Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Kater Schmaus

I think the blurriness actually captures the vibe quite well
It was 11 pm. We were in the top floor restaurant of an insane funhouse-like club, being jeered at by a drunken Santa. A beautiful drag queen was singing "Santa Baby." It was Berlin at it's finest, but to my great displeasure, no pictures were allowed.

This is the scene at the quasi-secret restaurant "KaterSchmaus." It's not a secret restaurant but it feels like one, as you weave your way through a labyrinth of strange rooms up a grungy staircase past an old vending machine into a unmarked door. Once you get there, you're greeted by a bright and boisterous room of revelers, decked out in Berlin's signature graffiti and mismatched knickknacks style. Perhaps the most surprising part of this situation is that it's home to a serious modern German food operation, and it's not cheap either. It's an upscale restaurant, Berlin-ified. It also wins the award for best name--- I thought it might mean cat and mouse because that's how it sounds, but it actually means "hangover feast." It's also a double meaning, because "Kater" also means tomcat, and the whole restaurant has a cat theme. As an added bonus, they give you gummy cats with the check.

The reason I'm writing such a detailed report of this place is the strict no-pictures policy. I guess it adds to the allure, but for my purposes it was quite inconvenient. I grabbed the picture above from google images, and managed to snap a few stealthy iPhone shots when the waitress wasn't looking, but they don't do the meals justice at all. We were also limited by our limited wallets, as most of the entrees were almost 30 euros. We just got appetizers, much to the chagrin of our already-irritated waitress.

I got "homemade potato ravioli with field hare filling, radicchio, and red currants," and my friend got the "truffled Brussels sprouts soup with potato matchsticks and homemade venison jerky." You can see how these things are fancy German. You might think ravioli isn't a German thing but there actually is a Swabian version called Maultaschen, and I think these might have been a play off of those, except with potato pasta (similar to gnocchi dough but made into pasta). Hare is such a wintry German meat, and something we don't see on menus so often in the states. I personally love it, and the gamey flavor with the homemade ravioli was incredible. Germans seem to put berries in a lot of their dishes, which is something I feel like I haven't portrayed enough. Currants seem especially popular, and somehow they really made sense in this dish, as an acidic break from the richness of the hare and buttery pasta. 

Of course, anyone who knows me would know that I was obsessed with the homemade venison jerky. It was so moist and salty and good. We liked it so much the day after this we ate a venison sausage. Only in Germany does one eat venison twice in two days. The Brussels sprouts soup that accompanied the venison jerky was also delicious, and not overpowered by the truffles, which is often a danger in truffled things. 

Another feature I enjoyed about this place was the open kitchen, which I had an excellent view of from our table. I noticed all the chefs were young, hip people. My one negative comment on this place is that it did have an attitude, in both the staff and the food. Maybe I'm just not used to getting German food like this but it just seemed like a little much, like maybe it was trying a bit too hard. I almost missed the simplicity and starkness of the German food I'd been eating. But whatever they're doing must be working. The food tastes great and the restaurant seems to be really popular, especially with the in-crowd. It's a German restaurant that's truly tailored to the younger, cooler masses in the modern day Berlin. I mean, it's inside a club, I don't know what's further from a humble old German butcher shop than that. 

Michaelkirchstr. 22
10179 Berlin
Tel: 030 51 05 21 34

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