It was Valentine’s Day. I felt the need to show myself some love and treat myself to two lunches. Ok that was an excuse. The real reason was because I would be at Kanstrasse, unofficially known as a Little Asia because of the many Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese eateries that entice hungry passers-by through their doors. I hardly ever have a reason to go to there but since Mr T needed a haircut there, off to Kanstrasse we went, romantic thoughts swirling through our brains – he, of how his new haircut would turn out, me, of all the delicious things that awaited us….one of them being this delicious stewed eisbein (pig’s leg) …
First stop and we (I) decide to try out a new place I’d read about on TheWednesdayChef, Heno Heno. The environment was everything that was promised. Tiny, warm, cosy and redolent of the smells of dashi, soy and miso, all simmering away in a broth, it made me feel like I’d stepped off a Berlin sidewalk into a Tokyo eatery. The simple interior with its three small tables and counter was also reminiscent of this.
Unfortunately, this got me all geared up for the food which did not taste as authentic as its environment. I had the Gyu-don (beef rice bowl) with a soft-boiled egg and some pickled vegetables on the side.
Ideally the slivers beef and onion are stewed in a mildly sweet gravy of soy, dashi and mirin; the meat is tender, the onions melt-in-your-mouth and the whole dish has sweet, beefy mouth feel. In this case, the beef was stringy and the little bit of gravy was not sweet (or salty) enough to give the rice much taste. Admittedly the perfectly cooked Dali-esque egg was good but even it couldn’t save the meal.
Also on the menu was also a vegetarian donburi (rice bowl), a Japanese curry donburi and the same toppings but with udon noodles. I didn’t get the chance to try them, and maybe one day I will but I’m not very inclined to at the moment.
But life’s too short to whine over bad food so we moved on – right across the road to Sakorn, a Thai imbiss which doles out all the flavours of Thailand with a smile.
The interior of this place is totally unpretentious. It doesn’t even have a menu. You either order from the pictures on the wall/counter, or pick from an assortment of meat and vegetables from the glass counter up front. It’s basic home-cooking with solid ‘down-home’ Thai flavours.
The things I particularly enjoyed, because I thought they were authentic, were:
The fish cakes: Juicy, deep-fried patties of fish and long-beans, flavoured with red chilli paste and fresh herbs and dipped into a spicy, sweet and sour sauce with cool cucumbers and crunchy peanuts. They came piping hot and when I bit into one, I felt like I was sitting at a road-side stall in hot and bustling Bangkok instead of cold and windy Berlin.
The stewed pork leg: Slow braised in soy sauce and five-spice powder, the meat is tender and the gelatinous skin even more so. The savoury gravy is offset really nicely by the sharp aroma of cilantro and the tang of preserved vegetables and the accompanying chilli vinegar dip. Highly recommended!
The tom yam soup was also good. Spicy, sour and fragrant with cilantro. One whiff brought Mr T straight back to the beach-front restaurant we loved in Hua Hin, Thailand.
What I wouldn’t have again was the Pad Thai, which was too sweet, and the Thai milk tea, which was good but not that good that I’d pay 3 euro for.
Looking back, the day was really something to smile about, though it was more of a grimace after eating two lunches.
Kantstrasse 105, 10627 Berlin
Open Mo – Sa: 11:00 – 20:00. Closed on Sun.
Kantstraße 65, 10627 Berlin
Open Mo – Sa: 12:00 – 22:00. Closed on Sun.