Smart Deli, Japanese Fast Food, Mitte

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
10115 Mitte
T. 030 2068 7037
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 10-22


15 Responses to Smart Deli, Japanese Fast Food, Mitte

  1. I wish I had a smart deli near my house! I so relate to the eating/cooking issues. Little Mr eclectic has his food ‘preferences’ too and spending half my day hovering over the kitchen sink is starting to grind. Anyway, this place looks fab!

  2. Luisa says:

    We need to open ‘Wichcraft here. I dream about their sandwiches…especially the chopped chickpeas with roasted peppers and parsley and the white anchovies with frisée, salsa verde and a poached egg… Sob!!

  3. Jess says:

    Oooh I see you’re reading Monocle - I love it!

  4. Giulia says:

    This is fate! You wouldn’t believe it but just yesterday I was complaining about Berlin “sandwiches” using exactly those words. Actually it isn’t that surprising since I complain about Berlin “sandwiches” (shame on them for co-opting that name) pretty much every day.

    I’ve wandered by this place a good ten times, intrigued by the adorably wacky window scene-did you ever find out who designed those little creatures. Thanks for going in for me and certifying it “edible.”

    By the way, more than one person has suggested I just go ahead and open the only decent New York-style deli in Berlin. Sandwiches with sliced meats and cheeses to go…only lettuce and tomato if you ask for it. I’m sure I’d make a fortune.

  5. ceciliag says:

    I am so with you on the cooking and doing dishes twice a day.. it is great to find somewhere good that is close! c

  6. arynfine says:

    Ha! That’s EXACTLY what my days are like - right down to my daughter’s absolute distaste for wearing shoes outdoors!

  7. This is by far the best thign you have ever written - the pale imrpint of the once moist cucumber on its belly - I am still not over it. You just took the words right our of my mouth so to speak. But you forgot one more thing that makes these sandwiches so bad - the 1 cm think layer of unevenly spread butter. A great slice of bread with a thick layer of good butter and a pinch of salt is really great, but the butter on these sandwiches - yuck. Whenever I am on the edge of starving and the only thing available is such kinds of sandwhiches I always eat one without opening it. It’s best not to have a look at the inwards…

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