The Shy Chef
A Secret Location in The Bohemian District of Kreuzberg
Date of Last Visit: Saturday, September 5, 2009
The Victims: Four Swedes, one Mexican, one German, one Yank (besides for me)
The Background: In planning for my visit to Berlin, I e-mailed Sylee, who writes the beautiful blog Berlin Reified. To keep things simple, I asked for her top three Berlin picks. The Shy Chef was one of them. Perfectly coincidentally, I remembered reading about The Shy Chef in The New York Times earlier this year. So I sent an e-mail and crossed my fingers.
Very shortly before I headed to Berlin, I got the word. I was in. Perfect.
The Entrance: Some people just have an eye for things. I paid a professional way too much money to help me decorate my living room back in 2004, and it doesn't achieve the level of gemuetlichkeit that the Shy Chef's living room boasts. Great art on the walls. Great books on the shelves. Comfortable more-than-slightly Scandinavian furniture with great upholstery. I'm jealous. (And I have also never stepped foot in a Habitat since the decorating debacle. I hate Habitat, and you should too.)
I'm the first to arrive but Patrick and Monika follow me in soon afterwards. He's American. She's German. They met at Oktoberfest. Enough said! This is quickly followed by four Swedes who are a little quiet at first but open up as the night goes on; around 2 a.m., I leave them in the after-bar and am truly sad to say goodbye. Teresita, our Mexican friend, is the hit of the party and goes back and forth between English, Spanish and German. (And I think with a few more glasses of wine in her, we totally could have had her speaking Korean.) In short, it's a nice international crowd, and I get to practice my Swedish, which is always a fun party trick.
The Food: Welcome cocktail first. It's called "Number 26." And it's lovely. Until I put it down on a window ledge–which I don't notice until a few seconds later has a slope in it–and it comes crashing to the ground. Nothing like a little party foul to get things started. I am so embarrassed. I spend the next 15 minutes apologizing profusely to anyone who will listen.
We start out with an old jam jar full of quinoa, beetroot, and smoked salmon. There's also a bit of horseradish in there, which is a fantastic surprise. This starter is different and interesting and fun and gets me pretty excited about whatever is coming next.
The "trout grenobloise with white beans" is my favorite dish of the evening. It's simple and hearty and boasts some great, honest flavors. Lots of capers and lemon and the white beans also have the same citrusy tang. It's a very generous portion, which really has me worried. If every course is going to be this big, I need to slow down.
Next up is a bitter salad. And they weren't kidding when they named it that. To be honest, it is not to my taste. It's way too bitter for me as well as one of the Swedes, whereas nobody else seems to mind. Funny, those tastebuds. As I watched the bitter salad conversation unfold–why Daniel and I thought it was so bitter, whereas the rest didn't–I was vaguely remembering reading an article about just this–certain people are more sensitive to flavors than others. If I'm a supertaster, that sure would explain a lot of things. (Although I do love vegetables, generally. Broccoli in particular.) Daniel and I eat the artichokes and try to convince the other Swedish guy to eat the rest.
Rabbit…rabbit is next…and at this point, my eyes are crossed. Too much food. Too much wine. Too much conversation with young, sexy Swedes. You might know that I love rabbit. I could eat rabbit all the time. But tonight…I do not do it justice.
Because you know…I am saving room for the cherry tart…the cherry tart with coconut and premium tahiti vanilla ice cream. I love the cherry tart because it is simple and homey. Cleaned my plate up, I did. Really, this was lovely.
I haven't mentioned the wines yet…they were really lovely matches. Thoughtful matches. I've e-mailed The Shy Chef and asked for the details but haven't heard back yet…I'll post them as soon as I can. The rose, in particular, was really quite right.
The Verdict: Ah, there are some regrets that you have in life. Why haven't I spent more time in Berlin? Why haven't I gone to more underground restaurants? Why didn't I take more notes at The Shy Chef? Why don't I put my art up on my walls and use more candles and buy more Scandinavian furniture on eBay? And why, why, did I leave the bar we went to afterwards "early" at the end of the night, when I was still enjoying myself?