One of the best parts of living in a new city, aside from making new friends – of course, is the endless possibilities for delicious culinary experiences. My new friend, Soledad, and I decided to go for a nice meal out in Berlin, (that did not consist of The Bird Burgers, or any other Vietnamese, Turkish, or Italian options that
overly populate the city.) After a bit of research, and largely due to convenience for us both, I chose former kebab shop turned fine French dining at Bandol sur Mer.
First, the reviews on Unlike Berlin were great, and since the restaurant does not have a web site – which they told me “keeps it Urban and works out pretty well for them,” you have to rely on the recommendations and blog postings of other diners who have raved about them before. Second, Brad Pitt has recently eaten there. Sold!
So we headed from UBahn Rosenthaler Platz west on Torstrasse and came across a very nice looking restaurant on the corner where I proudly announced my name and reservation, only to be told I should probably check next door. So, feeling slightly less proud, but equally excited, we entered restaurant number 2 and found they had our reservation in a nice cozy table by the corner. Though any table would have been cozy, since there were only 7 in the whole restaurant!
You open the menu to see “Menu I” and “Menu II” for a price tag of 49 and 59 EUR, respectively, but you quickly learn that you can order any of the dishes they have a la carte, or basically just tell them anything at all in the world you want and they will make it happen. THIS is fine dining! Most of the options consisted of seafood of some sort, with scattered poultry options. Anyone who knows me knows I was squirming at this point wondering how I got myself involved in a seafood restaurant (yet again!) with my only escape being chicken or pork belly.
I hesitantly asked the waiter if they had any vegetarian options, to which he smiled wide, (it didn’t hurt that he had a very nice smile,) and said of course, we can do whatever you’d like. I can make you a 5 course tasting menu of all vegetarian options if you’d like? As compared to the nearby Themroc who’s concept is based on having one meal option per day, take it or leave it, this was a pleasant surprise.
I eagerly accepted his proposal and went for the vegetarian option. Sole chose the Foie Gras with Chicken Crisps and a Rhubarb Salad. Accompanied by a couple of glasses of Rose, we were set for the night.
Before our meal, our waiter brought out two small starters, or perhaps palette preparers is a better word. It was a combination of some type of cooked tomato, creamy cheese, seeds, and a dehydrated olive. It sounds so strange, but it was amazing, actually. Then follow that with a type of celery root drink that accompanied the dish, and your mouth was watering for the next stage.
We were also served a basket of delicious bread with homemade Rosemary and Fennel Butter. You could tell this is the kind of restaurant where people go and order their 6 courses for a 3+ hour dining experience. For our minimalistic 2 courses we managed a good 2.5 hours inside!
The next course came. Since I hadn’t specified any specific type of vegetable, my stomach’s happiness was completely in the hands of the two very capable (and very happy) chefs who were obviously having a blast in the open kitchen. Oh, did I forget to mention you can watch them as they cook up a storm? At one point we watched them deliver a dish with such enthusiasm to a table of 4 Germans, that we had to ask our waiter if they were food critics. No, it turns out the chefs were just so used to working in stressful Michelin Star Restaurants and so they were excited that they got to play around and make magic happen with food at the very small Bandol – so they had just made a dish that was very fun for them and couldn’t wait to see the reaction of the diners on the other end of it.
If they had been watching my face closely they would have also seen pure delight! They served me a dish of various preparations of eggplants, including diced with nuts, roasted and served with a type of light sour cream, hummus, and pomegranate, and gratinated with goat cheese. OMG – these people spoke my language!
Sole’s dish was equally artistic, and decorated with Rhubarb.
Between the delicious French wine, the happy chefs, the amazingly well thought out dishes, this was a tasting experience I won’t soon forget. And will actually seek out in the near future. I highly recommend you check out this place when in Berlin if you want a dining experience that will blow your taste buds away.