George Vernon Hudson, I don’t like you. So it’s 1898 and things are a bit dim, you don’t get enough daylight hours after work to pursue your entomological pursuits, I get it. But why, pray tell, are we still doing this? This being ‘daylight-saving-time’. I’m no scientist but my instincts tell me that if the days are getting shorter in the winter anyhow, perhaps if we are going to be screwing around with time, we should be doing it the other way around so that we add an hour of sunshine rather than subtract one? I don’t know, just and idea.My other big gripe with the lack of light is the murky yellow photos I will now be posting on the website. Speaking restaurants, I would hazard a guess that a good 70% of Berlin establishments are closed for lunch opening only at 6:30 for dinner. Meaning my pictures look like they were taken by a cusk eel, which is a misleading name because it’s not an eel but a fish which has been spotted some 8,000 meters below sea level, get it? Really deep underwater hence the dark pictures?! (David Lebovitz wrote a great guide to blogging, in it he quoted F. Scott Fitzgerald who said “An exclamation point is like laughing at your own jokes.” Too late, silly is the fabric from which I was cut.).Back to the review. I’ve been to Sale e Tabacchi a few times, usually when friends suggest it as an eating spot. The only colour present in the front and back dining room is blue, the blue of the Sale e Tabacchi sign. There are no paintings, the large half orbed lights that line the walls and ceiling are so striking, I can’t imagine any art that would stand up to them. The waiters are all male, in floor length white aprons, they address everyone in Italian, and if you don’t order properly (Primo, Secondo and so on) they just hover over you, pen poised until you (I) succumb to the guilt and hastily add a dish.
For all that authenticity in decoration, waiter behavior and menu, I don’t like the food. I was trying to figure out why that is last week. As a table of 15, I had a good overview over what the dishes looked like (good) and everyone seemed to be enjoying them. I ordered 2 starters. Octopus with celery (€11.50), which was bland, the only highlight being the inspired addition of celery which I had never encountered before. Then I had the vitello tonnato (€10.50), which came straight from the fridge and whose puddle of tuna sauce was too reminiscent of something else. There were two slices of seedy lemon so mangled, they looked like they’d been fished out of a bin somewhere when the kitchen ran out of lemons (I’m sure that’s not the case but that was what the story their appearance told me).
I think the lemon slices surmise what I don’t like, the starch in the tablecloths belies an inelegance and a definite lack of flavour in the food (the vitello tonnato reminded me in taste and temperature of the tuna may sandwich from Pret A Manger in London). Hrabi had the tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce (€9.50), the pasta was overcooked (2nd time we’ve had this here) and the sauce still had the tang of the tinned tomatoes that had been used, it tasted like something I would make for Layla in a hurry.
It’s not like I can say this and then point you in the direction of an Italian restaurant I really like. Both my local Boccondivino and the fancy Francucci in Charlottenburg have served us aglio e olio (a plain pasta of garlic and olive oil) with burnt garlic. You can’t eat a dish if it has burnt garlic in it and you shouldn’t because the foulness of it will linger with you for the best part of the day. But the worst part? A chef knows when the garlic is burnt, the block down the street knows when the garlic has burnt because it stinks. Sending the dish out regardless sends out one message: “I don’t care.”
Italian food is an elusive category, up there with dim sum I would say.
Sale e Tabacchi
Mitte / Kreuzberg
T. 030 2521155