Adjectives like sensitive, delicate, and expressive rarely describe German cuisine, at least not the stereotyped foods so common in America: bratwurst split over hot coals, a tall stein of beer. All served with a jolly smile straight from the hands of a barmaid or mustachioed, portly man in lederhose. I always imagine a rather drunken, lecherous Santa Claus shipped direct from the Black Forest, a glorious icon of gluttony. Although restaurants offering this experience do exist within the beautiful but slightly creepy neoclassical wonderland that is Berlin, a new aesthetic has emerged. Wholly divergent from heavy, hyperclassical French fare, this new German gastronomy emphasizes subtlety and composure. Just as frail glass and steel megacities arose from the ashes of Potsdamer Platz, contemporary German food involves a transcendently gentle architecture of flavor. At Reinstoff, dishes feel more ethereal than monumental; barely any pork or beef appears on the menu. Huge sausages hold no place on these plates; no brats and no beer here.
Reinstoff offers two tasting menus, “quite near” and “far away”—”quite near” focuses on traditional flavor combinations, while “far away” explores unconventional pairings. Since I wanted to consider Reinstoff’s “covers” of German classics, I opted for the former. Both menus begin with an identical series of canapes entitled “waking up the senses.” Despite the goofy title, these miniature bites succeed as a whole, particularly vegetable muesli. An eccentric lollipop of dehydrated vegetables simulates the cereal, and an accompanying shot of yogurt completes the breakfast experiment. In fact, after forcing the entire lollipop into my mouth at once and downing the drink, my mind fixated on eating granola mixed with sour, thin yogurt in the college dining hall. Campy, but outlandishly delicious.