Here is the thing, I hardly ever get sick. All winter long, everyone sniffles around me and I bustle around them making them tea . But two days ago, I caught a cold.
“You sick?” My husband enquired, smirking a little.
“No! It’s just a cold, it will be gone by tomorrow.” Ha! I was up all night that night and the next because I couldn’t breathe through my nose. If I did fall asleep, my exaggerated loud snoring would wake me up just as I began to drop off.
Yesterday I had a plan. I was going to annihilate this cold with a coup de force of spicy food. Ming Dynastie (specializing in Szechuan food) was the place to go according to numerous sources. We parked our car on Marburger strasse.
“There it is!” My husband pointed.
“No, that’s Ming’s Garden, the place we are looking for is called Ming Dynastie. I think it’s in that shopping mall.”
“Really? Because this place looks good. Look at all the Chinese people in there.”
And he was right, through the carved wooden partitions we could see a dozen large families, twirling lazy Susans, chopsticks swooping deftly in and out. We reluctantly left and went into the Europa Centre. I groaned audibly when I saw the sign for all you can eat buffet for €12.80. I am just not the target market for that kind of promotion. I am similarly not enticed by the multitude of 50% off sushi signs I see everywhere in the same way I wouldn’t be excited if I saw a dentist advertising ‘pay for one tooth extraction, get two free!’
Ming Dynastie has an open kitchen, separated from the dining room by a thick sheet of glass. The bubbling pots, woks filled with hot oil and kitchen weathered cooks inside reassured me that I might have a good meal. Conversely, the absence of chopsticks and my fellow dining companions (white, of a certain age and girth) worried me a bit.
I ordered a hot and sour soup, steamed prawn dim sum, stir fried seasonal greens, and spring rolls followed by a chicken dish for my husband. My heart sank when I tried my soup. It was sweet and salty and mildly hot. My nose stayed firmly blocked. I had a few dutiful spoon fulls and then pushed it away. The dim sum were water-logged and fell apart when I tried to pick them up. The waiter came by, concerned by the uneaten soup (Hooray! Staff that care!).
“It’s not hot!” I said.
He showed me the hot sauce jar on the table
“But that’s not hot! Don’t you have something hotter?” He hesitated and wrung his hands. “We’re from London, we can take it!” I urged him.
“Ok, I have something for you.” And he came back with a hot sauce so hot, that after dousing his food in it, my husband immediately succumbed to the hiccups (a sign that he is eating spicy food) and gulped down all the beverages on the table. And my sinuses cleared.
Then there was an amusing interval of 10 minutes where all the staff casually walked by our table to see if we were actually eating it.
Fantastic hot sauce. The food was fine, admittedly much improved with the addition of the special request hot sauce but not really memorable in any way. I did think the service was some of the best we had experienced in Berlin and the opposite of Chinese Restaurants in London where the service is usually a disaster.
I picked up the card for Ming Garden on the way back to the car and noted that while Ming Dynastie had a bucket-sized rock basin with a few small fish swimming around, Ming Garden had a large well-appointed tank with glorious fat fish and a picture of Angela Merkel smiling (or trying to smile) with a Chinese guy. So we might give that one a try next time or else try Ming D in the evening instead. Or I might bring along one of my friends from Hong Kong so they can pick out some winning dishes (because despite the questionable location in an ugly shopping mall, I think that kitchen can come up with the goods given the right customers.)
Daily: 12:00 – 24:00