On a short visit to Berlin last summer, I fell in love with the darling of that city’s booming dining scene: Katz Orange.
“The Orange Cat” is a small bistro-like eatery with a big personality and a commitment to local organic ingredients and an eclectic style of cooking. Occupying two floors of a handsome brick 19th-century brewery, Katz Orange has a rustic charm and inviting ambiance that won me over the instant I stepped inside. (Actually, as soon as I stepped into the front courtyard which is dramatically illuminated at night.) (Photo from HollywoodReporter.com.)
Inside, the lighting – mostly by huge candles -- is low and artistic; the furniture, an appealing blend of hipster modern and vintage. There’s an eye-popping red lighting installation on the ceiling, a cascading chandelier by the door, and a small “art gallery” in back. Servers are a friendly, accommodating group that includes an American sommelier in love with Pinot Noirs. (Photo by Scoop.it.)
The food, too, is cool and playful, a deft blend of classic German, contemporary German and tried-and-true American favorites, such as Philadelphia Cheesecake with fresh rhubarb. The focus is seasonal and locally sourced. The menu changes often and usually includes two Tasting Menus, along with a la carte options.
We started dinner with an elegant little salad of wild herbs, leafy, flavorful, and laced with raw marinated fennel, pear chutney, “sweet-and-salty” sunflower seeds, and a misting of carrot and fennel cream. Equally exciting was the soup of young spring garlic speckled with small ground lamb meatballs.
It’s not often that I opt for an all-American hamburger when I’m in Europe, but I couldn’t resist the handsome specimens being trotted past our table. It was a great choice: top-notch juicy beef, loosely formed into a massive burger, perfectly cooked and topped with homemade condiments. I loved every bite. Ditto every bite of the crisp French fries, cooked in organic goose fat, and served with lip-smacking homemade ketchup and curried mayonnaise.
Asparagus Risotto was also impressive, its al dente rice studded with local green and white asparagus and roasted romaine lettuce, and crowned with a poached “farmer’s” egg (no store-bought eggs for this chef) and a drizzle of chervil-laced cream.
In addition to the Philly Cheesecake, seasonal mousses and a cheese selection, the Orange Cat offers a lovely little plate of petits fours that sends guests off satisfied but not stuffed.
Since we didn’t get to taste the dish Katz Orange is most famous for ---12-hour-cooked specialty pork, with champagne cabbage, braised onion and potato puree, we have a good excuse to go back to Berlin again sometime soon.
The restaurant, in Berlin's trendy Mitte neighborhood, is open daily. Prices range from 7 to 26 Euros ($8 to $36).