Friday, January 4, 2013

Berlin: Food, Food, Food.

After ringing in the New Year, we spent a few more days in Berlin just relaxing, shopping, and meeting some of the boy's friends for dinner and drinks. Forget the culture and shopping! Let's just talk about the food:

We went to "Let's Go Sylt" for dinner one night because we were shopping in the Kurfurstendamm area anyway. Sylt is an island off the coast of Northern Germany, the "Hawaii of Germany", if you will. We had made reservations but apparently those taken over the phone have absolutely no meaning whatsoever. We were barely greeted at the door and just waved to an area, which we took to mean, "seat wherever you can find space".

The service is lacking, and the crowds of lively and rambunctious crowds of Italian families who have no problem letting their children run screaming and stomping around the rest of the restaurant made the night... interesting... but the manager/owner did his frazzled best to ensure that we got our meals- albeit very inconsistently and tardily- at some point in the night.

The portion sizes can't be matched. I mean... this could feed a family of 6.

I decided to go for surf and turf... I was not impressed by the quality of the beef nor the three prawns masquerading as the "turf" part of the meal. Disappointing.

The best (?) part of the meal was the creme Catalina. We had originally ordered crème brûlé but to his credit, the owner/manager came and told us that something in the preparation had prevented the custard base to set properly so he recommended this instead. I have to give props for his honesty.

We met up with one of the boy's childhood friends from home, and decided to go to the most typical Bavarian restaurant in town: Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt. It serves traditional Bavarian food and the selection was so overwhelming that I went with what the restaurant was known for: "Der Klassiker", described as "kross gebackene Hinterhaxe vom Schweineschinken mit Bayerisch Kraut". 

This translates to a mothertrucking crispy knuckle of pork with Bavarian cabbage, essentially a giant pork rind doused in gravy. In between the crispy rind is a melt-in-your-mouth fatty goodness before you cut into the pork.
I am a self-confessed carnivore, but this was my Mt. Everest. I could not finish a third of this. I could not even cut this with a knife. After failing at my attempt, I swore to never eat Haxe again. It was just too traumatizing, I tell you. And WHAT CABBAGE???

My dining mates had sensible Currywurst and Fries...

...and some cheese and onions, Bavarian-style.

For dinner one night, we decided to be fancy. The boy booked reservations at the restaurant located at the top of the Reichstag, where the current German parliament meets. It was officially built in 1894 but went through periods of disuse due to fire and West and East Berlin's separation. The modern-day version includes a gorgeous 360-degree view of Berlin thanks to the huge glass dome on top, and visitors can peek down into the parliament floor while it's in session due to the glass ceiling above. 

No low-cut shirts should be worn by parliamentary officials, that's all I gotta say.

Because the restaurant Käfer is located at the top of the the German Parliament, reservations to the restaurant require the names, surnames, and birth dates of all guests, as well as a rigorous security body and ID check at the checkpoints. After all that, I was super excited about how this dinner was going to taste.

Amazing views and lovely decorations: check.

We had a bit of an amuse-bouche after ordering, and omg was this sucker a melt-in-the-mouth special or what. I forget what it or the mousse was called (foie gras? pork?), but this made my anticipation for the food even greater.

Bread with various yummy spreads. Also delicious.

And then the appetizers came out. Groan. I believe this was some kind of tartar of fish or something. It looked pretty but was subpar. 

This was basically beef consommé with a few julienned vegetables thrown in. You don't even want to know what they charged for this sucker. 

Foam everywhere! The chef loved his foams! This was fillet and sweetbread of veal on sweet potato-purée with beetroot, kohlrabi, vanilla, poppy seed, and marinated potatoes. My dining companion's dinner but definitely subpar. 

Mine! I was looking for a real umami hit from my turbot and mushroom dish but seeing as how this is no longer on their menu, they either wised up and removed it or it was no longer seasonal. The turbot was overcooked, the seasoning was foamy and off... just... NO.

Seriously, after a much disappointing dinner, I half-expected the grapefruit sorbet to come out in a slushy modern interpretation of what the chef thought sorbet should be, but it was actually pretty delicious!

Hungry after enjoying ONLY the amuse-bouche this entire meal! Rar. 

This brings me to the conclusion of my meals in Berlin. This is one I will never forget because it a) traumatized me against currywurst for life, and b) advised me to never go for hot chili pepper-eating contests, which I was seriously considering due to what I thought was my iron stomach. 

The boy was craving some proper currywurst before leaving Berlin, so he found this one little stand that had the distinction of having the spiciest currywurst in the land. 

Art thou familiar with the Scoville Scale, dear reader?

The Scoville Scale is the official way to measure how spicy something is by measuring the capsaicin present in the chili. The capsaicin is the chemical compound that stimulates your nerve ending on your tongue, throat, mouth, and lips. Most law enforcements use pepper sprays that rank 1.5million-2million on the Scoville Scale. A jalapeño pepper or Tabasco sauce ranks 3,500-8,000 on the Scoville Scale. I can chug a bottle (large size too!) of Tabasco sauce, no water, no milk afterward, just chilling, no problem.  

Curry & Chili actually have contests and clubs where you can get awarded for eating the spiciest curry. 

The boy ordered me the currywurst with the highest level of Scoville Scale sauce that this stand had. Mind you, I was like, "Bring it on biatch, I'm Asian" because I thought I could handle anything. I told the currywurst maker "Pour it allll on there, mister!" The man took one look at me and said, "let's just try a few drops first". If you look on the image above, it's the Curry & Chili Gold Edition, ranking at 7,777,777 on the Scoville Scale. Let me remind you again, police use pepper sprays at 1,500,000-2,000,000. The hottest chili pepper in the world, the Naga Bhut Jolokia (AKA the Ghost Pepper) ranks at 855,000. 

I ate two and a half bites. I had not a chance in the world.

My world started to fade in and out. My throat burned from the esophagus up. My ears were ringing and my vision was hazy. I couldn't even think properly enough. The currywurst man gave me a dollop of mayonnaise to coat my throat with. I chugged two bottles of chocolate milk. I admit it, I upchucked. I huddled in a corner on a miserable 2.5 hour drive to Göttingen. I got sick for nearly a week after. 

I have learned a valuable lesson here. Never. Ever. Ever. Ever. Ever accept challenges that might kill you. And I sincerely hope no one from the US Department of Defense/North Korean government is reading this and devising a plan to torture prisoners-of-war with this device because this is just cruel and unusual. Please don't take away my US citizenship for writing that.

More about Germany next time! 


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