Schnitzel, sauerkraut and spaetzle might be the fare that traditionally springs to mind when it comes to German cuisine (or in artist Tobias Rehberger’s case, his grandmother’s pork dumplings), but a breezy addition to Berlin’s restaurant scene is set to reveals a different side to Oma’s cooking. Opened this summer, Panama brings new German cuisine to the fore, elevating hearty, rustic classics with contemporary techniques, seasonal produce and exotic spices.
Led by Berlin-born Sophia Rudolph – her culinary CV includes stints at various Michelin-starred restaurants in Germany and France – Panama is the young chef’s first time at the helm. The restaurant’s airy interiors, developed by architects Nora Witzigmann and Karo Butzert, provide the fresh but unassuming backdrop to Rudolph’s wayfaring menu.
It’s here that the journey begins, for the restaurant is named after a children’s book about a globetrotting pair of animals (German illustrator and author Janosch's Oh wie schön ist Panama). Rudolph has plucked inspiration from every corner of the globe for Panama’s menu, deftly melding them with typically German ingredients, all locally sourced.
‘Germany today is a country with a variety of influences and cultures from everywhere,’ says Rudolph. ‘Berlin especially is a city with a major multicultural background, which we embrace and incorporate in our culinary concept.’ To wit, fennel kimchi is married with blue cheese in one dish, while the dessert offerings include bib lettuce, passion fruit, dark chocolate and coriander.
Elsewhere, the beloved potato gets its own tribute, roasted over embers in the restaurant’s wood barbecue and served with salted herring and Iberico ham. Muesli, a German breakfast staple, is reimagined as a savoury dish with fermented radishes, smoked nuts and Goji berries.
‘At the same time we don't have any limitation when it comes to seasoning inspired by different cultures, so these two elements represent the wish of travelling but staying at home at the same time,’ says Rudolph. ‘By using local products combined with flavours from all over the world we let people dream of an exotic wonderland but at the same time make them realise that being at home can be truly wonderful.’