You know those pervasive Berlin bakery sandwiches? The multi seeded brown bun with green lettuce poking out like a frilly petticoat? Which when you open, reveals a shriveled up slice of skin on cucumber, cut exaggeratedly on the bias. A slice of cheese, dark brown and curled in the corners with a pale imprint of the once moist cucumber on its belly. Salami, a slice so thin you could read your newspaper through it, glowing like it is lying in a fluorescent cabinet – except of course it’s not. One bite makes the inflated sandwich collapse into a chaos of sharp shard like crumbs; it seems to be all crust. I don’t do those sandwiches.
Sure, like all people new to the city, I was excited by the prospect of sandwich that did not come in a triangle, served at 4°C but after a few I declared the sandwich genre in Berlin bakeries ‘dead to me’.Which is a pain because it means I have no easy work free solution for lunch. It is a bore to make food for yourself twice a day. Especially when the little diva seems to subsist on a diet of white things and needs separate meals made up (and then more often than not, thrown out when they don’t meet her exasperating standards. Oh and what sounds like unguarded rage towards my offspring is more like an unabating amazement at the wool that Mommyhood can consistently pull over my eyes.) and then dishes need to be washed, dried and put away. At the same time, I don’t like things on bread, in between slices of bread. I like my sandwiches to be gourmet and that takes just as much work as a hot meal.Some days I debate whether it is a frivolous waste of time to get on the M1 tram to Nazuna in Prenzlauerberg so I can have a pitch perfect bento box. With the pram and the kid, convincing the kid that she needs sock and shoes – it’s all too much to contemplate especially when it means that it will be the only thing I do that day and I will come home once again to be confronted with “What in the world shall I make for dinner? For me? For her?”Smart Deli is nowhere near the caliber of Nazuna, you can tell after just one bite of their sesame spinach the sesame sauce is overpowering, the spinach cut thick. Still, it’s not a sandwich place; it’s not an Alpine joint, nor a ‘Vietnamese’ with sushi 50% off (they need to stop saying that like it’s a good thing), or a falafel place. It is a plausible place for lunch within a 10 minute walk from me. It strikes me as homemade style Japanese, the word homemade being used here to conjure up the foibles that home cooking can have. (Poking around on the internet for a bit, I’ve discovered that Smart Deli opened originally in Friedrichshain in 2002, they then closed down that site and moved to Mitte this April.)Smart Deli is also a good place to stock up on Japanese ingredients: black sesame ice cream, Dorayaki pancakes, vac packed udon noodle packets, tofu, even 1 portion size cans of Choya Umeshu.
One more thing. It’s pink in there, combined with the Japanese pop music – it’s what I imagine being inside Hello Kitty must be like.
Smart Deli sushi & more
T. 030 2068 7037
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 10-22