I had such a good dinner on Friday night.
Imagine: A pickle plate. Mussels. Brussels sprouts and bacon. Bread charred over an open flame. The perfect blood orange drizzled with honey.
A bunch of girlfriends and I were at Little Otik in Kreuzberg, the restaurant run by a former Diner cook who moved to Berlin a few years ago and ran a supper club called Palisaden before "going legit", as he called it, and opening a proper restaurant. The look and feel of the restaurant is a little Berlinisch and a little New York-y, with wooden plank floors, simple tables, and almost unadorned walls. There's a cozy bar at the front of the room, and a small menu and mismatched plates add to the charm of the place. In the spirit of the times, the menu includes a list of local farmers, purveyors and vendors from whom the cooks source their meat and produce.
The nice thing about going out to dinner with women is that you can order a bunch of appetizers and sides without anyone across the table looking at you cockeyed. I am powerless in the face of pickles, so I ordered the pickle plate (which was nothing special, the vegetables were a little dry), a side of hashed Brussels sprouts with homemade bacon and caraway (so punchy and powerfully flavored that they could give the colatura-slicked, chilli-speckled ones at Franny's a run for their money), and a pile of mussels in a spicy, thyme-flecked broth (oh, to have been alone in that room, free to delicately guzzle the gutsy broth from the plate).The mussels were perfect: impeccably fresh and well-cooked with nary a closed one among them. They came with a little tower of fire-charred country bread for dunking.
(I apologize for the photos, I had nothing but my cell phone and, honestly, I will never get over feeling deeply awkward about photographing food in restaurants. I kind of hate myself every time I do it.)
Someone else ordered the wines, a nice Sancerre and the truly wonderful Hensel Aufwind. And we tried every single one of the desserts on the menu: a sharp little slice of puckery lemon tart, a sticky toffee pudding that was too dry for my taste, wonderfully boozy prune-Armagnac ice cream, a good milk chocolate pot de creme and my personal favorite, a plate of perfectly juicy slices of blood oranges and a few delicious dates, all drizzled with honey. I could have eaten the whole thing.
What I loved about the food at Little Otik was that it was approachable, simple fare prepared so deftly and well that if I lived any closer, I'd eat there every week (for the Brussels sprouts and blood oranges alone - and next time I'm ordering the deviled eggs to start instead of the pickles). It's not 4-star dining, but that's not the restaurant's aim. Elevated home cooking is an art form and I'm thrilled that someone in Berlin is doing such a good job at it. I can't wait to go back.
(030) 503 62 301