A lot of good things have already been reported about Industry Standard, a recently opened restaurant in Neukölln. In May, this hip location was even awarded a nomination granted by the Berliner Master Chefs in the ‘Berlin’s Scene Restaurant 2015′ category, only a few weeks after its opening. So hats off! My anticipation and expectations are therefore appropriately high. On a hot summer afternoon I make plans to meet with the owner, Ramses Manneck, to have a relaxed chat with him about his restaurant before the doors open at 6pm.
For five months, Ramses and his team put all their energy into renovating the location on Sonnenallee and converting it from a run-down former hookah bar into a stylish space, we now no longer find only in Mitte, but on every street corner. Vintage furniture, a DIY wood look and feel, dark gray walls and black chalk boards, adorned with little chalk artworks next to the daily menu. That said, the open kitchen, in which you can peer directly from the street through the large shop window, is very special. “It was important for us to be able to prepare the food in front of our guests,” said Ramses. During the afternoon, the passersby – here on Berlin’s Las Vegas strip, where one casino follows another – can already watch their ravioli being stuffed for the evening.
At around 2pm, the eight Industry Standard crew members – from Wednesday to Friday always the same lineup – gather to run the show. The young employees (27-32 years old) come from lots of different countries: from Canada, Mexico, Finland, Norway, Germany, and Ireland, all the way to New Zealand, it’s all there. Ramses met his crew mostly through working at other restaurants. For a while he ran the Mexican restaurant, Santa Maria, where he met JP, Industry Standard’s main chef, known here as “the main man in the kitchen.”
JP describes his kitchen as, “a little French, a little Spanish, a little Portuguese, lots of ‘cheap cuts’ like organs and offal, everything from nose to tail – the whole beast!”
The whole beast is exactly what’s on the table here, something I experience for myself when I come back for dinner in the evening. I try the “Pickled Pork Tongue on Toast,” an experiment I don’t think I’ll repeat again. The meat is well cooked and relatively tender and the sauce that goes with it is also delicious, but you have to like the taste of tongue; so I keep it at one bite.
After that I order grey mullet with rhubarb and asparagus drowned in plenty of butter. The fish is a little over-fried and tastes slightly burnt, while the asparagus is almost raw, but still strangely good. The fried, sour rhubarb adds an interesting fruity side note, but I still wouldn’t order the dish again.
Despite repeated eye contact and obvious waiting, I wait 45 minutes, without anyone noticing or asking whether the order got lost, for dessert – strawberries with lime mascarpone, licorice balsamic and crumbles. After a reminder, the dessert arrives and turns out to be a disappointment. The otherwise delicious combination clearly got too much of the licorice balsamic – a few drops of the bitter, acidic vinegar would have definitely been a perfect finish for the sweet dessert; after all the combination of sweet, fruity, sour and tang is an excellent idea. But the excessive licorice balsamic leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth as I leave the restaurant. And yet the evening starts off absolutely deliciously with Mexican oysters for starters.
I sit at the bar with company and a direct view into the kitchen. We watch the dishes being prepared, while we talk to the very friendly employee who clearly works with a lot of joy and passion. The kitchen works like a well-trained football team. The kitchen team plays the ball elegantly through every step: from frying, boiling all the way to garnishes. Everyone has their own range of tasks and it’s fascinating to watch how the dishes pass through different hands and stations as they get fuller, until they go over the counter, perfectly prepared, and are carried to the tables.
The guests are quite mixed and to Ramses’ surprise there are lots of German guests. As the Mexican explains, ‘expat restaurants’ are usually full of expats. Everyone from an older Wilmersdorf couple to young hipsters from London are here, as well as lots of foodies and restaurateurs. “This makes it possible for us to interact a lot with other cooks, even if we hardly go out ourselves.” Because when Ramses has time off, he prefers to stay on the couch, watch movies and order Chinese take-out. He adds, “Menu rotation is necessary to keep re-discovering the pleasures of food. That’s also why the menu at Industry Standard changes every thirty days.
Overall we had a nice evening in Industry Standard. The restaurant team is really friendly and creative and one can feel how much the crew loves the job. After eating I realized there’s an immense gap between their excellent ideas and what actually ends up on the plates. But maybe that is ok in the foodie-populated Berlin where people go to restaurants with their heads, more than with their taste buds and concepts seem to count more than taste.