Sunday, July 30, 2006

Hamburger Gefunden

We interrupt this Sommerloch with an important announcement.

An edible hamburger has been found in Berlin. And not just edible: actually quite good.

If that news is all you need to hear, head off to Hazelwood, Choriner Str. 72, at the corner of Zionskirchstr. in that grey area between Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte. If you need more info, just read on.

To call this joint "bare bones" is to glorify it. My guess is that someone decided they had a genius in the kitchen and just opened up a business. There are absolutely no decorative features in the entire place, which didn't bother me because I ate out on the sidewalk at one of the tables just like everyone else did. But when the bad weather sets in, someone might want to give this some thought.

The menu, too, is small. There were two sandwiches, the hamburger and a bizarre Reuben made with ham (!), a salad, and a soup. Oh, and I guess dessert, because a table near us got a huge sundae. There was an abundant cocktail menu, but that's not what we came for.

The biggest downside to Hazelwood is the price. The hamburger alone (it comes with a side of rather rough-cut coleslaw) set me back €6.50, which is a lot for 200g of beef. Upgrading it to "deluxe" -- ie, the addition of a smallish side of previously-frozen french fries -- was an additional €1.50. I was hoping for a small salad (the coleslaw not being mentioned on the menu) and was presented with the Hazelwood Salad, €4.50, which was a Thai-style chicken, ginger, fish sauce-and-lime, chopped peanuts salad which was more than I wanted but only disappointed because I'd made a nearly identical one two days earlier. Draft Pilsner Urquel -- excellent -- was €2,90.

But even at that price, the hamburger was worth it. Or, I should say, cheeseburger; a slab of that unique cheddar available in Berlin, the one with absolutely no taste, was added on top. But the meat is mixed with a wonderful onion and spice mixture -- not a lot, but enough to subtly flavor the meat -- and I was happy I hadn't drowned it in ketchup (which would only have happened accidentally, but you can't put ketchup back in the bottle). Now, the fact that it's not, like every other hamburger I've had in this city but one, a pre-frozen, cereal-laden hockey puck is remarkable in itself. (The other one is the hamburger at the Hard Rock Cafe, which I'm not sure is still in business, the Berlin one being the biggest money drain in the entire Hard Rock empire, but all expats in Europe know that the only reason to go to the Hard Rock wherever you are is to get a decent burger). But there's an additional technological breakthrough here: the burger is served on what seems to be a hunk of ciabatta instead of one of those instantly-soggy, fall-apart hamburger buns that are the shame of a country with great baking skills. Thus, the structural integrity of the bread is maintained throughout the consumption of the burger.

A lot of Germans have a fear of ground beef, for some reason, which is weird considering they eat Hackpeter, raw ground pork mixed with spices, for breakfast. This, I think, is the rationale for the frozen patties; untouched by human hands, they go on the griddle frozen and come off hard. And that's another thing about the Hazelwood burger: it's actually grilled instead of griddled! This gives the patty a nice crisp surface and extra flavor, not to mention extra authenticity points.

Service was fast and friendly, another anomaly. And, after getting slightly lost on the way over, it was encouraging to see how close to the house this actually is. The price will keep me away as a frequent visitor, but I'll definitely be back.

Thanks to Radio Free Mike and Bowleserised for the tip!

And now back to our regularly-scheduled Sommerloch.

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