In addition to my New York restaurant reviews, I’d like to share with you my thoughts on random Eastern European restaurants I visit during my various trips. These posts may not always have the depth of my traditional reviews, so I won’t provide any ratings. I’m also unlikely to write about a place if it’s not noteworthy in some capacity.
DDR-Restaurant Domklause is located next to the DDR Museum in Berlin (to clarify the acronym: DDR = Deutsche Demokratische Republik. / GDR = German Democratic Republic). This also happens to be the former block of the infamous Palasthotel, the hard-currency-only, Stasi-filled hotel where Party dignitaries once received their distinguished foreign guests. As a matter of fact, the current restaurant recreates the hotel’s original recipes from the glorious days of communism, when ersatz meat was king.
The crowd seems divided between tourists and elderly, certainly nostalgic, East Germans. The very modern dining room is dominated by Ronald Paris’ “In Praise of Communism”, a massive mural that was recently salvaged from its previous home in the GDR Statistics Office:
The menu heavily features pork, sausages, eggs, pickles, potatoes, and cabbage. Several of the dishes, such as the ketwurst and the grilleta (GDR adaptations of the hot dog and hamburger, respectively) were developed by the Gastronomic Rationalization and Research Center, which may sound like a molecular gastronomy lab but seemed to have much more prosaic goals. Something called spiced meat, a spicy pork stew meant to replace veal ragout, reminds me of today’s spicy tuna and spicy salmon, the junk that passes for fish in cheap sushi joints. Of course, there’s currywurst, too.
Let’s start with a dish that will certainly surprise more than a few Westerners: pork tartare. We, the capitalist petit bourgeois, are told by our governments that eating under-cooked pork causes trichinosis and will result in certain horrible death. Eastern pigs, however, just like humans, are better than their Western counterparts, and free of imperialist propaganda. So superior are they than you can even eat their meat completely raw. Just like a traditional tartare, you have to mix the various ingredients on your plate yourself. The emphasis here is on pickled vegetables (gherkins, onions, carrots, red peppers), which go pretty well — I just wish I didn’t have to chop everything myself! The mixture is then spread on bread slices. But, truth be told, unless there’s a beef shortage where you live, raw ground pork isn’t worth trying.
The Kasseler, slices of cured and slightly smoked pork served with Sauerkraut and boiled potatoes, was supposedly Erich Honecker‘s favorite dish. It tasted rather good without providing much to write home about. This is your typical rustic German grub.
On the other hand, I doubt that the Jägerschnitzel, which translates as hunter’s schnitzel, was anybody’s favorite dish. The breaded protein is made of slices of a large and very plain pork and beef emulsion sausage. To complete the school cafeteria feel, it was served with fusilli and watery tomato sauce.
While this is only a small sample of the menu, you get the picture: food in Eastern Germany wasn’t all that good. However, a couple of ideas might be turned into something interesting. We’ll see…
The restaurant is affordable enough (count about 20 euro for 3 courses) that you might still want to pay them a visit, especially if you’re already going to the DDR Museum next door. Your admission ticket even gives you a discount on your meal. Oh, and don’t tell anyone, but if you decide to go to the restaurant before the museum, a door connecting the two gives you a chance to skip the ticket desk and save the 6 euro entrance fee — after all, shouldn’t a museum dedicated to communism be free?