Nathalie Moukarzel visits one of Berlin’s smallest Korean restaurants and finds the best Kimchi in town…
Ixthys held a sort of mysticism in my mind before I had the pleasure to go and see for myself what it was all about; people spoke of this small restaurant in an unassuming street, with great food, an uncomplicated menu, and Biblical references pasted across the walls, as though it was the Mecca of Korean dining in Berlin.
Naturally I had high expectations, and some of them (unusually for me, in Berlin) were met. Two wonderful ladies – with a few other family members helping out – run Ixthys, and make you feel at home and welcomed the moment you step over the threshold into their peaceful restaurant.
It’s not such a big space, so on busier evenings there are often people waiting outside, but you don’t feel rushed at all and they are very sure to not hurry you along. Non-alcoholic drinks are served at a reasonable price – so many times I’ve visited “cheap” restaurants only to find myself spending more money on the bottle of water than the main course.
As I sipped away comfortably on my inexpensive soft drink, my eyes wandered over the many Biblical verses lining the walls (the owners are devout Christians). When I first heard that this was the decor in Ixthys, I wondered if it would be dogmatic and intrusive, but actually it was exceptionally pleasant and seemed to fit the atmosphere of the room.
The menu, though not extensive, had all the typical dishes I was hoping for; we chose the Korean noodles in a spicy vegetable broth, followed by Bibimbap with beef, Maeun tang (spicy fish and seafood stew), and Kimchi. The noodles were quite disappointing: too eggy, and simply not enough going on with them.
It felt like a pointless dish, almost a filler on the menu. Maybe I am spoiled, but it just seemed a little sad that they were not homemade (I actually realised later that I was sitting next to the cardboard noodle box that they were delivered in), and tasted like the standard dried stuff you would make at university when you were going through some hard times.
Nevertheless. the Bibimbap was something wonderful. Piping hot sticky rice, plenty of delicious tender beef, and soy bean and vegetable galore, all topped off with a beautiful glistening fried egg. I was in my version of heaven, and didn’t want to leave. It was the sort of dish so wonderful you begin to feel sad when you see it coming to an end. It was perfectly flavoured with chilli sauce, with more on the side should you desire it too – and we’re not talking chilli sauce in a squeezy bottle that looks like bad ketchup and tastes like an unfunny joke. I would say it’s the best I’ve had in this city.
The Mauen Tang was deeply flavoured with a beautiful red spicy stew and smoked fish. However, the menu had described the dish as a fish and seafood stew, when it was fundamentally a fish stew with a prawn on top. It was delicious, just misrepresented, and in the end what does it really matter so long as I was happy with it?
I have found in so many Korean establishments in Berlin that the Kimchi has a sort of “old” vinegary taste to it, a bit sour at the end, like its been fermenting for too long. The Kimchi in Ixthys is the antithesis of this. It tasted like someone had been keeping a watchful eye over it throughout every moment of the making process, well seasoned, with a home made taste instead of that churned out factory-style bitterness that lingers on your tongue. (I was tempted to ask for some more but then looked at all the Biblical verses, thought of Gluttony, and decided I’d better not).
The service was delightful – kind, smiling faces, happy to answer questions and advise – and the dishes were reasonably priced at around 8.50 euros for a main course, and 3-5 euros for a snack. Another reason to love the gentle owners was the knowledge that they donate all their profits to charity; quite admirable when you see how hard yet effortlessly they work.
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