Ask me how hard it is to get a well-dressed salad at a restaurant - any restaurant, in any city - and I'll tell you: hard. Greens too wilted, dressing too thick, ratio of bitter to soft lettuces off-kilter, the danger of mealy tomatoes lurking at every turn: making a good, plain salad is hard work, as so often the simplest stuff is.
So when the starter salad at Chipps, tucked away on the corner of Jägerstrasse, in the shadow of the foreign ministry, turned out to be such a perfect little bowl of vinaigrette-speckled mesclun, with little cubes of cucumber strewn on top, and salted just so, I was rather pleased.
Unfortunately, it was about the only thing at lunch that was done well. My lunch plate, a tangle of insipid sauerkraut (even the stuff in bags at the supermarket has more character and bite than this did), a little pile of bland potato salad (sadly lacking in vinegar, salt and other channels of flavor) and a vegan sausage (actually, I won't complain about the sausage because it was entirely my fault to have ordered a vegan sausage) was just sort of sad. Sad because this is Berlin and it should be easy, dead easy, to serve both sauerkraut and potato salad that makes your mouth water, even if you are a trendy, charcoal-painted eatery with an open kitchen and good-looking waitstaff.
It made me wish I could send the cooks on an educational excursion to Rogacki, which makes the very best sauerkraut in this entire city and several different potato salads that are all addictively delicious and full of zip and flavor.
My lunch partner didn't even have the pleasure of a good little salad to start: her squash soup was redolent with the flavor of dehydrated bouillon granules and her main, a noodle dish, was sauced in the very same squash soup, only slightly reduced and thickened.
The restaurant's design is lovely - it has sort of that urban, rustic feel that feels comfortable yet special at the same time, daylight pours in from the wall of windows and the lighting is warm and inviting. But unless the handsome open kitchen starts producing food that befits both the prices being charged and the modern feel of the room, it's not worth a visit.
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