Berlin is known for its temporary installations in out of the way places– boutiques, events, galleries, restaurants. When three top chefs combine forces under the catchy name of “Pret à diner” and present exotic sounding menues for just 35 days in the cavernous rooms of the old mint, I listened up. Sure enough, reservations were snapped up quickly. I was lucky to have won a reservation via the off-beat/up-beat news service of Sugarhigh, which often comes up with quirky news and things to do.
The “Alte Muenze” building exists since the 1700s in Berlin’s historic center and has last seen action when the first Euro coins were minted, up to 2005. Tonight, potted candles lit the way down dank stairs into a cold drafty corridor, past heavy, open armored doors (now gallery space for contemporary art) and into the converted bar-room, thankfully warm. A flute of Veuve Clicquot champagne cheered my mood immediately. Hip and hot Chef Bernhard Munding was presiding tonight. “Peanut drama in a rice paper roll” was a disappointing wrap – because no sauce – of fresh veggies and only drops of green curry and a shaving of pomelo. “Tofu scents betrayal behind a Shimeji’s ear” turned out to be a delicious miso-based soup with shimeji mushroom, coconut and Asian chickpea. For the main course I chose “The ox discovers a potato’s past” : two slices of tender ox shoulder, smoked potato mash (without any smokey-flavor) and sauteed radicchio. My vegetarian friend opted for the “root vegetables meditating in lemon”, which turned out to be just that. “The tangerine stays in the nutty jungle on a milky boat”, featuring panda nut ice cream (salty/murky taste and, incidentally, not a nut at all but the fruit of the Pandanus tree), tangerine compote and a very smooth panna cotta (better description than the menue’s ‘fried milk skin’), rounded out my menu.
Would I come back? Not necessarily for the food, maybe for the atmosphere. Fancy names cannot cover up a lack of substance.