BERLIN — With economic storm clouds dominating the scene, March 2009 was clearly not the most auspicious time to open a new gourmet restaurant. Nor could one call Berlin the easiest breeding ground for a quality and regionally driven approach to creative cuisine.
Yet by November, the young Reinstoff team of chef Daniel Achilles, business manager Sabine Demel and sommelier Ivo Ebert — who met while working at Juan Amador’s three-star restaurant in Langen, Germany — could already celebrate the first Michelin star of their own. That same month, Achilles was named National Newcomer of the Year by Germany’s Gault Millau gourmet guide, Ebert’s exclusive German and Spanish wine list was cited for having the best Spanish wine selection and Reinstoff won Berlin’s 2010 Grenander Award for Gastronomy soon after.
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The restaurant is located in the former firehouse of the Edison Höfe, a late-19th-century brick complex in Mitte that was the birthplace of electronics giant AEG and its first electric lightbulbs. The ambience is stylish yet relaxed, the modern interior consciously subdued in a palette of grays spiced with wasabi and a golden Dijon.
“I’m not a person of loud tones,” says the 34-year-old Achilles, and this holds true for his experimental and avant-garde interpretations of culinary classics, both humble and grand.
In keeping with Reinstoff’s name, which roughly translates as pure materials, the kitchen makes use of organic, high-quality ingredients sourced as much as possible from neighboring regions.
Under the banner of “Stretching the Senses,” diners are offered a choice between “Quite Near” or “Far Away” menus that change every six to eight weeks. But whether near or far, all are first greeted with a foursome of tapas to “wake up the senses.” The current sampling includes a Senf-Ei, a middle-class German standby reconceived as a quail’s egg pickled in Dijon, lightly coated in a sugar Bautz’ner mustard caramel and served on green sauce, and a red beet macaroon that looks like it came straight out of Ladurée, but is instead slightly salty on the tongue and filled with a smoky blutwurst, or blood pudding cream.
The menu courses are meant to “pamper the senses.” Those opting to stay nearby might start with lettuce, marinated char and vinaigrette-granité and move on to the main course of a stewed veal shank (from the former Prussian province of Pomerania) paired with chervil, asparagus and walnut, to name but two of the six “Quite Near” course options.
For faraway fans, starters include Leipzig-born Achilles’ version of “Leizipiger Allerei,” a dish dating back to the Middle Ages, which features green and white asparagus tips, morels, peas, pea sprouts, kohlrabi, carrots and minced crisp cauliflower for an unexpected crunch, topped with crayfish from Iran, crayfish butter and an earthy sprinkling of freeze-dried, grated and dried hazelnuts and morels. Or there’s the popular goose liver squares set on a stroke of herb emulsion and surrounded with parsley brioche, herb mesclun, spruce sorbet and goat quark cheese coated with spruce ash and a sprinkling of frozen, grated goose liver. The main course melds Ibérico pork tenderloin, yellow turnip, seaweed, ginger and beer for a slightly Asian touch.
Each menu features a near or far dessert as well. Always experimenting, Achilles said he’s interested in balancing regional considerations and expressing his own style. Presentation is of prime importance, for from experience, he says, “I know what looks good also tastes good. For me, it’s a basic truism.”
10115 Berlin (Mitte)
Open: Tuesday-Saturday from 7 p.m.
“Leipziger Allerlei,” Leipzig Mixed Vegetables
4 large crayfish
Preparation: Boil crayfish for about three minutes, drain, rinse with cold water and shell. Make a stock with the shells, reserve a small amount and then prepare a light bisque with the rest.
1 lb. fresh peas, shelled and blanched
2 tsp. olive oil
Preparation: Peel the shallot, finely dice (cut in a brunoise), lightly sauté and deglaze with Noilly Prat and a bit of reserved crayfish stock. Puree the shallots together with the peas and 2 tsp. olive oil in a blender. Strain through a sieve and add salt and pepper to taste.
5 oz. ground almonds
1 tbsp. bio-quality beet juice
2 oz. butter
4 oz. dried morels
2 oz. dried pumpernickel bread
Preparation: Warm beet juice and butter in a pot. Pulverize morels and pumpernickel in a food processor; add the ground almonds, warm beet juice and butter, and then pulse to form a dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for about 24 hours. Using a fine grater, grate the frozen dough onto a baking sheet and dry in a 190-degree oven for about 5 hours. Store in an airtight container.
4 spears white asparagus
4 spears green asparagus
10 pea pods
1 small cauliflower
Preparation: Peel the asparagus, but only blanch the tips. Peel the carrot, and then, with a mandoline or slicing machine, make long razor-thin slices and curl into rings. Thinly slice the kohlrabi. Thoroughly clean and wash the morels. Shell the peas and blanch them. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the cauliflower and then blanch the resulting cauliflower crumbs.
Place some pea purée on a flat plate in the form of an elongated stroke and then evenly scatter the morel earth crumbs over the purée. Toss all the vegetables and pea shoots in a little vinaigrette, salt and pepper, and then alternately place them on the pea purée. Quickly sauté the morels in a pan with a little butter and then warm the shelled crayfish in the bisque. Finally, season the morels and crayfish with salt and pepper and place them, while still warm, on the “vegetable bed.” Froth the bisque and immediately spoon over the crayfish.