Berlin’s food scene is on the rise. No matter what culinary journey you’d like to take, odds are, a restaurant in Berlin can take you there. But perhaps the most interesting trip on offer isn’t to a region beyond Germany’s borders, but one to Berlin’s own past.
“We try to transport people back to their childhoods with old Berlin dishes made in a really modern way, a new way,” says Kristof Mulack, one of the two founder-chefs at TISK Speisekneipe, the city’s most interesting new restaurant.
Surrounded by new food ideas from around the world, Murack and fellow founder-chef Martin Muller have come up with a different source of inspiration: Berlin’s culinary history. That doesn’t mean modern Berlin street-food like Currywurst or Doner Kebab, but much older recipes updated for the 21st century.
Preserved Foods Preserve the Past
“It’s food like Soljanka, which is one of the old classics,” says Mulack. This stew dish was traditionally made with sausage and fermented vegetables like cucumbers, fennel, and onions. “We make it a little bit modern,” Mulack says. “There’s no sausage anymore; it’s just a vegetarian soup with a lot of tomato, pickled onions, pickled cucumbers, and fermented paprika paste.”
At TISK you can also try Konigsberger Klopse, which is a meatball dish made from veal, beetroot and a caper sauce. “That’s a classic Prussian dish,” says Mulack.
A crucial component in Berlin cuisine is preserved food, made using traditional techniques: smoking, fermenting or curing. “Fermenting has always been a big thing in this city, where most of the time it’s really cold!” jokes Mulack. “Pickled vegetables, smoked fish, smoked meat and sausages — this is really typical Berlin food.”
A part of their contemporary take on the classics, TISK chefs try to use as much local produce as possible, although the climate is a challenge: “There are some things like cucumber salad on the menu, and if I just took cucumbers from around my area, I would only be able to have it on the menu for one month a year!” says Mulack. ” But for the most part, we are working with little farmers in the region.”
A Berlin Stand-Out With a Berlin Focus
TISK, a stylish, simple space with an elegantly-curved bar, stands out in a Berlin food scene that is growing more sophisticated by the day without really having a strong flavour of its own. “There are a lot of really, really good restaurants in Berlin right now, but they’re all concepts that you will find in any other big city around Europe,” says Mulack. “But there’s nobody — or there was nobody — who did stuff from our childhood, or from German cuisine back in the day. I think it’s time to show off what we have and how good it is.”
It’s proving popular, he says. Locals and tourists of all demographics are coming to try this new, old food. “On any given evening, we might be feeding a 60-year-old man next to an 18-year-old hipster,” Mulack says with a laugh.
Berlin’s food scene is evolving fast, but Mulack — who won the German TV show The Taste in 2015 and has been a well-known face on the Berlin food scene for years — says it’s just getting started.
“We had nothing five or six years ago, and now we have concepts from every land, and I’m really proud of it,” he says. “ But it’s like when you’re on an aeroplane: it starts and it goes faster, faster, faster, so that a lot of people think it’s in the air, but it’s still on the ground. That’s where we are — Berlin’s food scene hasn’t taken off yet. But it will!”