[Berlin, Germany] Roaring Burger Culture, Burgermeister vs Bird Restaurant

8 01 2014

I was in Berlin for the New Year and I gotta say that that’s a terrible time to be there as a foodie, mainly because:

  1. many restaurants close for the year end holidays.
  2. tourists flock to such capital cities for New Year celebrations and parties and increase demand for the already reduced supply of dining options
  3. restaurants take the opportunity to up their prices for New Year Menus

Luckily for me, I was there for a good 7 nights, so I could wait it out till New Year was over before indulging in the more extravagant restaurants but in the meantime, I found cheaper (but not necessarily less enjoyable) alternatives to tide me over. Thus, I embarked on an adventure to discover the best burgers in town. Unfortunately, it was short-lived as I soon developed a sore throat.

It’s clear that Berlin’s burger culture is alive and thriving. Within Tripadvisor’s top 20 most highly rated restaurants, two are actually burger joints, Burgermeister and Bird Restaurant, both of which will be the topic of discussion for today.

You know how the saying goes that the dirtier a food stall, the nicer the food from there tastes. The same can be said of Burgermeister. The eatery is located under train tracks with a grungy dark interior. Yet, you still see queues forming everyday of the week. I was here on a Monday evening and I still had to wait an hour just to get a simple burger and fries.

Queue from outside Burgermeister

Queue inside Burgermeister

The key draw about Burgermeister is the value aspect. An average burger here costs about 4 Euros and a bottle of beer a mere 1.50 Euros. Many claim that it serves the best burger in town but I choose to disagree. No doubt, the burgers here are very decent but something still seemed to be lacking, perhaps it was the over-greasiness that got to me, or the fact that the beef patty could have been more succulent.

Meisterburger (4.30 Euros)

Sides can also be ordered separately. The cheese fries here was of average quality, nothing to rave about.

Cheese Fries (2.20 Euros)

Burgermeister

Oberbaumstrasse 8, 10997 Berlin

Tel: +49 30 2388 3840

While not a direct competitor due to the price differential, I found the burgers at the Bird Restaurant far superior in quality and taste.

Bar seats at Bird Restaurant

I had the house burger called Da Birdhouse (11.50 Euros). It’s a double burger with bacon, grilled onions, ketchup, mustard, sour cucumber and if Google has translated it’s German description from the menu correctly, it’s also “bold enough to kill a donkey”. I’m 50% confident that that’s really what is written on the menu because the restaurant (and it’s menu) evidently attempts to portray a stance of anti-establishment, eg loose use of words and signs on the wall that writes stuff like “if it’s tourist season, why can’t we shoot them?”.

What I liked best about the burger is that it delivered exactly what was promised on the menu, a heaping 250g slab of beef patties which, to put in perspective, is more beef than the sum of 2 McDonald’s Quarter-pounders. As an added bonus, the restaurant also gives the choice of how cooked you want your meat to be. Personally, I’m a huge fan of caramelized onions and the generous use of it in this burger was also a treat. The chips on the side were also unbelievably tasty, one of the best I have had in fact.

Da Birdhouse (11.50 Euros)

There are only two ways to secure a seat here. First is of course, make a reservation! Second would be to arrive here before 5.30pm and hope that there are seats at the bar available for walk in customers. This joint is insanely popular so expect long waiting times of between 30mins to an hour for your burgers. There are days (which I experienced first-hand) where the restaurant even refused to take down takeaway orders due to the long list of orders from within the restaurant!

Bird Restaurant

Am Falkplatz 5, 10437 Berlin

Tel: +49 30 5105 3283





Food Republic Beer Garden – Need A Supper Place?

26 03 2012

*This meal was sponsored by Food Republic

Let’s take a short break from all the atas Restaurant Week meals and cover some hawker fare!

Surely you must have heard of the Makan Sutra Gluttons Bay @ Esplanade right? Well, Food Republic has done something very similar, bringing together a collection of famous hawkers under one retractable roof that they call Food Republic Beer Garden. Located just outside St James Power Station, it is a collaborated effort between the BreadTalk Group (who owns Food Republic) and St James Holdings, where Food Republic manages the food stalls while St James handles the alcoholic drinks Stall. Opening hours are from 6pm to 5am (opens till 6am on Fri-Sun), catering to the working crowd who want to place to grab a cheap beer over some hawker fare, tourists coming from a day out at Sentosa, hungry locals looking for supper and revelers who just want to have a snack or drink after a night of partying.

I was down for an invited tasting last week and that was actually my first time hearing of the place. After all, I’m more of a Zouk and Velvet person than a St James person.

Launched a year ago, the theme of the 400-seater open-air Food Republic Beer Garden likens that of a scene straight out of Singapore in the 60s, where you see pushcarts, truck stalls and kiosks selling all manner of Singapore-style hawker fare. There’s also live entertainment here, where a chinese band comes on stage and plays a few sets throughout the night.

There are quite a couple of decent stalls here but I will only be covering what I feel is worth coming back for. And I apologize that I’m going to be using some of their professional taken photos and I want to mention beforehand that they might not represent exactly what you might end up getting upon order.

The first on my list would definitely be the Kung Pao Frog Leg Porridge ($8/reg). The stall here is a branch from the famous Lorong 9 Geylang Frog Leg Porridge. This was so awesome that a week after the tasting, I headed down to Geylang to relive this wonderful memory and it was just as good! The congee was smooth, the frog leg tender with a winning kung pao sauce that complemented the congee well with a mix of savouriness and spiciness (chili padi was probably used in addition to the dried chili). I dare say this is one of the best Kung Pao Frogs you can get in Singapore.

Anyway the difference between porridge and congee has always troubled me so here’s what differentiates the two. Congee is a subset of porridge, and usually made using rice while porridge can be made using oats, cereals and grains.

My relationship with Tutu Kueh goes way back. I remember about 15 years ago, there was a NTUC opposite the former National Library at Marine Parade and within this NTUC, there was a stall selling Tutu Kueh and everytime I accompanied my mum for grocery shopping, we never failed to get some. It was one of my childhood guilty pleasures, alongside KFC and Muah Chee. Coming in flavours of peanut and coconut, I always had a hard time deciding what to get. Now that I’m older with more pocket money, the answer comes so much more easily, get both. Tutu Kueh stalls are quickly dying out in Singapore, so if you haven’t tried it before, do visit Chinatown Tan’s Tutu Kueh Kiosk, where your Tutu Kuehs ($0.60 each) are prepared a la minute.

Two other stalls that trail closely behind is the Bak Kut Teh and Hokkien Mee.

The Bak Kut Teh stall here is named Balestier Bak Kut Teh, but given that I have yet to try any of the numerous Bak Kut Teh shops at Balestier, I can’t testify if this is the real deal. Still, it’s hard to find fault with a Bak Kut Teh ($6.50) that has pork ribs whose meat falls off the bone. A clear peppery soup base is used for this Bak Kut Teh with just the right zing. Surprisingly however, the stall’s Pig Trotters ($6.50) doesn’t fare just as well. The trotters failed to absorb the flavours of the spices and the braising could have been executed better.

I asked Joy, our lovely PR correspondent for the night which was her favourite dish here and she pinpointed the Thye Chua Fried Hokkien Mee ($7). Served on an opeh leaf, the hokkien mee was a “wet version” with a very fragrant stock base, sure to appease one’s locally attuned tastebuds.

Last but not least, there is a Rojak stall called Aunty Jessie Rojak that serves pretty interesting Rojak renditions. Rojak means “mixed up” in Malay so who is to say what can or cannot be used as mixing ingredients? Their more conventional Black Rojak uses the usual Youtiao, Cucumbers, Peanuts and dark Prawn Paste Sauce, while in their White Rojak ($7), you get to see strawberries and a tangy Sour Plum Sauce is used instead. The Sour Plum Sauce tastes a little similar to the Lemon Lime Sauce you get at Aston’s, so while some might find the combo weird, I found it very appetizing as a meal starter.

On the whole, I find lots of potential in Food Republic Beer Garden. The standards here are definitely above the average hawker centre or food court, but just like Gluttons Bay @ Esplanade, hawker food here is priced at a slight premium given the impending inflow of tourist traffic and live entertainment. I choose to believe that I will return in the near future, for supper beckons.

Special Thanks to Food Republic for organizing this tasting session!

Food Republic Beer Garden

3 Sentosa Gateway, St James Power Station





Bedok North Blk 85 – My Hawker Haunt

30 09 2010

Hawker food in Singapore never fails to delight me. Prissy gourmets may scorn at the thought of dining at such “low class” and humble settings but I for one am truly appreciative of their existence. There are few countries apart from from Singapore that can boast about being able to offer so many different cuisines under one roof at such affordable prices.

One of Singapore’s famous supper places may be seen in Bedok North Block 85 which operates till 2am – 3am each day. Having ended my mid-terms today was akin lifting a heavy burden off my shoulders, now I could focus on things that truly mattered. So, I did a 10km run (super proud of myself!) which I had been procrastinating to do for so very long and organized supper between S, MZ and myself (where the running comes to nought).

No matter which Bak Chor Mee(BCM) stall you patronise within the premises of Blk 85, they share a similar style which is slightly different from the Singapore norm. Instead of fried Wantons, Liver and Slice Pork, Blk 85’s signature BCK is the soupy version with lots of meatballs and minced pork(with a high pork fat:pork meat ratio). Of course, the dry version is available but your order will definitely be sticking out like a sore thumb.

2nd item on the agenda was the BBQ Chicken Wings. I think there are 2 or 3 chicken wing stalls so I can’t remember the name of the one I usually order from (I only know they charge $1.10/wing) but it’s one of my favourite BBQ Chicken Wing Stalls in Singapore, trumping all the BBQ chicken wing stalls from East Coast Park’s food centre. The wings aren’t just crisp, there’s a light smokey flavour as well which I have taken a fancy to.

Another finalist in my self-promulgated list of top food pickings, this time in the congee category. I think the stall is named Chai Chee Congee (or Porridge). I did the usual order of Pork Congee (add Egg). I love the congee here because it’s really smooth and the pork (both the sliced pork and meatballs) is really tender. The egg is also necessary for that addition “oomph”.

Another of my favourite congee stalls (whose name I can’t recall) is also located around the vicinity at Bedok Central’s Food Centre (the hawker centre nearest to Bedok Interchange). They serve an excellent whole piece of piping hot You Tiao with their Congee.

There are quite a few stalls here selling Carrot Cake and Orh Lua (Oyster Omelette), all of which I don’t find that fantastic, merely passable in the annals of hawker rankings. My favourite Carrot Cake stall still has to be Golden City Carrot Cake in Kopitalk at the junction between Changi Road and Telok Kurau Road while my recommendations for Oyster Omelette (Hokkien Style) would be Beng Thin Hook Kee Restaurant on 65 Chulia Street, #05-02 OCBC Centre.

After spamming so much oleaginous health hazards, what better way than to wash it all down with a freshly squeezed cup of Sugarcane with Lemon Juice.

In face of work or study stress, a scrumptious supper that isn’t too harsh on the wallet simply does wonders!

Bon Appetit!





Ah Loy Thai – In the Running For Best Thai

6 09 2010

Last night’s dinner at Aroy Dee wasn’t able to quench MZ’s insatiable desire for good Thai food and thus begins the story of my 2nd Thai dinner in a span of 2 consecutive days. This time, it was on my recommendation to eat at Ah Loy Thai, a Thai eatery I have been dying to try after having read the countless reviews about it online.

Apparently, it has undergone some renovations recently which has resulted in a slight increment of the menu prices here but from the current prices listed on the menu, I wouldn’t have guessed that there was any increment, since everything was still incredibly cheap! As this was my first visit, I can’t really comment about the changes made during the renovations but the vibes I get from this place is that it’s a cafe with a high turnover, where the patrons are mostly employees from nearby offices who come for a quick, decent and affordable bite.

They don’t serve tap water, but it was fine with me since my default drink order when taking Thai food is the Thai Iced Tea($1.60) or calamansi juice anyway and there’s a rationale behind this and I have mentioned this before. The feeling of spiciness is caused by a chemical compound known as capsaisin. Casein, a compound found  in milk is able to bind to capsaisin on the tongue to reduce the burning irritation and the acidity from calamansi juice can also help in neutralizing capsaisin. Hope this info is helpful for people with a low threshold of spicy food!

I was impressed that when our request for ice water was denied, the manager of the establishment came over personally to apologize which I found really sincere and the gesture was much appreciated. It’s really very different from the snooty replies that I’m accustomed to get at places not serving tap water.

The Seafood Phad Thai($5.50) is what I would recommend from the Rice/Noodle category. The Phad Thai here is unique, with a taste that is a hybrid of a Fried Kuey Teow and Phad Thai which and it works marvelously! The Phad Thai was exceptionally fragrant because “hae bee” or dried shrimp is fried with the noodles. This is probably the one of the best, if not best Phad Thai I have eaten. Yum Yum!

While I did enjoy the Phad Thai the most, the Fried Glass Noodle($6) cannot be discredited either. Also fried with “hae bee”, it was equally fragrant with generous portions of seafood. Now that I think of it, maybe I preferred the Phad Thai because I started off with that first and I was super hungry.

The Pineapple Fried Rice($5.50) paled in comparison to the noodles dishes. It had chunks of chicken and seafood but the pineapple didn’t boast a distinct taste and it comes across as a bit too oily. One thing congruent about the rice and noodle dishes though is the really fresh seafood used! And I love the fresh creamy texture of just barely cooked squid. On a side note, I caught the musical Fried Rice Paradise @ the Esplanade yesterday. It’s pretty good!

The Fried Butter Calamari($6.50) here is super shioooook! The batter is light and remains crisp even till the end of the meal. The side of sliced mango is also great in toning down the rich butter sauce should it get a bit too “gelat”.

The Thai Mango Crispy Chicken($6.50) is more or less just fried chicken over some mango and maggi sauce. I probably wouldn’t order it again due to the other indulgences available on the menu.

Good food, excellent service attitudes and cheap prices, who could ask for more?

Bon Appetit!


AH LOY THAI

100 BEACH ROAD, #01-39/40 SHAW TOWER

TEL: +65 9165 1543





Aroy Dee

5 09 2010

J told me he had discovered a Thai eatery around the SMU area which served awesome Thai food at really cheap prices but he couldn’t recall the name of the place. So a list of possible eateries immediately popped into mind. Perhaps it was Yhingthai Palace, Bumbu Restaurant, Tom Yam Kungfu or Ah loy Thai? All of which were part of my supposedly comprehensive to-go list? To my surprise, it happened to be an eatery totally foreign to me – Aroy Dee at Bencoolen Street.

Aroy Dee’s menu is both comprehensive and cheap, with a range from poultry to seafood and really resembles an affordable zi char cafe. When I was here on a weekday night, the cafe was full so service was a bit sluggish.

Thai Tea($1.80) was a great way to cool down after the walk from SMU.

I didn’t feel that the Phad Thai($4 for Pork/$5 for Seafood) was deserving of J’s rave reviews, simply because it wasn’t tasty enough. Thai flavours are meant to be sharp and strong, but this was one mild tasting Phad Thai with a noodle texture which I found too dry and sticky. Thai Express does a better job. 1 good point I can say though is that they didn’t scrimp on the ingredients since I found 7 shrimps in my Phad Thai.

I’m not a fan of Tom Yam Goong($6) because I can’t really take much spicy food but this Tom Yam Soup was nothing noteworthy anyway.

Having been spoilt by the Green Curry I had at Nu Thai (Probably one of the Best Thai Restaurants in Adelaide), I found the Green Curry Chicken($6) here much too watery and the chicken meat too tough.

While the food here isn’t spectacular, at least it’s cheap right?

Bon Appetit!

AROY DEE

91 BENCOOLEN STREET, #01-12 SUNSHINE PLAZA

TEL: +65 6336 8852





Tony Cafe

6 04 2010

Cheap and good, that’s what most Singaporeans desire right? And that was the picture D painted to me about Tony Cafe, a hidden gem located within The Adelphi @ City Hall. I tried Googling it but to no avail and was slightly distraught that no one else could paint a clearer picture for me. I ended up making a trip down personally and am glad I did, for Monday Lunch to be exact where they served their supposedly famous Fried Chicken Rice Set(only served on Mon, Wed & Sat).

Tony Cafe is actually an economic rice eatery(which I only discovered there and then)…and I know posting about an unassuming economic rice stall is a far cry from the epicurean experience but it seemed pretty popular with the lunch crowd, with hordes of primarily working individuals thronging the shop with a queue that snaked till the corridors of Adelphi’s second level. So it had to be good right? (AND IT BETTER BE SINCE THE PEOPLE AROUND ME WERE PROB GIVING ME WEIRD STARES THINKING I NEVER EAT ECONOMIC RICE BEFORE AS I WHIPPED OUT MY CAMERA!)

Initially, I was a bit turned off by the endless queue, but with 4 of the staff tripling up as scoopers/packers/cashiers, the 20 odd people in front of me were able to buy, pay and collect their nosh within 10min record time. Most customers order take aways due to the limited seating capacity made worse by the staggering lunch crowd(my group went over to Funan’s foodcourt with our takeaways too).

Almost everyone else I saw there ordered the Fried Chicken Rice($3) and I followed suit, adding some curry veg and potatoes($0.50 per veg side) as sides to aid digestion future bowel movements(too much info there). The great thing about Tony Cafe is that they bothered to separate the fried chicken from the chicken rice to prevent it from getting soggy, a nice touch there. And it worked! By the time I reached Funan, my fried chicken(consisting of 2 wings) was still crispy and very palatable with my chicken rice warm and fragrant, something I wouldn’t expect from any other economic rice stall. Oh yea, they do provide the standard chicken rice chili too!

 

With the high turnover, the food was fresh(especially the chicken which came piping hot just out of the fryer), tasty and definitely value for money. 2 things still puzzle me though. Firstly why doesn’t Tony Cafe sell their Fried Chicken Rice everyday and secondly why isn’t Tony Cafe Googlable? I wonder…

Bon Appetit!

 

 

 

TONY CAFE

1 COLEMAN STREET, THE ADELPHI #02-23

TEL: +65 6336 7869





Meng Kitchen

4 04 2010

To the old non-foodie me at least, Bak Chor Mee was seen as uninspiring and tasting roughly the same everywhere (but that’s before I had the Bedok Blk 85 ones yummzz). It’s  just a meagre bowl of mince meat and noodles after all, isn’t it? However recently, several of my friends, all denizens of the Thomson area, swore in unison by Meng Kitchen’s Bak Chor Mee as the best BCM in Singapore. By their account, it is so good that paying visits to Meng Kitchen 2-3 times a week(which they do) is fully justified. This really piqued the foodie’s curiosity in me and thus a visit to Meng Kitchen was in the works.

From what I hear, the BCM here used to cost only $2.50 but in line with rising food costs, it is now priced at $3.50 though they now throw in a single prawn. What I find great about Meng Kitchen’s BCM is that they are generous with their ingredients(meatball, sliced pork, prawn, liver, mushroom and a heap of bak chor), the oodles of noodles are springy and nicely mixed with a dash of vinegar and chili. I would prefer the liver a little less cooked though(with that light pinkish tinge) and the Bak Chor a little more fatty though but that’s would be bordering on perfection. In any case, I was pretty contented with the BCM here. By the way, Meng Kitchen is open 24-hours which is great for night owls and hungry clubbers.

I did a light sampling of the other zi char style dishes served here but they were pretty forgettable in my humble opinion. The Braised Pig Trotters($5) was too tough and dry with a weak dilute soy base while the Deep Fried Dumplings($3) was rather mediore, what I used to get in my school canteen.

The BCM at Meng Kitchen is definitely more than decent (unlike the lacklustre side dishes) and I left the place a satisfied customer but it’s not great enough to leave me hankering for it with restless nights. Perhaps I should introduce my friends to Bedok Blk 85 or make them accompany me to Seng Kee Bak Chor Mee on Changi Road which I’m going to try out myself after hearing it’s also one of the best in Singapore.

Bon Appetit!

 

 

MENG KITCHEN

246B UPPER THOMSON ROAD, THOMSON GARDEN ESTATE








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