You’ll hear GORDON before you see it – the easy sounds of relaxed disco, chilled house or down-tempo techno.
The music throws you off, because with the exposed brick and small tables, GORDON could be mistaken for a cosy-yet-refined bar – but serving alcohol and playing tunes is far from the primary concern here.
Nestled directly within the Schillerkiez, GORDON is an Israeli dining establishment serious about two things: food and music. They’ve somehow managed to combine both in a space that brings Middle East and West together in a spectacular fashion.
Part record label and part fine-dining establishment, GORDON is an experiment combining the culinary and musical arts.
The story starts back in Tel Aviv. Driven by their love of electronic music and the desire to create something truly unique, Nir Ivenizki and Doron Eisenberg founded the first Israeli-German record label, Legotek, in 2007. What began as a venture between two friends migrated internationally to Neukölln with both their label and restaurant aspirations.
In 2014 GORDON was born out of both passions. Their boutique record selection and turntables at the back of the restaurant reflect this, and you can browse through their catalogue of carefully curated techno and house vinyls while you wait for your order.
Which brings us to the food – and it’s worth speaking about. Not your typical hummus and falafel Middle Eastern fare, the chefs at GORDON have brought all of their recipes directly from home, and spun classic dishes into something new and exciting. Chef Nir informs me that the concept is about losing yourself in memories of home, and tasting the nostalgia of your mother’s cooking in each forkful.
Nir, who creates a new menu every three months, draws inspiration from not only Israeli cuisine, but also his Polish and Yemish background, and this strange confluence of East and West manifests itself in every dish.
Editor Andy and I were invited to sample these dishes, and we accepted with great enthusiasm – very aware of GORDON’s reputation for quality.
We started, predictability, with the starters.
They consisted of a motley of hummus, zhug – a hot sauce similar to chimichurri – labneh, tahini, pickles and roasted cauliflower dusted in turmeric. Served alongside a massive loaf of freshly-made sourdough bread, baked in a stone oven and finished with Za’atar – a mix of dried thyme, oregano, marjoram and other spices – the food arrived in an endless procession of ceramic plates and ramekins and was incredible in terms of its simplicity and freshness.
What was immediately noticeable was how flavourful yet balanced every dish was, especially when mixing unusual spices and ingredient combinations. All the tastes you would expect of fine Middle Eastern food were there, but no one overpowered the other. It was a hallmark which would come to define each subsequent dish.
GORDON has four mains on the menu – the sign of a confident chef who understands how to get the most out of their ingredients.
It’s the difference between a rifle and a blunderbuss, and showcases culinary skill and precision. Almost full from the starters alone, we sampled small portions of each main.
***Note: portion sizes pictured were only taster portions – we couldn’t handle the full-sized ones.***
The first was their take on sabich, a popular Israeli sandwich. Instead of tucked inside a pita, however, their sabich was a deconstructed tower of aubergine, potatoes, salad, tahini, hot sauce, fresh bread and, of course, more hummus. It’s the ultimate teller, and it disappeared as quickly as it arrived.
Next was GORDON’s unusual take on surf and turf – sea bass, green beans and black eyed peas served alongside a light almond sauce. A meeting between earth and water, the fish was beautifully cooked, with the skin perfectly crisp and the flesh tender. It complimented the beans, and the sauce was the ideal accompaniment in order to achieve the perfect balance of flavour and texture.
Next came the Jerusalem Mix. Traditionally a super meaty dish consisting of various offal including chicken hearts, spleens and livers, GORDON’s version is a light vegetarian option which replaced meat with topinambur – Jerusalem artichoke – roasted wild mushrooms, yoghurt and fennel.
The final main put meat back on the menu.
It consisted of beef shoulder, roasted and cooked slowly for four hours in a spice mixture based on the traditional Yemenite paste hilbe. The beef was tender enough to make you cry, and the spice was again perfectly balanced and wanting for nothing. Unsure of what flavours we were tasting, we’d ask Nir – and the flavour combinations would cross country borders and seemingly defy logic. But still work.
Each mouthful made me simply exhale and shake my head because, by this point, spoken words no longer accurately convey the flavour sensation of each mouthful.
We washed it all down with Israeli Sauvignon Blanc from the Barkan region. That sounds fancy, and I’m sure it was, but I’m a philistine when it comes to wine, and all I know was that it was dry, delicious and worked well with both the summer heat and the food on the table.
On top of that we tried a range of GORDON’s cocktails. It seems to be a Tel Aviv thing to mix drinks which balance unusual flavour profiles, but somehow they found a sweet spot in the middle in which seemingly unmixable ingredients were able to be knocked back with ease.
Fatigued and sure that no additional morsel of food could possibly fit inside either of our bodies, we were presented with a few bite-sized desserts, all of which took inspiration from Passover. One was a deconstructed cake with chocolate and pistachios and the other a cocoa-powdered bar made from dates. GORDON follows the modern trend of making desserts that aren’t that sweet. Satisfying without being saccharin – they almost felt healthy.
Beats whilst brunching.
What we never got around to sampling was the brunch that GORDON hosts on both Friday and Saturday.
It’s around 10 Euros and all you can eat. Since most of the food is meat-free, it’s great for your vegan friends too. And even if you’re not in it for the food, it’s almost certainly worth it to come by just for the music.
There are also rumours that when the restaurant closes for the evening and the shutters come down, you can sometimes find the staff tearing up the decks for an old-fashioned lock-in. Follow them on Facebook for more details.
Alongside other Israeli ventures such as Kanaan in Prenzlauer Berg and Night Kitchen in Mitte, it seems that fine food from the Levant is taking a firm hold in Berlin, and I couldn’t be more delighted. The food is fresh, the flavours are complex and the dishes are unique. In a city as diverse as Berlin, it seems almost a crime that it’s taken this long for things to finally become kosher.
GORDON Restaurant and Records