Friday, December 7, 2012

Drei Schwestern

Drei Schwestern (Three Sisters), an airy and impressive restaurant converted from an old hospital, might just be the best place to get a new German lunch in all of Berlin. Even though it's like an 8 minute walk away from my apartment, it took me at least 45 minutes to find it, because I wasn't expecting it to be within an old giant castle, which it was. Turns out that this castle is actually part of the "Kunstquartier" Bethanien (Art Quarter), a group of contemporary art galleries, exhibitions, artist workshops, and studios.  The restaurant itself is a vast room with high arched ceilings and an old wood floor. It's the embodiment of what I'd imagine a "new-German" restaurant to look like, combining old-world rustic simplicity with a clean, modern aesthetic. 

At the awkward hour of 4:30 pm, which I seem to have made the time of choice for my lunches, the restaurant was largely empty, but I can imagine it's packed at night, especially on nights when they hold concerts. Their slogan is "fine food n' primitive rock n' rock," which for some reason made me picture an eclectic-grunge rock n' roll bar that also had German food. This is why I was surprised when I got there and realized it was actually a very elegant and high end restaurant. When I say high-end I guess I mean high quality, as the prices aren't expensive. They're higher than average Berlin prices, but for what you're getting I think they're totally reasonable, and ridiculously low compared to other major cities. The most expensive dinner entree is 23 euros. Drei Schwestern has a seasonal lunch menu that changes each week, which uses as many regional products as possible. 

At the recommendation of the waitress, I got an "Almdudler," even though I had no idea what it was. It turned out to be what tasted like elderflower soda, which was amazing. I was hoping I'd stumbled upon a delicious German soda made by a local Berlin company or something, but I later found out it's actually the national drink of Austria. It's a mixture of grape and apple juices flavored with herbs. Apparently the name is a shortened version of a phrase meaning "singing in the alpine meadows," which is what drinking it feels like. 

I ordered the pork medallions. This is the kind of thing that's not a traditional German "dish" per se, not something recognizable like bratwurst, but I think it counts because it falls under the general cuisine. The dinner menu has a lot more items that are more obviously German, like potato dumplings, Schnitzel, Spätzle, and sauerkraut, but done in a decidedly new way. It's really a well done menu, so much so that I'll paste it here. It's just the perfect example of the neue deutsche Küche that I've been trying to figure out. 


Kässpätzle, mit SalatbouquetCheese Spaetzle with Salad 8,80 €

Haselnuss-Schupfnudeln mit Cidre-Sauerkraut & RosmarinjusHazelnut-Potato-Noodles with Cidre-Sauerkraut & Rosemary Jus11,80 €

Kartoffelknödel mit Tallegio-Birnenfüllung, Gewürztraminerjus, gebratenem Rosenkohl & PinienkernenPotato Dumplings with Tallegio-Pears Filling, Gewürztraminerjus, roasted Brussels Sprouts & Pine Nuts 14,50 €

Schweinsbraten vom Apfelschwein mit Krautsalat und SemmelknödelnPork Roast Of Apple-Fed Pig With Coleslaw and Bread Dumplings 14,50 €

Schnitzel vom Fläminger Landschwein mit lauwarmem Kartoffel-Gurken-Salat und Preiselbeeren
Schnitzel of Fläming Country Pork with Lukewarm Potato Cucumber Salad and Cranberries 16,80 €

Kross gebratenes Wolfsbarschfilet mit dicken Bohnen, Birnen, Speck & Selleriepüree Cross roasted Fillet of Sea Bass with Broad Beans, Pears, Bacon & mashed Celery 18,80 €

Roastbeef mit Kranbeerenjus, Schwarzwurzeln, geschmolzene Tomaten & Süßkartoffelpüree
Roast Beef with Cranberryjus, Black Salsify, melted Tomatoes & Sweet Potato-Mash 18,80 €

Brandenburger Landente, mit Lebkuchenjus, Johannisbeer-Rotkohl, Maronen & Kartoffel-WickelklößenBrandenburgian Country Duck, with Lebkuchenjus, Currant-Red Cabbage, Chestnuts & Potato-Dumplings 23,50 €

As you can see, instead of just pork roast, it's a roast of an apple-fed pig. Instead of a plate of roast beef and plain potatoes, it's roast beef with black salsify (what even is this?) and sweet potato mash. I think this kind of  answers my question from my previous post, when I wondered if the new wave of German cooking meant it got fancier, or just meant that it was now using local, regional ingredients. At Drei Schwestern, I realized that maybe that it means both.

However, my lunch wasn't overly fancy, despite the air of the word "medallions." It wasn't at all pretentious, it was just a great version of a simple dinner: pork with two crusts, beans, carrots and rice. As we know, rice is not generally the starch of choice in German cooking, but I was thrilled to have a change from the vegetable that shall not be named.  The dish wasn't over salted or over sauced, a common downfall of German food. As usual, the meat was the strong point, and was some of the best pork I've ever eaten. It was cooked perfectly, and the two different crusts each complemented it differently. One tasted more like breadcrumbs and herbs, while the other tasted like a crunchy parmesan cheese mixture.

I would love to come back here for dinner if I get the chance. I've encountered a few obstacles lately as I've been looking for new German lunch spots. The first is that many of these restaurants don't serve lunch, and the second is that they are way out of my price range. I think a main part of the movement is that German food is being elevated to an extremely high level for the very first time, as evinced by the fact that several German restaurants have gained Michelin stars in the past few years. This is sort of a logistical road block for my project, but I'll try to continue on as best I can. I might have to switch to eating only dinner, which might be a better way to get a feel for these restaurants, like this one in which lunch isn't so popular. With this experience, I think I've come one step closer to understanding how German food is changing and being redefined for the modern generation.  

Drei Schwestern
Mariannenplatz 2 (inside Bethanien)
100997 Berlin Kreuzberg
Tel: 030 600 318 600
Tu-Su from 11 am
Lunch Tu-Fri 12:00-17:00

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