DUDU, Pan Asian Food, Mitte

I’ve never hankered after one of those classic beige and brown Louis Vuitton totes, the ones that never go on sale and purportedly out of fashion. Not wanting a Louis Vuitton bag in Berlin is no biggie because obvious brand names (unless they’re vintage or second-hand, in which case they are ok) are avoided and ostentatious displays are in very bad taste, except in some parts of former West Berlin where girls in their twenties still wear pearl studs in their ears.  But from where I came, London, everyone wanted one.  No sooner had you scraped enough money together to buy the (cheaper) Marc by Marc Jacobs, an actual Marc Jacobs being the price of rent (although I do prefer the cheaper brand) then the season would change and it would be out with zips and in with something else.  (I don’t miss shopping for sport, or happiness, or whatever it was I was doing in London one little bit.  Although I admit that when I first moved here, it used to freak me out that the shops were - still are closed on Sundays.)All this to say, that even though I might deride those that have / want LVS bags I still love the guides.

Yes they do guide books, something you wouldn’t know unless you’ve braved the two behemoth security men that flank the door (if you have the chance, visit the gift shop at the Musee des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and browse at your leisure).  I discovered them quite by accident when I snuck into the Louis Vuitton Shop in Selfridges (much less scary to visit a concession).  I was intrigued, the European guide came as a box set only so I chose New York guide and it was like having a friend show me the city.  It wasn’t, as I had feared, filled with over priced, over hyped restaurants but with real jewels of the city.  Through LV New York I discovered Rice to Riches, a pickle shop (possibly this one), Shake Shack (oh I could so have a burger, curly fries and a frozen custard right now!).  It was a great trip, my husband was so impressed that I was such a local never noticing the thin chocolate box covered book I kept looking at.

In the LV Berlin Guide Dudu is listed, Transit and Kuchi aren’t.  I’ve been twice, both times for lunch.  I went for the set lunch each time.  First time I had a seaweed salad followed by a large sushi rice roll, filled with panko coated shrimp.  Second time, a soft rice paper roll and then again a large roll.  There are other things on the menu besides large rolls but I haven’t tried them yet since I can’t resist the €8 menu.  Going by those rolls, I imagine it’s all good.  Which considering their tiny kitchen (so tiny, that on one occasion I spotted veg prep being done in the hallway of the school above the restaurant) is impressive.

Don’t go by the picture on their homepage, in fact think the opposite.  As opposed to a blindingly white restaurant, you will be sitting in a cosy room, sharing communal tables and benches.  Service is very friendly.  In the summer everyone crowds into the small terrace in front of the restaurant, among the birdcages the potted plants and dark bamboo screens blocking out the traffic of Torstrasse.

Torstr. 134
10119 Mitte
T. 030 51736854

An Investigation into Berlin Guide Books

Guide books can be so useless in their recommendations.  People who write them must just use other guide books as references.  The authors are well - authors maybe some of them are even journalists.  I have moonlighted as a jorurnalist and been sent on press trips with “real” journalists enough to know that they are just like poor students.  Even when they are older, they will sleep on someone’s couch rather than shell out for a hotel.  I remember one journalist was scandalized when she realized I was leaving all the wine I had been given behind in Italy instead of somehow taking 6 bottles with me back to London.  How she proposed to do that herself, I am still not sure? 

There is of course absolutely nothing wrong in living your life waiting for freebies, but I can not use these people as a basis of taste or opinion.

I think the exception to the guidebook rule is the Louis Vuitton Guide.  Before you roll your eyes at my hoighty toighty recommendations, consider this.  Using their New York Guide, I found places like the burgers at Union Square, Magnolia Bakery, Green Papaya.  Fast food, street food, deli food and of course there are a smattering of Michelin stared places that cost the earth.  The guides are written by insiders of the city and what they share is their knowledge of charming insider places, it doesn’t have to cost the earth but it has to be unique and whatever it decided to do, it has to be the best at doing it. 

For Berlin, I would have to buy the whole box set for Europe.  Worse, Berlin doesn’t even get its own book, its shoved in with 4 other cities I can’t remember. 

My investigations of foodie Berlin started using the Lonely Planet (snore but it has youngish taste) and Something Guide to Living in Berlin.  Lonely planet had some good places, like Dolores Burrito Bar.  The Guide to Living in Berlin has a strange collection – places like Int’Veld Chocolate shop which seemed extremely promising until I had their salted pistachio chocolate bar.  Have they tried that bar?  The pistachios are so salty you can’t eat more than a square.  Its disgusting stuff!  The milk chocolate using goats milk doesn’t melt in your mouth but crumbles into oily pieces.  Their saving grace was the 80% chocolate, the gloss and snap on it, and their clever packaging.

The Exberliner magazine did a special on burger places which sent me to Tartan which I found downright peculiar, more on that later, suffice it to say, I decided they are not going to be my beacon of foodie discovery of Berlin.

A surprisingly good source was Miniloft Berlin (a short rental studio featured in the Louis Vuitton Guide).  They had some great recommendations including a great Vietnamese called Chi Sing. Although they also like Tartan – friends with the owner?

I still don’t have the Louis Vuitton guide or another guide I would trust but now I have discovered something infinetly better; Qype.  I search for a place to go to, using Qype members who appear to have the same discerning taste as I do.  Then I go, L in tow, we usually lunch or coffee or whatever we have decided to do.  Then I go back home and give it a score and put my opinion out there.  My only gripe about Qype is its not specifically food focused and there for there are some gaping holes in food areas.  Like for instance – the only listing for Thomas Keller’s Bouchon is for the one in Las Vegas (he has one in New York and Nappa Valley).  The French Laundry is not even mentioned!  www.chow.com seems to be quite serious – but then they are not very present in Europe, where I happened to be!  The New York Times has some great recommendations http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/europe/germany/berlin/overview.ht


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