The dim light of a large chandelier. Warm golden and brown tones. High-backed, comfortable leather chairs. Distressed walls. And extravagant, inventive flavour combinations that manage to dazzle with their creativity, while completely satisfying with their balance. All of these elements come together at The Berlin restaurant in Kitchener, an amazing restaurant that's hidden off the beaten path in this sleepy Ontario town.
I don't often do restaurant reviews around here. Though I love the occasional travel restaurant round-up, it has to be a pretty special place to warrant a whole article on this little site of mine. Well, with just the right balance of grace, chic, ingenuity and risk-taking, The Berlin was a shoo-in.
A self-described "modern dining" restaurant that offers "clean eating with fresh, local ingredients," The Berlin restaurant can be brushed off as another farm-to-table, market-driven hipster restaurant. But with a commanding bad boy chef at its helm, knowledgeable staff that truly cares about the food they're serving, and access to the great, fresh produce and wines of Southern Ontario, The Berlin delivers a whole lot more than it promises.
A part of The Berlin's intrigue comes from the story of its chef, Jonathan Gushue. A rising star in the Canadian food scene, Gushue was kicking ass and taking names at the Cambridge, Ontario-based Langdon Hall. Until one day, in the midst of a busy dinner service, he just went AWOL. Not seen or heard from over the next two weeks, Gushue understandably parted ways with Langdon Hall and proceeded to stay out of the limelight for two years.
We arrived at The Berlin restaurant on a busy Thursday night before Easter weekend, and enjoyed a meal for the books. We started the evening off with some house-made cola and a beer, and a cocktail combining bourbon, house-made ginger beer and birch syrup. It was perfect in every way - including the heavy crystal glass it was served in (I'm a sucker for heavy crystal tumblers).
We then received a basket of the house cornbread and churned butter. To my surprise, the bread was entirely gluten-free, and completely delicious - I couldn't believe they made it in-house! We skipped the starters and proceeded straight to the main course: a vegetarian kale and squash dish for G's brother, lamb for G, and an incredible Atlantic sea bream for me. The textures here were completely spot-on: crunchy fried skin, perfectly cooked vegetables, and a creamy dressing. The flavours? Suffice to say I forced myself to eat slowly so that I could savour the dish longer.
I surprised myself by ordering a dessert to share for the table. And then, I surprised myself even further by loving the completely mad-scientist-like combination we received: Italian meringue with fennel sorbet and a local goat yogurt. The dish was light, lightly sweetened, herbaceous and incredibly complex - everything I want from a dessert.
In short, our experience at The Berlin restaurant in Kitchener was out of this world. I urge you to make the journey to this little town just for a spot at Chef Gushue's dinner table, and a sampling of the mad dishes he has cooking for you that day.
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