UPDATE: CLOSED MAY 2013
Berlin bloggers are buzzing like frenetic bees over this little Kreuzburg eatery. (Don’t believe me? Scroll down to see everyone who has already written about it.)
So I asked my husband to ring up and reserve a table for a girlfriend and I.
“What is this place, they hardly speak German?”
“It’s these two guys from New York, that used to have a famous supper club and now they have a restaurant which is only opened 4 days a week.”
Upon setting foot in Little Otik, my first thought was “Irish gastropub by the sea.” Maybe it was the music that was playing (it sounded like Irish Folk) or the walls painted in teal and white or the Colcannon on the menu. When I asked Jeffrey Sfire what kind of food they specialized in, he said ‘Modern American’ adding that the Colcannon was on the menu because they have an Irish line cook. Mystery solved.
I was very excited by the prospect of homemade bacon that I spotted on the menu. It came with a small side salad and baked apples and cheese. In reality the bacon turned out to be rather strange, almost anchovy like and over cooked, the apples were filled with a tiny dollop of creamy blue cheese. I could see the logical thought process in the conception of the dish but it didn’t quite work on the plate. My friend’s starter on the other hand was more successful, thick chicken liver pate on crusty bread with a small huddle of cornichons and a spoonful of whole grain mustard. Understated and hearty.
The best dish of the evening was a ragu of wild boar with soft cooked polenta and pan-fried Ceps (€20). The boar came apart in strands with just a nudge from my spoon, the polenta was soft and creamy and the pan fried ceps were golden on the outside and fantastically meaty on the inside. The fried zander fillet with tartar sauce (€18) was also delicious bar the leeks.
Desserts were large, we had a sticky date cake with a treacly caramel and a bowl of homemade ice cream with Armagnac soaked prunes, both were fine.
I would say that, right now, the owners and their dreams are the main draw of the place. They are enthusiastic about their restaurant and their food. They say things like ‘I really like that or this, it’s so yummy’ and I totally believe them. It seems that they are trying to import into Berlin the idea of seasonal, traceable food. With an emphasis on quality ingredients, something that we take for granted coming from London, Barcelona or New York.
I think that the prices can come down by €2-€3 on the mains.
In the meantime, I champion Kevin Avery and Jeffrey Sfire and look forward to supporting their hopeful little eatery. I hope a by-product of more places like Little Otik opening up will be an education of people about ingredients and provenance. And that people will begin to wonder about the anonymous pork loin they are buying. Was this pig raised in Germany? Under what conditions? Does it has any distinctive flavor qualities? And hopefully soon they will demand better and maybe in a few years, I will find a stall at a market from a farmer that has meat from his 30 heritage breed pigs, full of flavor and with well distributed fat and yes, I will pay a premium for that.
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