Glass, Berlin: The Alchemist


  01.08.14    Germany


Glass
Window to greatness

Review date: March 2014

I’d hardly be the first person to note that there are an enormous amount of very average, often-overpriced restaurants out there. Once in a while, however, you come across somewhere so brilliant, so innovative, that it utterly restores faith in the culinary art. Glass, near the Berlin Zoo in Charlottenburg, was one such place.

The space is all about transparency, hence the name, with huge windows, mirrored walls and a metal curtain dividing the kitchen and dining room. Paul Sullivan photos of old Berlin are remarkable and line the walls. The overall feel is open, contemporary, slick and sleek.

I’m going to come right out and say that the head chef Gal Ben-Moshe is genuinely touched by greatness. Gal is only 29 but his pedigree is from the very top drawer, having previously worked under titans including Marcus Wareing and Grant Achatz. Their influence and aesthetic clearly shows in his menu, as each dish is absolutely breathtaking in appearance. The evening allowed us to experience an extraordinary tasting menu and also learn something from Gal about the stories behind his food.

I had the 8 courses with wine pairings, while my wife had the 6 course vegetarian menu. Interestingly, and unusually, they also offer a vegan tasting menu.

Dinner kicked off with small bites and breads including Yuba, a breadstick made from fried soya milk skin:

Glass Berlin
Gougères and yuba breadsticks

Utterly delicious, utterly ridiculous. Gougerès with cream cheese and pretzels with cream butter were similarly addictive and a timely reminder of which city we were in. A great start.

Glass Berlin
Pretzel and creamed butter

A veal explosion came in the form of a German riff on xiao long bao, the Shanghainese soup dumpling. Stunning.

Glass Berlin
Veal cheek explosion

Beef with pickled Japanese vegetables was sublime and again beautifully plated:

Glass
Beef with Pickled Japanese vegetables

 

My wife, a vegetarian for almost twenty years, knows a lot about pasta. She said her beetroot agnolotti was one of the best she had ever tasted, truly sublime, taking the earthy, sweet root flavor and tempering it to perfection.

Glass
Agnolotti, beetroot, celery and poppy seed

 

Then we both saw her next course of the  ‘Stadtgarten’, or urban salad, a dish so thoughtful, so time-consuming to prepare, made with extraordinary attention to detail with vegetables and flowers and earth. And so the bar had been raised yet higher:

Glass
Stadgarten – vegetables, flowers, earth

Lou Reed, Frank Sinatra, The Kinks and Stevie Wonder were amongst those serenading us throughout the evening. Way better than a wandering Mariachi band. It was about then that we noticed the neighbours have a direct view into the kitchen every time they enter or leave the adjacent apartment block. How jealousy-inducing it must be, seeing such culinary wizardry, genius and alchemy in action.

Dinner started to crescendo with an ice cream made from St Maure cheese with a pistachio crumb, another bizarre but brilliant execution. I can still taste it now. Real cojones are needed to take enormous risks with flavours and textures in a dish like this. Somehow, Gal aces it every time.

Glass
St Maure ice cream with wild strawberries, pistachio and balsamic

Perhaps most of all it’s his Candy Box which steals the show – a riff on picnics of his youth, incorporating his favourite childhood candy, it’s a piece of culinary theater as he lays out a large foil mat on the table and proceeds to create an extraordinary edible canvas. First up comes his liquid version of gummy bears, followed by roasted marshmallows, a homemade version of Oreos crumbled like soil, cacao beans, Snickers pops, some beautiful edible blue and yellow flowers to represent the ground at the picnic, and finally chocolate mousse removed from bubbling liquid nitrogen which is laid out and then cracked with the back of the tongs. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ve died and gone to heaven. You can see the theater for yourself here:

Glass was an absolute triumph of an evening, one of the best dinners we’ve ever had. Service was engaging and attentive, never intrusive. Eight courses were 85 euros, with the wine pairing at 60, while my wife’s six courses were at 65 and 45 respectively. I’d like to think that before long it will get the respect and accolades it unquestionably merits. Those Michelin inspectors should definitely take a stroll soon down Uhlandstrasse.

Glass, Uhlandstrasse 195, 10623 Berlin T: +49 30 547 10861 http://www.glassberlin.de/