There is a widespread affiliation that if a restaurant serves Japanese cuisine, then it should have sushi in its menu. However, Zenkichi restaurant in Berlin is an exception, as they call themselves a Japanese brasserie – so, there is a focus on variety of Japanese dishes, which is often missed in other “Japanese” restaurants. Zenkichi experience starts at the very entrance to the place – it’s literally a bamboo maze, and every table is hidden in traditional, slightly lighted mini-rooms, with blinds which are put down by the waitress. In other words, I was quite sure that this is what you feel in this type of place in Japan – intimacy, tranquility, peace. This foreshadowed only the good, and indeed, my intuition was right.
The food, served like art, was unbelievably… I don’t how to describe this level of deliciousness. Their seasonal small plates, which are popular among Tokyoites, are recommended to share, while emphasis is put on Omakase (chef’s tasting menu) – it changes every season to showcase the best fish and vegetables available in the market. During my last visit to Zenkichi, I ordered three dishes – sashimi of fish of the day (salmon, scallop and yellow tail tuna), thinly sliced organic beef tataki served with soy sauce and the one and only hiyashi tsukimi udon – my favourite. This one is quite sophisticated, though – udon noodles in bonito dashi broth, with wakawe seaweed, a soft organic egg (!) and wasabi. Served chilled. Heaven, noting that I’m a number one fan of Japanese pasta!
Drinks are as important as food at Zenkichi, with its rich assortment of rice wine and Japanese whisky. The menu of sake is long, and Zenkichi specializes in junmai, so the pure-rice ones. The free-of-additives sake is initially served cold, however Zenkichi believes that the warmth of the drinker’s hands makes the taste “blossom”, like a cherry tree. Myth? Nope. I totally agree with them, after trying myself.
If you’re in Berlin, and you are obsessed with Japanese cuisine just like me (but want to try something more than sushi, though) – Zenkichi is the place for you. A must, if you ask me!
Johannisstraße 20 / Berlin