Expectations are a funny thing. Honed over years of living to have the smallest margin of error possible. People rely on preconceived expectations to a greater or smaller degree, depending. I rely on them a lot, have become adept at gathering information and vetting the personalities who may have offered me the tip to come up with as accurate a picture as possible.Consequently, I am not often surprised. Or let’s put it this way, I am rarely positively surprised.
Caroline and Tobias of the Thyme Supper Club recommended Phoebe in Berlin’s. Their words “It’s something different. She’s a professional chef, not an enthusiastic amateur. She does French food and Chinese. The Chinese is special, not like any Chinese food we’ve ever eaten before.”It wasn’t.
It took a couple of months, a flurry of emails and one cancellation for enough people to be interested to make the Chinese themed evening viable. Good things are worth waiting for and the shifting date meant that I didn’t go into overdrive imagining what it must be like. In fact when the email finally came: “Hallo! Happy to see you! Tomorrow night 7:30” it caught me totally off guard, I didn’t even know if my husband was in town to watch Layla.We were asked to leave our boots at the door and invited to help ourselves to a pair of slippers from an overflowing wicker basket (love that, stealing that! I too make people take off their shoes but I don’t provide any slippers).Phoebe is from Taiwan, where she ran a successful French restaurant (Louis XIV) for over 10 years. Her apartment is large, bright and Ikea free with plenty of unfamiliar decorative pieces that give the place an Asian flair. Not Asian like you or I could achieve, trawling the shops around here, more like bits and pieces you might find in a Mandarin Oriental in Taiwan.Phoebe struts decisively in knee-high black boots with waist length hair and an awesome air of authority. I have an odd thought, primal in nature: ‘if we went into battle, I would follow Phoebe’ – which is weird really, because normally I would expect people to follow me into battle. All these thoughts tumble into my consciousness in the hallway, in a matter of seconds.Phoebe has already left us to speak to the journalist that is doing a piece on her supper club for a Norwegian publication. She is showing them ingredients that will feature in tonight’s meal. She speaks quickly, gesturing a lot, often hard to understand. Even though I am speaking to other guests, I catch snippets of what she is saying “this is like lychee, we dry it…this is a special pepper…good for skin, gets rid of water.”I had been expecting a nice Chinese meal but this sounds medicinal, mystical.
When the rest of the guests arrive, we are invited to start with the canapés. Peeled tomatoes in vinegar, to get the appetite going we are told. Deep fried green olives in a Parmesan and wasabi crust. Ricotta and soy panna cotta with a sprinkling of cracked pepper in a pool of vivid grassy olive oil. Read more of this post