November 10, 2012

Berlin, Day 7, Part I: KaDeWe, Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap, and Konditorei Buchwald

For an overview of my trip to Berlin that took place from April 5 to 12, check out this introductory post. All German translations I've presented are done with Google Translate; if I've written anything that's wrong, please let me know. I AM ALMOST DONE WITH WRITING ABOUT THIS VACATION, I SWEAR.

Line Baumkuchenscheibe Currywurst and fries with mayo DDR Toy Museum Fassbender and Rausch The Reichstag
Some snapshots from the day.

And on the seventh day, Robyn tried to do all the things, which ended up being impossible, but she made sure to eat doner kebap and some cake and some schnitzel.

The problem with not planning aggressively for a vacation is that on the night before your last full day you might realize, "Crap, I still haven't done these 20 other things I wanted to do." And thus you spend that night figuring out how to smush all of those things into one day, basically writing the plan you should've written before your vacation began. You figure out how many minutes it takes to get from one place to the other, and you write out the subway stations (along with termini and transfers) and addresses of every place you're going to, and you make a schedule that you'll inevitably be unable to stick to. But it's mostly successful.

First stop: KaDeWe.

KaDeWe

KaDeWe
KaDeWe. You can't miss it. It's huge.

I'm not much of a shopper, but I love department stores—as long as the department store has a bitching food hall. What am I going to do with non-edible things? Eat them? What's the point? What has non-edible ever done for me? Case closed.

And that's why I, alone with most other people who like to eat food, put KaDeWe on my "must visit" list. The 105-year-old luxury department store KaDeWe—short for Kaufhaus des Westens, "Department Store of the West"—is Europe's second largest department store (after Harrod's in London) and boasts 645,000 square feet of stuff you can buy. Out of its eight floors, the top two floors are dedicated to food, although the seventh floor is really where it's at (the eight is a 1,000-seat wintergarden). Here's where you'll find grocery items from all over the world, fresh produce, meats, and fish, wine, cheese, tea, baked goods, baking mixes, candy, chocolate, snacks, jams, pastas, soups, prepared food stands, and more and more and more.

I wasn't planning to buy anything; I was mostly interested in seeing what a luxury department store stocks to represent food from around the world, like curating a museum of modern food. What products would make the cut?

THIS IS AMERICA When you need Snapple, you need Snapple
AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL.

Pop-Tarts! Swiss Miss! Fluff! Marshmallows! Jolly Time! Snapple! Peanut butter! THIS IS (THE UNITED STATES OF) AMERICA, FOLKS.

Yup, I love seeing what American products trickle into other countries, how America is defined in a limited amount of shelf space. I don't have anything analytical to say about the subject, but I'm sure someone has already written that research paper. "Fluff, Pop-Tarts, and Peanut Butter: How American Processed Food Products Define the American Identity Outside the USA."

Candy section
Chocolate! So much of it!
Candy section
Candy! So much of it!
Tea Tea
Tea! So...much of it...
Matzo
And for some reason I took a photo of the matzoh section.
Food floor
A few of the food counters.
Food floor
Shelves by the escalators.
Fancy-pants first floor
Fancy-pants ground floor: You do nothing for me.

I didn't take many photos in the store, although on retrospect I wish I had. I could've taken an extra hundred photos with no problem. But since I only gave us less than half an hour to browse the store—hours would've been more appropriate—it's probably a good thing I speed-browsed.

DoubleEye

Double Eye Chocolate croissant
DoubleEye

Before heading to lunch, we stopped by DoubleEye, a highly rated coffee shop recommended by one of Diana's friends. This stop was just for Kåre; being the uncultured, uncaffeinated heathen that I am, I don't drink coffee (or alcohol; I can't handle the flavor of pois—I mean, extreme bitterness). I waited outside as he grabbed a little cup of his most favorite brown liquid, along with a pain au chocolat.

And then it was time to revisit our old friend from two days prior...

Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap

Mustafa's

Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap, famous for being one of the best (or the best) places to get a doner kebab in Berlin. You evaded us once, but not again. The line, while ever-present, was much shorter than during our last attempt, and we only had to wait about 20 minutes to get our food.

Mustafa's
Mounds of vegetables, yessss.
Mustafa's
Shaving a rotating meat column with a knife the length of my arm, yessss.
ROTATING MEAT
Another view of the rotating meat, looking flayed on this side, but probably nicely browned on the other.
Mustafa's menu
A peek behind the counter.

Kåre and I ordered the same thing: the hähnchen döner mit gemüse (chicken doner with vegetables; €2.90, about $3.70). On retrospect, I made a dumb choice. I could've ordered the menu's grand total of three items for about $12—in addition to the chicken doner, a vegetarian version, and a chicken (or vegetarian) dürüm wrap. (Okay, this is actually four items, but I'd just go for the chicken dürüm.) Obviously, we should've ordered all three of them. Considering that I've been working at Serious Eats for five years, "order everything on the menu" should come naturally to me by now. My lapse into moderation disgusts me. And who knows when I'll be back in Berlin. I don't. :(

Doner
Twin doner!

If only I had known that my reaction to the sandwiches would go a little something like this:

forgifs.com
Animated gifs. Am I doing those now? I mean. This one is pretty damn good. Yeah.

And the source of such joy:

Doner Doner
More photos. Because you want them.

I should point out that that was my first time eating a doner kebab. I've eaten gyros before—which seem to be the closest popular thing we've got in the US—but rarely. As my introduction to the world of thinly sliced rotisserie meats stuffs into bread with other stuff, it was glorious. Someone who's eaten many a doner in their life may disagree, but that person isn't here right now, so deal.

Let's start with the bread—a thick flat bread, like a...fat pita. (I know that's a bad description. It's not quite a bun, nor the kind of pita I'm used to. It may be a kind of typical Turkish bread, but I'm not familiar enough with Turkish cuisine to know. Yeah, just look at the photo, that's easier.) A good toasting in a sandwich press results in an even, light crunch on the outside that contrasts nicely against its soft innards. Within the bread is a layer of chicken shavings, tender and crisp in some areas, piled with what would make for a memorably fresh salad on its own: lettuce, red cabbage, tomato, onion, carrot, roasted red pepper, some thick slices of fried potato (that had gone mushy by the time they met my mouth), and a crumbled feta-like cheese (or maybe it is feta, I'm not sure). The internet tells me it also gets a squeeze of lemon juice on top. There's some kind of sauce smeared into the bread and the chicken is spiced with something, but I don't remember much about either. I just remember the overall feeling of, "Damn, this is good. Yeah. Wait, I want this all the time. Wait, this is one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten. There's no way that all other doner are like this one."

Mustafa's
It's worth the wait.

Not having eaten other doner, I'm not the right person to make the following comparison. ...But I will. I left with the impression that Mustafa's role in Berlin's doner kebab-sphere is like Taim is to New York City's falafel pita sandwich-sphere. In a city with too many places to get falafel, Taim excels in pretty much every way with fresh ingredients, great recipes, top notch frying skills, and knowing how to construct a sandwich that's balanced in every way. Yeah, that's all. In a city similarly overrun with doner kebab, Mustafa's gave me the same vibe, the vibe that said, "We're exceptionally better than most of what you'll find in the rest of the city." Fresh, flavorful, well balanced ingredients, stuffed into some good bread. It sounds simple, but my sandwich-eating history tells me it's not.

So...that was the best thing I ate on my trip. Thank you to jc, Chungwan, and Clarisse for the recommendation!

Konditorei Buchwald

Cafe Buchwald
Konditorei Buchwald

With the savory out of the way, it was on to sweets. We met up with Diana at Konditorei Buchwald, a 160-year-old bakery and cafe famous for their Baumkuchen, literally named "tree cake" after the way its layers resemble the growth rings in a tree trunk. If cute, old timey bakeries charm your pants off, then get ready to lose those pants. Or just don't wear pants. (But wear an appropriate pants replacement. I'm really only saying this to Fart Sandwich, who is probably not reading this post. Or is he.)

Interior
Dining room.
Bakery case
BAKERY CASE, YAY.

Aside from Baumkuchen, they make streusel cakes, tarts, cheesecakes, chocolate cakes, mousse cakes, and more, all for very reasonable prices.

Himbeer-Sahnetorte
Himbeer-Sahnetorte

Diana's Himbeer-Sahnetorte (raspberry mousse cake; €2.80 to go/€3.30 to stay) was the most impressive. A tall layer of light, tart raspberry mousse on top of what I'm guessing is a sliver of chocolate cake, topped with a thick layer of whole raspberries suspended in gelatin. Diana liked it so much she tried to find a recipe for it when she got home.

Tarte Citron
Tarte Citron

Kåre's Tarte Citron (€2.80/€3.30) was also good. I don't remember much about it from the one bite I took, but I'm know Kåre enjoyed it since lemon is his favorite flavor for anything sweet.

Zimt-Apfeltorte
Zimt-Apfeltorte

And then there was my Zimt-Apfeltorte (cinnamon apple tart; €2.30/€2.70), a sort of double-crusted apple pie that was far more delicate than what I'm used to at home. Unfortunately, it ended up being the worst thing to get in my condition of perpetually swollen nasal passages. While Diana's and Kåre's desserts had punchy tartness to blow through my senses, the flavor of cinnamon is pretty nonexistent if you can't fully smell it, and the apple bits didn't carry much weight without the cinnamon. (If you're wondering how I tasted anything during the trip, I don't know. Some flavors definitely made their way to my brain.) There were also chopped peanuts in there, which added...crunch. I'm sure the tart would taste great to a person with competent olfactory organs. I just wasn't that person.

Baumkuchenscheibe
Baumkuchenscheibe

I did better with a slice of Baumkuchen (€2.50/€2.90). It's not a dessert that will stick with me forever, but it's a perfectly satisfying plain cake, with a good dose of butter and eggs. (...Now that I've written that out, I want one. Due to Baumkuchen's popularity in Japan, you can usually find packaged slices of Baumkuchen in Japanese supermarkets, and sometimes Chinese ones.)

Tea Cafe Buchwald Kåre and Diana
Tea and dessert; we should do this more often.
Baumkuchen
Don't forget to buy some Baumkuchen for the road, from a single slice to quintuple-layered. They come in chocolate-covered, too.

Many thanks to the anonymous reader for the recommendation! We all loved the bakery and could've spent hours there, but Diana had more plans, and Kåre and I had to go to second lunch. You know, the natural successor to first dessert. More of that coming up in Part II.

Addresses

KaDeWe
Tauentzienstraße 21, 10789 Berlin, Germany (map)
030 2121-0; kadewe.de

DoubleEye
Akazienstraße 22, 10823 Berlin, Germany (map)
0179 4566960; doubleeye.de

Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap
Mehringdamm 32, 10961 Berlin, Germany (map)
mustafas.de

Konditorei Buchwald
29 Bartningallee, 10557 Berlin, Germany (map)
030 3915931; konditorei-buchwald.de

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Posted by roboppy at 6:55 PM

Tags: berlin, diana, germany, kare, travel

Comments

AHHHHHHHHHHH I remember eating that doner kebab. SO GOOD. I miss that stand in Berlin. Also, it's pretty much a uniquely Berlin thing--doner didn't taste like that in Turkey (did I even eat doner in Turkey?). :P

Posted by: Sabrina at November 11, 2012 2:56 PM [#]

The Berlin doner is like the NY pizza - not quite like the original version "back home" but an inspired improvement born out of the necessity to improvise. In Istanbul the doner bread of choice is a fresh fluffy western style baguette, while Berlin Turks use a mass produced version of funky Anatolian bread. But I sense you need a trip to Istanbul. Pastries? Meat on a stick? Chewy ice cream? Yes, definitely. To Istanbul ASAP!

Posted by: Dumneazu at November 15, 2012 5:35 PM [#]

Sabrina: Yaay glad you also had an all-caps reaction! That's how it should be. Didn't know it was a uniquely Berlin thing. I should've eaten more of it. So...much...more...

Dumneazu: Oh my lord I do need a trip to Istanbul. Thanks for reminding me. :) Now I shall poke around your blog and read about Istanbul and wonder why I have yet to visit.

Posted by: roboppy at November 18, 2012 2:11 AM [#]

Boppyy...u made we wanting the baumkuchen. Thank God there's one store in Jakarta serving it.
Will try it this weekend.

Posted by: deassy at November 20, 2012 11:39 PM [#]

deassy: I hope you fulfilled your cake craving!

Posted by: roboppy at December 2, 2012 7:51 PM [#]

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previous entries

» 06/20/15: Bye, Taipei, and Thanks for the Despair Juice

» 11/17/14: Visiting Seoul from November 23 to 30

» 11/10/14: Thank You, Cafe Kuroshio, For Pulling Me Out of "I Don't Know How to Chinese" Dumpsville

» 08/27/14: How to Throw a Surprise Birthday Party (From Someone Who Has Been Surprised Too Many Times)

» 07/10/14: Everything I Ate During Istanbul Eats' Six-Hour Food Tour

» 06/07/14: Good-Bye, Serious Eats and NYC; Hello, Unemployment and Taipei!

» 05/19/14: Curry-Ya's Baked Curry Is a Most Beautiful Egg-Topped, Cheese-Crusted Thing

» 04/28/14: A Random Conversation About Hot Loose Apples

» 03/19/14: Taipei 2011, Day 5: Mussels, Fried Oysters, and Extreme Soft Serve in Danshui

» 03/09/14: Taipei 2011, Day 4: Keelung River Bikeway, TAS, Beef "Pie," and Din Tai Fung

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