In London, if I met someone I liked the look of, I would have to bump into them another 5 times before it was ok to suggest going out for a coffee together. And a further 2 (total of 7), before suggesting a meal. Everyone’s so busy and have such mad swirling social lives (don’t you know it?) that being enthusiastic is the kiss of death. (I believe these people sit at home on a Friday evening, with a microwave meal, watching bad TV.)
Berlin is nothing like that, thank goodness. It is so easy to make friends, make even the slightest effort and you are immediately included.
When I went to the Thyme Super Club (Have you been yet? No? Go). I sat next to a very interesting Chinese woman who works in advertising. I invited her along to the pop up diner ‘Pret a Diner‘ and after reading about my failures with Chinese restaurants in Berlin, she invited me out with her girlfriends to one of the 3 Chinese restaurants they regularly go to called Tian Fu (the other two being Peking Ente and Ming Dynastie across from the Chinese Embassy).
She explained to me that although she is from a part of China that does not eat spicy food, here in Berlin she prefers the Szechuan kitchen (known for its spicy food) because the ingredients are not as exciting or authentic as they would be back home.
I eagerly announced that I eat everything. Good thing too, because the first thing Gaoqun ordered was a cold salad of beef, tripe and peanuts (209). I know texture is a big thing in China, nothing is too weird, in fact, weird is good. But I had my reservations, and had recoiled at some of the things I had read about. But this tripe dish, it was a perfect marriage of textures, with the numbing effect ‘Ma La’ (numbing and spicy). The glass noodles with cloud ear mushrooms had a satisfying bite (212).
“How do you know about Ma La?” she asked me.
“Oh, food stuff sticks in my brain.” I replied. I can’t string together a coherent sentence in German yet but I probably have more cooking terminology and ingredients than the average guy on the street.
We ordered 4 mains to share. A dish of dry Szechuan beef (346). A swoon inducing dish of aubergine in soy sauce (405), if the Imam fainted when he ate Imam Bayildi, he would drop dead on the spot if he tried this one! Some pork belly (352) that tasted mouldy to me and which Gaoqun said was not very good that evening. And some seriously hot fried fish with salty fermented beans and bird’s-eye chili (151). She ordered a pot of rice for the table, to give our taste buds a chance to recuperate in between the spicy assaults. Normally I don’t drink beer but this food washed down with a glass of Tsingtao was very enjoyable (and helped to promote some healthy sleep later on that night).
It was such a treat to be included in this evening and have someone order for me. I probably would have never ordered those dishes, especially the tripe, but now I have the numbers clearly marked in my agenda. Along with some other recommendations to try next time (Halibut with spring onions, 329 and fried peppers, 403).
Gaoqun and her friends did point out that Tian Fu adds a lot of fillers (like peppers in the Szechuan style fried beef) to bulk up the dishes which in an ideal world, shouldn’t be there. Consistency is also an issue, but one that plagues all of Berlin.
Oh and she totally burst my bubble and presumably yours, when she informed me that there is no go good dim sum in Berlin. It just isn’t here yet.
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