When I first arrived in Berlin in 2008, the restaurant landscape was somewhat bleak. Some of the best food was to be enjoyed with plastic forks at a neighbourhood imbiss, while the other end of the culinary scale was populated by soulless, high-ceilinged dining rooms serving almost exclusively Franco-German fare. And while the city was the forerunner of the wincingly cool restaurant-cum-club scene, you didn’t exactly go to those places to sit down and, well, eat.
Now, however, a plethora of young chefs from around the world is dragging the sluggish Berlin food scene up to speed. Take Thai chef Dalad Kambhu: she arrived in Germany less than three years ago, opened a restaurant (with the backing of Berlin restaurateur and art collector Stephen Landwehr) a year later, and was recently awarded a Michelin star. Kin Dee is the kind of restaurant you want to immediately rave to your friends about – not to smugly prove you were able to get a table, but because the food is simply spectacular.
The stylish Schöneberg spot serves a four-course menu of sharing plates (€48 per person), the type of take-a-spoonful-and-pass-it-on eating that Kambhu grew up with in Bangkok. “Thai food is all about sharing,” she told me on a recent visit. “You mix all the different flavours from the different dishes with the rice on your plate.” The self-taught chef also prides herself on combining tradition and innovation – an approach that’s demonstrated in the familiar-sounding starters, such as the spring and summer rolls, which are deconstructed to reveal either delicious buttery shitake mushrooms in oyster sauce or the utterly moreish slow-cooked beef with a chilli pep. The Kin Dee gin and tonic (€10) was the perfect accompaniment – light and fragrant with a hint of kaffir lime.
It turns out the juicy tendrils of octopus in a hot kaprao sauce were not only loved by me and my dinner guest; this dish is the perennial favourite of return diners and is now a fixture on the menu, which otherwise changes every few weeks. Every plate was a delight: a delicate, well-thought-out and exquisitely presented mix of old and new.