Dienstag, 7. April 2015

Israeli lunch and unforgettable Pavlova at NENI

The 25 hours hotel bikini Berlin opened more than one year ago, and pleasant gossips about good food and interesting interior design reached my foodie ears, but although I am visiting the vicinity at least once the week, I did not dare to go further on from the hipsterish entrance. Till one day, when too tired after an early spring trip through Tierpark I went straight away, passed the Trabant in the lobby and went up to the 10th floor to NENI restaurant and its Monkey Bar. As usual, my spontaneous plans bring always the best results.
The elevator stopped directly to the 10th floor and for the beginning, made a tour of the Monkey Bar, with comfy sofas covered by colourful pillows outlined by mysterious lights in the corners. It is mid-day and the ambiance in the lounge is chilling, with some people eating from the plates resting on their knees, everything under the playful eyes of the monkeys on the metal plattered walls that reminds some old temples in Thailand.
Similarly with the design of the neighbouring Bikini concept stores, the ceiling is an intricated plumbing labyrinth, but the flower decorations, and the bric-a-brac of vintage objects exposed on the massive counter brings a note of irony and home feeling to the huge space. 
Colours and the natural light are dotting the massive wooden blocks. Cocktails parties are often held here, under the motto of Balagan, the Yiddish word for overwhelming chaos - a leaflet at the bar describes it as a 'sympathetic chaos'. As the hunger won over my interest for design and etymology, I promise to think more about it when I will for some cocktails. 
It is one sunny day, so I stay a couple of more minutes on the terrace, admiring the view over Ku'damm and the KaDeWe. As everywhere around, there is a lot of green which makes the stay even more enjoyable. In a way, it reminds me of the nice green rooftops of Tel Aviv, always ready to welcome unknown guests for the long summer parties. 
But it is time for real food now, otherwise the brain cannot think. Not as fast as I wish, because there is a long cue and I have to wait in line to be seated. As usual, since living in Europe I forgot how important a reservation can be for a successful lunch, but luckily, there are some places left for the spontaneous type of humans. 
After being seated, my order is taken even faster, by one of the many people running around as organized bees. Despite the full tables and the Babel of languages, everything goes rapidly and you feel like home. You can even have a look at the kitchen, where home-made recipes are prepared. It seems that the idea of the founder of NENI, the successful Haya Molcho that moved from Vienna to Berlin, to make the restaurant more than an eating place, but a place you feel like home, was successful. NENI stands as the acronyme of the names of her four sons: Nuriel, Elior, Nadiv and Ilan. 
The menu is not that long, but has so many dear recipe names to me that I don't hesitate a second before ordering: a lemonade, prepared according to the highest standards of the Tel Aviv restaurants (the kind that I am longing for for centuries in this city), cold, with mint leaves and balanced portions of sugar and lemon; sabich; and...some special sweet non-existent in Berlin till now whose name I will disclose later on. While waiting, some fresh olives covered in spices and olive oil make me dream about sea and the summer.
The place looks like a huge eatery, with a podium in the middle with more tables, under a coverage of green plants hanging from the ceiling. Tables are also set outside, where one can admire some fancy parts of West Berlin while eating. 
The pita is so fresh and moderately warm that I can spend hours eating only it. The sabich is prepared according to secret directions known only to those who are familiar with the Frishman beach restaurant. It combines a finely fried eggplant, roasted carefully in order to let the flesh fresh, plus some special hummus, spiced, and slow poached egg. Using the traditional recipe, it brings a new fresh taste, brought by the art of combining skillfully the spices. The local cuisine of NENI combines the family knowledge that has Israeli, Romanian and Spanish influences. Temping meals as chraime - a special recipe of Moroccan fish - babaganoush, 3-colour hummus (curry and red beet, besides the classical one) or the well-known shakshuka are encouraging me to make my foodie wish list for my next visits. There are also meat-based dishes and a variant of the popular Ruben sandwich.
The queen of my menu is called Pavlova. This is a fantastic sweet, whose memories are hunting me for years. In Berlin, every time I asked, I was received with suspicion, silence or surprise. Here, it is part of the menu and no one looked at me with big eyes when I ordered it. Wish I was able to have more and more portions. Made following a recipe of Haya Molcho, it combines the softness, sweetness, and freshness of the meringue with whipped cream but also some sour taste brought by the red sauce, and a very special note brough by the mint. Perfection for me!
Happy with my choices, I decided to leave in time, generous enough for letting other people too the chance to taste so many delicious foods. The prices are moderate to high, but in the case of my orders, it deserved every single Euro. 
With so many Israeli visiting and even moving to Berlin, it is about time to bring some changes to the local cuisine. NENI is a very good example that will feed my foodie dreams for a long time now.

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