Newly opened, we got a preview of new Dunckerstrasse eaterie, Schneiderei.
Two weeks ago, I received a curious email inviting me to preview a restaurant. When I got there, the restaurant was a completely empty space save for a handful of small, candle-lit tables. I didn’t quite know what I was doing there until I recognised the face of the chef and owner, Liron Schneider.
His new eatery, Schneiderei, has now opened (and is hopefully fully furnished), and offers a weekly-changing 10-piece menu of higher-end dining (four starters, four mains and two desserts) served in a vibrant, artistic and music-filled surrounding.
I first met Liron at Bite Club. He had a stall selling grilled croissants stuffed with rare aged beef, rocket and Dijonnaise. They were fantastic – as was Liron’s energetic openness and smile. I remembered both, so when I saw Liron’s face again and noticed that rare aged beef was on the menu, I knew I’d come to the right place.
Although he’s worked in Michelin-starred restaurants, Liron has no aspirations to be gourmet: “Chefs are lucky enough to get the opportunity to nourish people. I often poke my head out of the kitchen just to check-in, to see people enjoying my food.”
He moved here two years ago, hoping to be a part of Berlin’s big culinary transformation. He missed out on Tel Aviv’s, and then London’s (where a long stint as an advertising cameraman sent him running back to cooking), and saw his chance to be at the head of something exciting in Berlin.
Now, in the last few years, many Tel Aviv chefs have made Berlin their home and one thing has become clear: whilst this new wave of restaurants (and I count Night Kitchen and GORDON Restaurant & Records amongst them) do not share similar menus or cooking styles, their ethoses have a lot in common. Consciously or otherwise, Schniederei fits this similar mould.
It’s about good food served casually, food that’s light enough to enable you to stay up late, satisfied, still able to laugh with your friends until the fourth or fifth cocktail. It’s a style of gastronomy where the food shares the same limelight as the sheer experience of being there. It’s about restaurants being bars, dining being partying.
“The kitchen closes at 11pm, and then it’s drinks and DJs”, Liron tells me. When I spoke to him, he was in the middle of developing a mean cocktail list to fuel the party.
There’s also a piano in the corner, which will be used to serenade the guests. The walls will double as a showcase for local artists and friends of his, with a monthly rotation of art.
The fact that Schneiderei is a restaurant is incidental; Liron is building a cultural night-spot that also sells great food.
Lit by candlelight alone, our dinner was romantic, sure – but terrible for photos. So I apologise in advance.
Our first course was yellowtail ceviche served on a ‘somun’ bread crouton, with goat’s milk yogurt, coriander, ‘sivri’ chilis, ‘tamar’ tomatoes, fresh oregano and mint.
More lobster roll than ceviche, the texture of the mild fish, wonderfully fresh, contrasted beautifully with the crunch of the bread. It was the interplay between the sour yogurt and the fresh herbs that left the greatest impression on this dish.
“I like letting ingredients speak. I don’t like over-complicating. I don’t use dried spices at all – just fresh herbs”.
What followed was a vegan dish of three wild mushrooms on a lima bean and fresh za’atar puree. The bean pure was fantastically homey and indulgent with an exotic hint from the za’atar. It marked what I saw as Liron’s greatest strength – later echoed in the potato mousseline – and that’s his ability to create solid base levels and themes to his dishes, upon which he builds with star ingredients.
A highlight of the meal was the 32-day aged beef filet, served with caramelized carrots, baby leeks, beef jus and, of course, that potato mousseline.
Israeli touches aside, Liron’s food leans toward the French cooking styles. But come off it, fancy words aside, this dish was a classic British roast beef dinner. It felt bizarre eating something so close to home, in a situation so far away – as part of a five-course taster menu.
After an evening in which I ate both beef filet and blue-fin tuna, it’s clear that Berlin’s food scene is changing. But something still tells me that Berliners aren’t yet ready for this.
Sure, we’re a different, richer demographic now, but do we have the mindsets to nibble on 24EUR small-plates whilst drinking cocktails with friends? Or would we rather stick to beer and hope the kneipe has erdnussflips? And if we were to splash out on an expensive evening, would we want it be casual or still insist on it being formal?
I couldn’t help thinking that Scheiderei’s menu would benefit from ditching the 32-day aged beef filet and replacing it with a cheaper, more flavourful cut. And instead of bluefin tuna, finding something more bountiful. If it lowered the price by 10EUR, it’d be worth it.
IF you are someone who spends a lot of money on food and cocktails and would like to buy me dinner, email me at [email protected].