I fancied a treat in Berlin so hit the Michelin star list for inspiration. I'm a big fan of detective fiction including Philip Kerr and his Berlin Noir trilogy which often includes the famous Adlon Hotel as a backdrop. I fancied checking that out for myself and soaking in the history but it was inevitably booked up for months in advance sadly. Out of the other options available for bookings Tim Raue and his 2 Michelin Star take on Asian cuisine definitely seemed interesting so I decided to give it a spin. A decision that ended up working out fantastically.
The outside was weird as hell, a bit of carpet and a few Chinese lion statues in the corner of a car park marked the entrance and in all honesty was pretty off-putting. Fortunately once inside I could immediately tell this was a place right up my street, the fun little sofa in the lobby scattered with animal shaped cushions immediately set the mood for an incredibly laid back evening - the serving staff decked out in crisp white converse looked stylish and all spoke absolutely impeccable English which helped put me at immediate ease.
After ordering drinks, a selection of snacks was presented to start and were a nod to the meal to follow, they were numerous and included cashews in curry paste, pickled radish, sashimi style salmon and quails egg. A broad range of flavours, textures and the Asian flavours that would be the theme throughout the courses to follow.
There was a choice of two menus, the seasonal which seemed very heavy on shellfish but I was in the mood for something more substantial and interesting and the Unique menu seemed to cover a lot more ground so I went for that. Having seen some of the seasonal courses on tables around me, I feel I made the best choice.
"Imperial Caviar with Sprat and Yuzu"
This coursen followed the snacks in really setting the scene for the meal to come, and came across as a chef really teasing the flavours and imaginative food that was to follow. A generous portion of caviar (sufficient to actually enjoy the flavour) sat upon a lettuce and combava (from the lime family) base which offered a real blast of citrus. An unexpected highlight for me here was the dots of preserved peel, which were like the most intensely bitter and chewiest fruit pastille you've never tasted.
"Turbot no. 219 with Chinese Broccoli and Tamarind"
Three meaty chunks of turbot with light tempura style batter all served in a ginger and garlic sauce and dotted with pickled ginger which all worked together to be wonderfully warming. The broccoli was perfectly tender, retaining the flavour and adding a gentle texture to compliment the fish.
"Langoustine with Wasabi, Cantonese style"
This went immediately into my top 10 courses of the year. A giant lightly battered langoustine in a creamy wasabi sauce and covered in deep fried green rice which were like rice crispies. Each mouthful was a combination of the langoustine, the crispy rice, the warming and soft fruity mango, crunchy carrot and fish sauce that the crustacean was sat upon. Tiny wasabi marshmallows at the sides of the plate were just as fun as they sound, delicate and with a little chew but retaining that wasabi flavour that hits your sinuses. A perfect plate of food.
"Suckling pig - Sweet and Sour"
The main element of note was the centre piece of the fried suckling pig belly with a side of the most delicate pineapple I've ever experienced, it was dotted with pineapple jelly which enhanced the flavour and cutting into it was exactly like the sensation of a hot knife into butter and inside it was filled with tiny cubes of tomato. The sweet and sour gravy was gently spiced with the same warming sensation as previous courses and everything was finished with a tiny pork scratching which was curled like a pigs tail.
"Manny's Beef with Watermelon and Coriander". Served as two courses simultaneously.
a) The first dish consisted of dry aged beef shoulder, served in the beefiest beef tea which was flavoured with a hint of coriander. Tiny squares of watermelon were presented to the sides of the dish, decorated with tiny soy sprouts and a dash of coconut-coriander cream. Another perfectly cooked piece of meat here, the meat was so incredibly tender I could almost have gone at it with a spoon rather than a knife.
b) The second element was made up of a wafer thin slice of cured tongue, rolled and stuffed with steak tartare, and the rest of the dish contained flavours of watermelon, green thai vinaigrette and leek.
"Peking Duck - Tim Raue Interpretation" was offered as an extra course (and certainly made a difference from the usual cheese thrown in) and given the standard of the food on offer to this stage I couldn't resist.
a) "Breast, Five-Spice-Waffle, Apple and Leek, Jus of Duck Feet"
The waffle was extremely soft which was initially a bit confusing as I'd expected it to have a bit of give. The duck breast was fantastic, with a fine perfectly cooked crispy skin and the whole dish came served in a thick jus which was appropriately rich to sit with the very slightly sweet waffle.
b) "Brew, Tongue-Heart-Stomach, Winter Melon, Bamboo Mushroom"
There were some slightly dubious looking pieces of duck floating in the brew (which given the description shouldn't have been a surprise) but I got stuck in all the same. Given the combination of duck tongue, heart and stomach that were in the consomme brew it came as no surprise that the flavour was incredibly rich but didn't overpower the entire dish or make it too heavy. Another dish with the warming flavours that appeared throughout this menu.
c) "Duck Liver Terrine, Pickled Cucumber, Ginger-Leek-Cream"
The duck terrine came covered with a thin layer of tender duck leg meat and three dollops of foie gras cream. The other elements dotted around the plate included Chinese barbecue sauce and leek and ginger puree to the right. Another rich dish to round off this extra course, this was balanced perfectly by the slice of pickled cucumber which was a fresh light companion to the dense terrine.
"Apricot with Passion Fruit and Dulcey Chocolate"
Two spoonfuls of apricot sorbet, which were dotted with passion fruit. The chocolate had a really unusual consistency, it was hard but not entirely crispy and held it's shape well so some magic had clearly been going on in the kitchen. The chocolate itself "Valrhona Dulcey" which is a 'world first' blond chocolate. The crisp biscuits sat on top added some crunch to the dish which was fantastic for a dessert. I've mentioned before I don't go crazy for sweets and this was sufficiently toned down for me, loved it.
The final selection of desserts that appeared just before coffee were very finely sliced perfectly ripe mango sprinkled with violet salt, a bite size mango sorbet lolly with a violet chocolate outer later and a box of
violet infused truffle style chocolates which melted in the mouth and were incredibly moreish. Suffice to say none of this lived to see another day.
In all, the meal took 2.5 hours for 7 "courses" (which to be fair consisted of several smaller dishes at various stages) plus snacks at either end. Pacing throughout was perfect, the meal built slowly with the snacks and smaller / lighter early dishes through the meatier main courses and wrapping up with fabulous desserts. The service was faultless throughout, as I mentioned earlier the smart casual (horrible term I know) dress for the serving staff gave a really laid back atmosphere, with tables sufficiently spaced that you couldn't overhear nearby conversations but there was a definite bubbly vibe which made for a great overall experience definitely worthy of the 2 stars they hold.
The evening ended on a comedy high as I held the door for a couple to allow them to leave ahead of me (I have good manners, shocking I know). The woman was out of her mind drunk and turned to thank me for a fantastic meal, swayed down the alley ahead of me and then got her heel stuck in something in the pavement and absolutely decked it head first in a heap. I did quickly check if she was OK but her partner replied with something along the lines of "Don't worry, she always gets like this". Unbelievable scenes.