Having spent some time in Istanbul, I had been looking forward to trying Ergün’s Balikci, a veteran Turkish fish place in Moabit. I had heard that it was a bit of a hole-in-the-wall place, but was still surprised to see that it was actually more of a hole-under-the-S-Bahn-tracks, with hardly anything nearby. Going in, I was struck by the cluttered interior. I had expected no frills, but it was actually very frilly just in a strange way. First, I had to duck to avoid the hundreds of drawings and thank-you notes in various languages that hang suspended from the ceiling. The tables were full of them, too.
The place has been around since twenty years, which explains why there are so many of these notes. It was opened by Ergun, a former Fenerbahce football player. Although he has gathered a loyal Turkish following, the place still feels like a hidden gem. Couples, double-daters, and a trickle of Turkish men slowly filled the ten or so tables on Sunday night, and it didn’t look like anybody’s first time there. The four Turkish youth near us were smoking with their feast.
I focused my attention on the simple menu, which consists only of fish, salad, and some meze dishes. We started with the mixed salad made with pomegranates, walnuts, olives, fennel, tomatoes, cucumbers, dill and more. The salad was good, definitely better than the standard you’re used to in German restaurants, but it didn’t quite live up to some of the amazing salads I’ve had in Turkey.
We then ordered the stuffed grape leaves topped with dill, which I especially liked. It reminded me of one of my favorite fish dishes of all time: sea bass in grape leaves (again, in Istanbul).
Ergün’s offered sea bass as well, so we ordered that and a Dorada to share. The dish came served alongside a plate of lime wedges, toasted bread, and a plate of pickled peppers, cabbage, and carrots. The fish was simply prepared, but with a subtle sprinkling of paprika spices inside, and grilled to a crispy silver-skinned perfection. The waiter (from Antalya, and intent on showing me his hometown on a map) told me that they receive deliveries daily, and it did taste very fresh.
I did not have enough time to try the pistachio helva, or stay until 10pm, when live music often takes the floor (which is common in Turkish drinking restaurants called meyhane). But I was happy with my meal. The environment made for a relaxing dinner, and the food was satisfying. Although it lacked more elaborate dishes, the grilled fish tasted honest. I recommend Ergün’s for a straight-forward fish fix in an unusual interior, with gracious service.