Saturday, December 10, 2011

Zypern: Rauch und Spiegel

Much to my amazement, I found a Cypriot restaurant in Berlin. Well, in the interest of full transparency, Pratirio is a Greek restaurant that offers Cypriot Mezze as one of their specialties. Pratirio isn't exactly der Griescher um die Ecke (a reference to the cheap restaurants opened by Greek immigrants during the post-World War II immigration boom). Located at Savigny Platz, it's as you would expect, a little upscale. There are white table clothes and once you've ordered, a very polite Greek (Cypriot?) waiter brings bread and olive paste. There's an actual wine list (with many Greek wines (they also offer Mythos, "the most famous Hellenic beer").

Of course we went for the Cypriot mezze. The mezze has to be ordered by at least two people and the menu states that it must be ordered in advance. When I made our reservation, however, the woman I spoke with said that was only necessary when they were really busy (we visited on a Friday night at 7 pm and the place was pretty full). The mezze are served in three courses. We started with spreads and salads: tzatziki and taramasalata, beet salad and gigante beans in a tomatoey sauce. The spreads were good, as was the beet salad, but the beans could have come out of a can. Our second round of mezze were all fish: green mussels, shrimp, octopus, little fried fish, and baby squid. Everything was pretty simple and some things were good (the squid in particular), but others not so much (the mussels and octopus were on the tough side). Finally, a meat and cheese course: halloumi, cheese croquettes, tiny lamb chops, ground meat patties with something like avjar, a tomato-based pork stew, little sausages (served, oddly with mustard). The cheese croquettes and the lamb chops were really good. Halloumi is halloumi and I can't get behind serving Greek sausages with mustard, even in Germany. To finish the meal, we were given a spoonful of Greek yogurt with honey and a choice of ouzo or espresso.

Overall, a few of the mezze were very good, but none were amazing and several were sub-par. Not a single dish was something I'd never had before. I can understand that the chef doesn't want to try to deprive his German clientele of their tzatziki (they love it so), but s/he might have included a few more unusual dishes. My main complaint, however, doesn't have so much to do with the food, but with the air quality: Pratirio has a large smoking section. It's in a separate room, but this room opens into the main dining room, making for a very smoky dining experience. That factor alone would keep me from going back. (I think Ousies (Greek, not Cypriot, but....) has better food for a few Euros less anyway.)

Knesebeckstrasse 122


When the Cuban security guard at work told me I could get real Cuban food at Veradero, I was pretty excited. I immediately developed a serious craving for a Cuban sandwich. "Can you get Cuban sandwiches there?" I asked. "Nobody eats those in Cuba anymore," he shot back. Thus dejected, I set out for Veradero. The place is cute enough with years of customer grafiti decorating the walls.

The mojito, I have to say, was quite decent. The food, however, was sort of meh. Nothing was bad, but nothing was anywhere approaching remarkable. We shared a corn tamale, which came with a large piece of roast chicken and a bit of salad. The tamale, despite not being of the Tucson-style to which I am very, very partial, was pretty good. The chicken was quite moist, but also quite flabby and covered in a sweet barbecue-kind-of sauce. Definitely reheated in the microwave. We also shared an order of moros y cristianos (black beans and rice) and an order of yuca. The beans and rice were a smidge better than those at Tierra Colombiana, but I've definitely had better. I was surprised that the yuca was boiled (or steamed?) and not fried. Luckily, it wasn't boiled to death (think gluey mashed potatoes), but cooked until tender and served with a mojo of sorts. It was better than it looked (possibly because I've eaten too much gluey boiled yuca in my day), but nothing to write home about. Overall, everything tasted sort of muted. Cuban food isn't known for extreme flavors, but it shouldn't be bland and boring either. Luckily (authentic or not) there's a Cuban sandwich in my not too distant future.

Vorbergstrasse 11