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Berta Restaurant Assaf Granit's tribute to his grandmother

Tuesday, March 21 2023
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Opening Times

Monday to Saturday 18-23
Sunday 11-14.30 and 18-23

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Berta Restaurant
Stresemannstraße 99
10963 Berlin-Kreuzberg
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+49 162 886 18 27
.www.bertarestaurant.com

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There is a clatter, a few plates have fallen and broken - from the open kitchen the assembled team claps. A determined "Yes, Chef!" echoes back in response to the chef's order. Middle Eastern melodies buzz in the air, a "How are you?" there. Here a kiss, there a warm embrace - this, in its cheerful exuberance, is really no longer Berlin. The upbeat, excited atmosphere in the Berta Restaurant is more reminiscent of the beginning of a night in Tel Aviv.

Somewhere in the Levant, at any rate, where people don't look quite as glum as Berliners do towards the end of winter, when the vitamin D has long since been used up. Winter exiles have returned from Cape Town, and people have long been longing for spring greens, birdsong and sunshine. So the mood is spirited at Berta Restaurant, not far from Anhalter Bahnhof.

The service (which at Berta also includes the kitchen) is almost enthusiastically friendly, cordial, and familiar - things are different here than in the restaurants of celebrated star chefs. Assaf Granit runs 16 successful restaurants in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and London. His Shabour in Paris has a Michelin star. So now, since 2022, it's Berlin.

The Israeli star chef reveals that a restaurant here has always been his dream because his grandmother lived here before she emigrated to Tel Aviv. "It is very personal and exciting for me to come back and open a restaurant in the place my family had to leave," says Assaf Granit.

Berta I Assaf Granit (c) Tammy Bar Shay
Berta (c) Joerg Lehmann
Berta (c) Joerg Lehmann (1)
Berta (c) Joerg Lehmann (2)
Berta (c) Joerg Lehmann (3)
Berta (c) Joerg Lehmann (4)
Berta (c) Joerg Lehmann (5)

A project of the heart, then. The name - Berta - and the style of cuisine also come from his grandmother. Sure, Levantine cuisine, bringing grandma's cuisine into the modern age, that's what people in Berlin know, and it's been tried and tested. However, the peculiar interpretation of Israeli-Mediterranean dishes with North African, Yemeni and Eastern European influences is unique even in a city like Berlin, which is particularly fond of the Levant in culinary terms.

Many spices mean this cuisine here: "Our cuisine must always have several flavour components. A dessert, for example, is never just sweet, but also salty or even a little sour," explains the charming chef. Because the best place in Berta Restaurant is, without question, directly at the kitchen counter. There, where you can look at the hands of the kitchen team as they stir, season and serve, have a chat, and ask again, "What was in there?" And sometimes more, sometimes less discreetly being advised to eat up, even if the belly is bulging.

We have placed ourselves in the knowing hands of the kitchen and are served what they think is good: brioche-like, Yemenite Jewish kubaneh, traditionally baked overnight and eaten on Shabbat morning. Accompanied by beetroot and horseradish aioli, crème fraiche with shrug and crushed tomatoes, and an intense and delicious anchovy butter.

The salad comes out crisp and fresh, tahini and a crunchy Yemeni Ja'ala, a mixture of nuts and seeds coated with spices and roasted, provide Middle Eastern flavours - we'll be making this at home from now on! Surprisingly, the buttery truffle polenta with young green asparagus and parmesan also tastes very good - although neither of us is usually a big fan of the mushy cornmeal. Also surprisingly good is the aubergine tartare "Criza": pureed, diced, fried and deep-fried.

Our stomachs are already well filled before the starter, so we share the grilled and glazed octopus as the main course. Although we do squint a little longingly at the neighbour's kreplach. The Ashkenazi Jewish dumplings are reminiscent of tortellini and are served at Berta Restaurant with mussels, bacon, caramelised onions, beer and milk foam.

However, the delicate aroma of our octopus combined with celery salsa and fruity, intense harira sauce with lots of coriander quickly reconciles us about our choice of the main course.

And as usual with grandma, she can't resist spoiling us and puts out another little treat: the spoonful of mascarpone and brown buttercream with lots of vanilla and a hint of Persian lime is something you can't regret. You'd love to take a bucket of it with you to nibble your way into the warmth on cold evenings.

The highlight for us, however, is the Levantine version of an affogato: cardamom mocha meets halvaeis and a tahini biscuit, which adds a lot of flavour thanks to its clearly perceptible saltiness. The mixture melts a little unsightly after pouring in the mocha ("Don't make such an oddball", my grandma would have said), but taste-wise, it's wonderfully complex.

The casual atmosphere has recently turned into a remarkable sound carpet, yet it always remains cosy and comfortable. Oriental influences meet concrete, and a loft meets a living room. And in between, objects that could come straight from Berta's home: a small serving trolley for the liqueur, pots lined up behind the kitchen counter, glass bowls and plates decorated with flowers.

And so it's no surprise that Berta's portrait watches over them all. Because her picture looked so lonely there on the wall, other grandmothers from the entire team were gradually added in a Petersburg hanging - and make sure that people enjoy themselves here and eat up. And like grandma's stew, this mood can comfort a little over the cold.

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Berta Restaurant – Assaf Granit’s tribute to his grandmother
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