Otto — Berlin, Germany
Berlin has become quite a culinary hub of late: the steady influx of cosmopolitan ‘new Berliners’ to the city has brought with it a broad spectrum of chefs, cuisines and discerning foodies. The young owner and chef of Otto in Prenzlauer Berg is, however, a born Berliner who has travelled the world honing his skills at establishments including Maaemo in Oslo, Lisbon’s Loco, and Noma in Mexico, and bringing them back to his home city to combine with seasonal organic products and wild plants and fruits, all from within close proximity to his test kitchen in nearby northern Brandenburg.
Here Vadim Otto Ursus experiments with fermentation and other preservation techniques to create extraordinarily flavourful dishes. As the aim at Otto is to use everything – ‘zero waste’ – the restaurant’s signature dish of charcoal-grilled boned char and wild fresh herbs is, essentially, a fresh brook trout garnished in wild leaves and flowers and bathed in the intense umami delicacy of the house garum- a fermented fish condiment first favoured by the ancient Romans. The leftover fish bones and skin are later fermented to season future dishes.
The tiny 19-seat restaurant interior is sparse and functional: raw concrete walls, an open kitchen and simple wooden tables and chairs. No fuss. It’s all about the food- served on hand-thrown ceramics and flat natural stones. Other highlights include pheasant rillettes with sourdough bread, pickled gherkins, green tomatoes and mirabelles with raw milk butter as a starter and, for dessert, plum cake with black walnuts fried in boar fat with raw milk ice cream, pickled elderberries and plum seed oil. There is also an excellent wine list of predominantly natural wines selected by Otto’s young Australian manager Cate Gowers.
Otto is open from Friday to Monday so that ‘me and my staff have a life,’ says Vadim and so other colleagues have somewhere to eat on Mondays, when their kitchens tend to be closed. It’s a real pleasure to see principles of eating better to be applied to working better, in what is a notoriously high-stress, burnout profession.§