The team behind Sabzi excel at making much out of little. They’ve taken what should be a dark dinky basement space and turned it into a serene place, with abstract filigree wall paintings that mimic the overall shape of the sign outside. A girl with sleek hair, the colour of charcoal, thick eyelashes and similarly thick voice serves from the selections of 5 to 6 stew like dishes from food warmers. All for €4.50.You get a lot for €4.50 here. Normally I would argue in the vein of Linda Evangelista, who once famously said they (supermodels) don’t get out of bed in the morning for less than $10’000, that a cook wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning for a cut price lunch deal. The crew (skeleton though I am assuming it is) do. Hurrah for that! It saves Mitte from another uninspired offering of meatballs and mash or bratkartoffeln with (umm, with what? I never order these things). Or cut price sushi. Or some vaguely Vietnamese – Thai soup.
In a sea of spuds and pork, these guys are offering fluffy rice that smells like it’s been toasted with a few generous ladles of stew. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Although I always get the vegetarian option. For about 3 reasons: 500g a week is what is recommended to ward off certain cancers; the rearing of red meat is straining to the planet; I abhor generic meat, it’s tantamount to eating that weird mouldable cheese that comes packed in individual plastic sheets and calling that Keen’s Cheddar Cheese.
It’s no big sacrifice though. They celebrate legumes and pulses in the Middle East and the vegetable dishes at Sabzi never feel like a compromise. The other day, I got half a scoop of chickpea with legumes and the other of pulses with kale. A spoonful of the optional watery yogurt on top. They always ask “Yogurt”? And you say yes. It’s a thin yogurt, the kind that keeps its shape when you take a spoonful out and where that recess quickly fills in with milky water. That’s the right kind of yogurt to use. (I grew up putting yogurt on top of / next to everything, lasagna, pea stew, eggs – it’s probably the easiest way to spot an Arab; their need for yogurt.)
If you have a look on Qype, you will find one reviewer going on about their chicken with dried fruit and another about the mincemeat with pumpkin so I am fairly confident it’s all good.
Sabzi (standing room only)
(Only open for lunch, Monday to Friday from 11:30 to 15:00.)
Luisenstr 15, Berlin