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Cafe Pförtner To the back of the bus

The name of the game at Cafe Pförtner is understatement. Most of the seating is shabby or at least semi-outdoors (say on a rickety old school bus) and orders have to be lodged at a busy counter in front of the restaurant’s only visible menu. So far, so curious… Yet since opening in 2011, it has steadily grown into a word-of-mouth favorite with regulars that go from trendy to fogey and back again. Why you holler? Simply ’cos Cafe Pförtner is small on pretension, big on charm, and massive on home-cooked goodness.

Situated in a somewhat secluded red-brick building by the Uferstudios in ever-becoming Wedding, one of the bistro owners, Daniel, is from Germany and the other, Christian, hails from northern Italy—which explains why their dishes often have an Italian twist to them. Fine fish and fresh pasta usually grace the chalkboard but the offering changes daily, making every meal quite the carpe diem experience. Coming from a concert at Piano Salon Christophori next door? Undo one or two buttons on the collar and queue up; you’ve entered Pförtner’s doors.

Dae Mon Korean goes contemporary

After five years of calling the shots at Kimchi Princess, the time had come for Hyun Wanner to leave his beloved hibachi grills behind and strike it out alone with a more refined approach to Korean cuisine. Swapping the rowdy Kreuzberg digs for a quiet spot on Monbijouplatz, the whole experience has been distinctly Mitte-fied. That means sleek, minimal surroundings; waiters sporting the man bun undercut; and prices that would make a backpacker blush. Not to mention an obsessive attention to detail in every dish…

The ingredients are truly top notch, as are the playful combinations of flavors that arrive on slabs of natural gray slate. Paired with swords of asparagus and calamaretti rings, the Atlantic Halibut is melt-in-your-Mund fresh and a definite highlight. Likewise, their classic Black Angus bulgogi is not to be missed. Sweet tooths can finish in style with a blackened sesame panna cotta or the fiery ginger crème brûlée. Not afraid to experiment in their proud open kitchen, Dae Mon is a progressive new player on Berlin’s ever-burgeoning Korean food scene.

Le Bon And, behold, it was very good

Not content with being Queen of the local coffee scene (see: KaffeeBar), Johanna Schellenberger has now opened up Le Bon: a crackerjack of a restaurant in Graefekiez, the culinary likes of which this ‘hood hasn’t seen since Little Otik jumped ship back in 2013.

Split across two large rooms on a corner of Boppstraße—rough concrete floors, hefty wooden tables and the odd cactus or two—it’s beautifully understated, putting the emphasis firmly on the food where it belongs. The menu is equally pared-down with just a few options for each course—never a bad sign in our books. Generally the food is a tasty bastard of French and German cuisine; one dish changes every couple days meaning that the menu is totally new again in two weeks. Should the lamb couscous (heaven itself) ever reappear, it’d be a brave person who opted for anything else.

Le Bon is also open for breakfast and lunch, effortlessly raising the bar for Kreuzberg cafes in these domains too. Competition for the ante-meridian attention of the locals is high but given the popularity of their avocado eggs benedict, or better yet, the granola pancakes and chantilly cream, it just goes to show that the denizens of Graefekiez know a good brunch when they see one.

La Pecora Nera Black sheep, done good

Somewhere deep down inside, we all have an Italian mamma. And in this joyous make-believe world, she cooks exactly like they do at La Pecora Nera. This being Berlin, however, the chef sports tattoos and untamed whiskers, but trust us, this is the real deal.

Roberto Falcone comes from Veneto and serves straight-up classics from his native region to an insatiable Schillerkiez clientele. Think lush slabs of polenta grilled with put-a-fork-in-it salsiccia and tangy radicchio leaves; or long chewy tubes of bigoli pasta with a rich meaty duck sauce. The menu here is as tight as the aforementioned animal’s arse and doesn’t miss a step. Variety is provided by the daily specials which dance to a veggie-Tuesday, fish-Friday, roast-Sunday kind of rhythm – and there’s a traditional Venetian spritz happy hour every day from 6-8pm.

In the not so Siberian months, there’s also a wonky pavement overlooking a red-brick church on which to imbibe the aperitif or one of their exclusive northern Italian wines. All in all, for this sort of money, it doesn’t get much tastier, or cosier, in this city.

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