is a great little hidden gem and when it's good, one of the best Chinese restaurants in Berlin. The normal a la carte food is far from as good as the things the chef prepares if you order ahead though and I would strongly recommend doing that.