Friday, 20 August 2010

Restaurant: Massai in Berlin (Prenzlauerberg)

There are restaurants that have a great kitchen but the service is not that good. There are restaurants which have excellent service but the food is not the best. And there is Massai,...but lets start from the beginning.

I was really looking forward to this one, as I have never eaten crocodile, python, zebra or any other "exotic" animal from Africa before.

Unfortunately two friends had to cancell just the day before and so we were only 4 this time. I wont complain, since I was escorted by three lovely ladies. Upon arrival, the restaurant was already full and they were sending people back home, who did not have a reservation. I did not want to be an ass, this time, and told the owner (an elderly man) that we are only 4 instead of 6 and he can give us another table or we share the table.

Thinking I did something nice I was looking forward to a fun evening. Boy, was I wrong...

The owner needed almost 5 minutes to find me in the reservation book, even though it was the first name up (I was standing half a meter away and could see it!), then he started talking to a waitress in their mothertongue and did not look very friendly - neither to me, nor to her.

It took them then another 10 minutes to finally find a table for us. I would not really consider it table one could or want to eat at, since it was way in the corner surrounded by three dark brown walls. We were literally leaning on the walls and it felt like sitting in some cave. Maybe...for a romantic dinner with your sweatheart it could be nice...NO, the walls were ugly, the space very limited and no "African flair" whatsoever...just a small, brown cave!

I asked them for another table (there was one - same size), but all the owner could say was: "No, this table is reserved!". After trying to explain to him that we reserved a table as well and I was just being nice by telling him that we are less than expected, he just looked at me with a glance that could mean : Who are you and what do you want from me...you can be lucky that you even got a table!

This was the first time I almost wanted to leave straight away.

So, we were sitting in the corner (nothing for claustrophobic people), and were trying to forget the bad start and rather try to have a great dinner. Since it was that dark that I had problems seeing who was in front of me, I asked for more light. There was only one lamp on the table, which was not very strong. It was actually screwed into the table. which led to more problems later on. I asked for more light, or at least some candles. 10 Minutes later we received one candle...I asked 2-3 more times for a second one, but we never got one...

None of us really experienced African food before, or at least, it has been a long time ago. So best to do in such a situation is to order mixed platters.We did this for the starters and the main dish.

First we received a complimentary soup. It was a millet soup cooked with vegetables and coconutmilk. It was nothing spectacular.

As a starter we ordered pastry shells (vegetarian and with mincemeat), sweet bananas and black-eyed beans (not the band...) in some sort of sauce. It was not much and it was cold. They actually do not offer platters, so we just ordered the three startes as one platter. Apparently we are the first ones to do this at Massai...they did not really understand what we wanted.

Now the fun started...We received an amuse gueule which considered of two thin carrot stripes and two thin raddish stripes. Thats it. If that is what they call "greetings from the kitchen", then the cook doesnt talk much.
So, we were 4 people and received three amuse gueule. First we thought she ll be back with the fourth one and waited. We waited for almost 10 minutes, until finally a waitress came and asked if everything is ok. I looked at her and asked her: We are four people and have three plates. what could be missing? I confused her, again...

Instead of coming back with the missing plate...she came back with the question: so what exactly is the problem? Excuse me!? I explained again and was already pissed off. Another waitress came and asked us what we ordered for main dish, since only the main dishes get amuse gueule. I mean, it is not that the raddish and the carrot are that spectacular that I really really wanted it, but it was a question of service and honour now. I explained her that we ordered three platters, which in fact consisted of three main dishes but for four people, since we all wanted to share!
She left, came back 5 minutes later with our receipt which stated exactly what I said. She tried to explain me again that only the main dishes get amuse gueule and since we ordered three main dishes we receive only three amuse gueule, that is how it works here. I told her that she should not start arguing with me and rather bring a plate, so we can finally eat. The plate came....we ate the carrot and the raddish...what a joke.

The main dish came on one big plate. The plate was so big, that it was not possible to have the smaller ones completely on the table (due to the lamp in the middle of the table). You had to eat carefully, otherwise you would have had the entire dish on your pants. The vegetarian platter consisted of different vegetables and potatoes...nothing special and it was not warm. The meat was, unfortunately they did not offer crocodile or python that night, zebra,kudu-antilope, ostrich and sprinbok. It came with some rice. The meat was cold as well. Except of the ostrich, the quality of the rest seemed rather bad.

In the end they even charged us more that it was and we did not really feel like sitting there one minute longer than we needed and left early.

To sum it up: Worst service I had in a very long time (Due Forni has an amazing service compared to Massai!) and I need to find a different restaurant in Berlin to satisfy my curiosity regarding crocodile and co.

Restaurant Massai
Berlin - Prenzlauerberg
Lychener Str. 12
10437 Berlin
Tel: +49 30 48625595
fax: +49 30 48625595
E-Mail: info@massai-berlin.de
Internet: www.massai-berlin.de

Here some more impressions:

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Ready for take off!

...who would have guessed that I can enjoy Red Bull without vodka?! Well, to be honest, I still did not drink any Red Bull this weekend, or the really akward tasting Red Bull Cola, but fell in love with their brand and Air Race competition!

I am an speed junkey, an no...I dont mean the drug, but speed in terms of really fast!
Formula 1, Speedboat...name it, I love it. So it is actually no wonder that I enjoyed very much the Red Bull Air Race spectactle at the Eurospeedway in Lausitz, Germany, this weekend.

I was an Air Race virgin and did not really know what to expect. Therefore I was extremely curious and excited. Boy was I pleasantly surprised!



Even though the weather was rather british and the qualifying had to be stopped after seven pilots and postponed to the day after, it was still a great day and I am an official Red Bull Air Race fan! I had the chance to see the whole track, see the planes, meet the pilots...too bad it was the last race for 2010 and I have to wait for next year to go again!

The circuit itself is not too big but nice. In case you go there, for any sort of race, make sure to get seats at the grand stand, its worth to pay some cent more....trust me.

The people were true fans. It seemed like we were the only ones not really knowing what the rules were or the "who is who" of the pilots. The Red Bull crew, respronsible for ticketing, information and co, were extremely nice and gave us extra tickets, so that we had access to (almost) all areas.



Here you can see the German pilot Matthias Dolderer with his first qualifying flight. He did very well...

video

Here some impressions of the race:



Listen to This!

Its nothing new that a rapper feels all of the sudden the urge to become a singer...and in most cases, it sounds really bad. Benjamin Paul "Ben" Drew, or better known these days as "Plan B" is one of these "used to be hardcore rappers - now softcore singers". But what makes the major difference is that Ben can actually sing...but listen for yourself:





There are certain families that are so full of talent that it makes everyone else puke...the Ranson´s are such a bunch...lucky for us they have all some mental issues and therefore some sort of flaw in that perfect cocktail of awesomness...but there is always a black sheep...Here it´s Mark. Enjoy...

Thursday, 5 August 2010

You wanna play?

Ah....dont we all miss those carefree days as kids, where all we could think of was to play, sleep and eat?
Those days dont have to be over...or at least can be revived with a fantastic game-night amongst friends!


We can play...we can, well not really sleep afterwards...and we can, well we wont be hungry either...but we can play and play and play,...just like a bunch of Duracell Bunnies in the 80s!

Ok. whos up first?

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Wheel of fortune

I sometimes wonder if there is such a thing as a bad decision. Well, ok, one should not kill someone or try to drown a goldfish, but as long as one does not really decide to do something, you will never know if the decision itself would have been a good one or a bad one. But lets just say we decided to do it, and it turns out bad, how should we know what it would have turned out if we would not have done it? Does a negative outcome of one decision automatically means that it would have turned out positive or better if we would have done it the other way?

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Listen to this!

Video killed the radio star? Not always...but these three for sure did!







Things I want!

There are plenty of things I want...for example the extremely cool spice rack by Dean&Deluca (www.deandeluca.com)...

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Restaurant: Le Cochon Bourgeois in Berlin (Kreuzberg)

There are many very good restaurants that offer delicious food and fine wines. These restaurants have a classy interior, a great pr and an overall high level quality. But what is the point of all that if the service sucks and you get the feeling that you are more of a parasite than a welcomed guest? For me the service is extremely important and I am very picky when it comes to that. I want to have the feeling that I am a very special guest but at the same time like an old friend. I want the staff to know what I want without me having to tell them. I want to have privacy but not be neglected. I dont need some waitress that tells me who she is and what she likes if I have not asked her.

As you can see I can be a difficult guest. ;-)

Nevertheless, I have been to restaurants that offered me the exact service that I wish and look for. Therefore I know that IT IS possible and can not except anything else anymore. And I don not care if the restaurant has a Michelin Star or is some beach bar in Costa Rica.
Service can save and destroy all the good work that comes out of the kitchen within a bite.



With the same expectations I went to Le Cochon Bourgeois on saturday. A French restaurant at the border between Berlin Kreuzberg and Neukölln. Not as hip as Mitte or Prenzlauerberg, but this area has culinary wise a wide selection of good places. Le Cochon Bourgeois is located on a quiet street and has a nice little terrace which seats around 20 people. The inside has space for another 40-50 people. The design is decent and the focus is on the food and service...and I am glad it is.

They offer menus. You can choose between a 3-course menu to a 5-course menu. The price ranges between 40€ and 60€ and there is an extra charge of 5€-12€ for certain dishes. Their wine list is quite long and offers only french wine. As an aperitiv some of us chose Kir Royal, Lillet Blanc or Spritz. And here comes a nice part...they did not know Spritz! Even though I am a fan of Spritz during summer and drink it quite often, I thought it was great that they did not care about current trends and sticked to classical French drinks for their menu. Nevertheless we explained the ingredients and everybody got a drink. As a wine I can recommend the Chablis from the Bourgogne for 33€ a bottle.

With enough to chose from for our glasses, we started the dinner. As a starter we had Oysters "Fin de Claire" with vinegraitte, a salad nicoise, sea scallops or a "Blutwurst". One word: perfect. After the starter we got a "little gift" from the kitchen with two different kind of Matjes to taste from and a self made potato chip.




As the main course we had entrecote, veal filet, brook trout or veal cheaks. The best part about it was that Regis (our waiter) brought a huge piece of entrecote and cut it into pieces right in front of us. And I am talking biiig pieces. Lucky me I was sitting next to two lovely ladies so that there was a bit left for me as well next to the trout I ordered. One word again: perfect.







The desert was the perfect ending of this culinary firework. We had creme brulee, peach with ice cream and iced champagne foam and a cherry tarte with mousse au chocolat.




I simply could not stop eating thats how good it was. Meanwhile we had almost every waiter (there were 4 in total) mostly taking care of our table, we knew their names and it was a very professional but also warm a friendly athmosphere. They always knew when to leave us alone or ask if we need something more. The small little misunderstandings with too many knives or to few glasses were quickly forgotten after an honest smile and appology. We really felt like we have been there a trillion times and not the first time.

As a digestive Regis brought us Marc de Bourgogne...which was really strong. Not bad, but a bit strong...he and Ann-Kristin, another one of our waitresses, did not mind and drank one with us! A couple espressos and a glas of water later, they introduced us to a new drink which he called the "atomic bomb", not because it was bright green (it was bright blue), but because it was tricky...50% vodka, some mint juice and a bit of water...you could not taste how strong it was, but it was really good (especially perfect if you had some garlic and still felt like kissing the night away...). I only wanted to have a small one to taste it, and I have not even finished it, when Regis came around the corner with a big smile and saying: "I knew you would like it", and gave me another "normal sized" one for free. A second round of the atomic bombs came and we felt like at home...later we saw that we did not have to pay for any of them.

Slowly everybody else left and we were the only guests left. Since that night it was their last night before holidays, they are all on a 2 week holiday now and the restaurant is closed for that time, they were all in an especially good mood. I was curious to see the kitchen and Benjamin Stöckel, the maitre de la cuisine and owner of the restaurant showed me around, explained that during holiday they are renovating the kitchen and we had an interesing and great chat about french cuisine, restaurants in berlin and their critics. He is born and bred in Berlin Kreuzberg and a very interesting and cool guy. A typical Kreuzberger with an affinity to french life and food.

After sitting with the staff at the bar, having another round of vine and getting to know them better, I realized that this is what good service is about: Perfection in detail with the right amount of coolness and friendlyness. If you feel more like a friend than just a guest, than they are doing something right. I will for sure go back soon and can only recommend everyone to try it yourself!

To sum it up: The food was excellent, the drinks very good and the service perfect for this kind of group and evening. The prices are high but worth every cent. It is not a place you can go for a quick bite, but rather as a group as we were or for a romantic dinner. They have even a piano player which plays all kinds of songs during dinner. Make sure to make a reservation and take either enough cash or your cash card since they do not accept credit cards.

Thank you to Franziska, Nicole, Benjamin, Sebastian and Paul for joining me and making it again a special evening!

Le Cochon Bourgeoise
Fichtestr. 24
10967 Berlin - Kreuzberg
Tel: 030 / 693 01 01
www.lecochon.de

Here some more impressions: