Chicha is a Peruvian restaurant in Berlin which started out doing street food and now has a bricks-and-morter restaurant in Kreuzberg.

We were surprised when it was expected we would have a reservation...

Next thing that happened (after a wait to order) was a lengthy conversation between the waiter and couple next to us, who were seated after us. Having finally chosen a menu for them, he turned to us.

We ordered cautiously and the waiter responded aggressively. One pisco sour to share. The waiter "Why not two? We've sold 33,000 of them." Neither of us had tried this cocktail before, so we weren't sure it would be to our taste. We awkwardly explained this to the waiter, and were indeed later grateful we hadn't ordered two.

The house ceviche €12.50 was a tiny portion, not well trimmed, and salted beyond delicacy. ("Authentic" Peruvian ceviche is an overwhelming mountain on a large plate, accompanied by boiled potates and sweet corn on the cob). The only thing nice about their ceviche was the thrifty innovation of sprinking corn nuts on top. (Fresh sweet corn is very expensive in Berlin.)

The porridge of sweet potato with a stale walnut and flavorless cheese was hard to eat.

The fried yucca was fried yucca, but hardly matched the rave reviews of the former menu item, yucca balls with cheese inside.

We fled to Zola for a pizza, glad we hadn't ordered more and resentful about dropping €31 on, well, not much.

First mistake... I was drawn in by the website/concept, and booked a reservation without diligently checking reviews...

Second mistake... We ordered a €42pp sharing menu without first establishing confidence in the food.

Third mistake... When disappointed by the first four courses, we continued to have hope in the fifth...

The rest of the mistakes weren't ours...

The server sold the sharing menu with the idea that she would keep bringing dishes until we were full. But when she completed what seemed to be a pre-set series of dishes and asked if we wanted more, it was not clear if the "additional order" she offered would add to the bill or not. This sort of thing (and any offer made by the server without specifying the price) is manipulative. It makes money from diners pride and shame, rather than by delivering value.

As it turned out, the extra dish was in the same red sauce as the previous two and was announced to be sweetbreads only upon arrival at the table. This is also not cool. My companion was disturbed.

It's "mediterranean", which is the fancy word for Arab food, and one could do better for 1/4 the price at many Arab restaurants, such as Dada and Babel. Consistent with the focus on money over honesty was the manipulative wine offering in which the cheapest red by the glass was €9. Regardless of what was in that glass, the offer is out of sync with the restaurant's level.

The dessert was black (ash cheesecake or somesuch), which would be cool and fine if it were also delicious. It wasn't.

I felt the chef was earnest and can probably produce a few dishes which delighted his friends. But that doesn't amount to sufficient skill to deliver a menu or a restaurant.


Review Restaurantkritik Night Kitchen Berlin

Lino's Berbecue in Wedding is worth the trip.

The owner is a German who grew up in Austin, where he learned Texas-style barbecue. This style focuses on cuts, rather than whole animals. He has built a proper barbecue setup and carefully selects his meats from small producers.

We sampled all the meats available on a Sunday afternoon: pulled pork, beef brisket, and a spicy sausage. All were delicious, but the brisket was superb. As brisket depends on a special fat distribution, the owner informed us that he has not found an appropriate local supplier, so he imports this meat from a US farm.

Lino's is a casual restaurant in a gritty neighborhood, and it is delicious, but the prices are shockingly high. Sandwiches cost €14, and a meat sampling platter is €35. You can order any meat alone, paying extra for sides, at €7/100g.  (At Big Stuff Barbecue in Markthalle IX, sandwiches are €7 and a medium meat platter with 4 sides contains 400g of meat for €14.)

For €7/100g you can get 19-year old Txogitxu charcuterie at Vom Einfachen das Gute.


Review Restaurantkritik Lino's Barbecue Berlin

Kumpel & Keule is a butcher shop in the food destination, Markthalle IX, in Berlin.

The first thing to note is their commitment to quality food production:

Over the past 10 years, more than half of German craft butchers have shut down forever. Meat and sausages have become a junk product that is pale and tasteless, cheaper in some places than dog food. We do not see the whole animal anymore. What happens on the farms remains hidden. The hand that made the sausage or ham remains invisible to us. What's left is just something else. A piece of meat without origin and history.
We at Kumpel & Keule want to change these conditions and bring back the honest enjoyment. It is about nothing less than giving back the dignity to the flesh and the craft. Kumpel & Keule stands for a new, young generation of butchers who are passionate and convinced in their search for total quality from the field to the plate . The focus of Kumpel & Keule's work is on transparency, craftsmanship, the origin of the meat and above all the taste. It is about a pleasurable balance of old proven traditions and new international flavors.

On Saturdays, at Street Food Thursday, and at their nearby restaurant, Spiesewirtschaft, K&K serve the best hamburger I have ever eaten.

The word that comes to me for this burger is tenderness. Each element contributes a delicate flavor, nothing is robust.

The meat is meltingly soft, as is the bun, from Markthalle IX Italian bakers, Sironi. The salad is a gentle mache lettuce (called "feldsalat" in Germany), the cheese is German deichkase, the bacon is perfect. Sometimes there's too much "special sauce", but even it is so refined that I do not forego it.


Restaurantkritik review Kumpel & Keule / Spiesewirtschaft, Burger Berlin