A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to try an interesting new restaurant concept in (urgh) Mitte called Night Kitchen. Hailing all the way from Tel Aviv, the restaurant is hidden in a little remise in the quaint and boring Heckmann Höfe of Oranienburger Straße, not to be mistaken for Heckmannufer or Oranienstraße in my beloved part of town, Kreuzberg, where I’d much rather go to spend my evenings.
But, despite being in Mitte, I really loved my evening at Night Kitchen and the subsequent soft opening party that I was invited to. The Mediterranean flavors, the gorgeous interior and the lovely staff gave me already many reasons to return and endorse the project, but what really caught my attention was the “dinner with friends” concept – a curated menu on a flat-rate; an all-you-can-eat-buffet without the buffet; a miracle cure for everyone who hates splitting bills with Germans!
Anyway – because I was so smitten, I asked the owners – Shaul Marguiles, owner of Zenkichi and House of Small Wonder, Gilad Heimann, who transplanted his original idea from Tel Aviv, and head chef Omri, the magician in the open kitchen – a few questions about their newest culinary endeavours.
What is the philosophy that defines Night Kitchen?
Gilad: At Night Kitchen we don’t serve, we host. It’s about enjoying an experience together with good company beyond having dinner. Don’t get me wrong… delicious dishes and thirst-quenching drinks are an important part of the night. But it’s how effortless the entire package comes together that makes a night out truly memorable!
Which 3 dishes off the menu do I have to try?
Omri: Tomato Carpaccio, the Octopus á la Plancha, and the Hangar Steak.
What happens when someone orders the “dinner with friends”?
Gilad: Dinner with friends is a chef-curated menu that is completely tailored to your mood and preferences. It’s not a fixed course menu but rather a style of dining that takes the worry out of “ordering”.
Omri: Tell us what you love, what you like and what isn’t for you. Tell us how hungry you are and what mood you’re in. Come into our home and let us cook some dishes that hit the spot. It’s designed to share family-style, served at your pace and isn’t limited to a certain number of courses or plates. Put your evening in our hands and we’ll take care!
What’s your favorite drink at Night Kitchen to cure a hangover?
Gilad: Negron… I love a clever twist on a classic. Our Negron actually has a smoky mezcal base that will smooth you over.
Shaul: Yasso Lassi is my go-to drink, every time. Wait, is this hangover-curing or hangover-causing? Isn’t it all really the same if you’re doing it right?
Omri: Rough Margarita. With a name like this, you can’t really go wrong. And just like the name suggests, it really revs the engine. With a hint of heat from
chili and some mouthwatering tartness, it’ll wake you up for the next round.
All the way from Tel Aviv to Berlin – what do those two cities have in common for a restaurant like Night Kitchen to work?
Gilad: An appreciation of gastronomy… Berliners are also well-traveled and educated diners. The city itself is a hybrid of old world history and liberal, adventurous thinking. We are playful but have strongly rooted influences in everything we do – from the food to the drinks, from service to our design. Berlin is a vibrant and growing gastro-scene, just like Tel Aviv.
Shaul: People want to have a good time. They want to be discerning in their dining choices, to challenge old school dining rules but to still acknowledge its impact on today. To have the quality of a fine dining meal but in a fun, approachable setting. It’s not enough to just eat the best “mushroom” in the world, it has to be accompanied with the right mix of other ingredients: style, vibe, service, company.
What’s the secret to opening a successful restaurant in Berlin?
Gilad: To know who you are! It’s so easy to bend to this opinion and to that opinion when opening a new restaurant. We want our guests to feel comfortable but at the same time, offer a unique experience. This often means trying something different and stepping outside of your comfort zone. To ask our guests trust us means being confident and certain of what we bring to the table – literally.
Shaul: Putting the emphasis on the overall experience… a restaurant is more than the sum of its parts! We think about every detail and how it contributes to your experience: how you find and even walk into the restaurant, how we greet and treat you, what the music tells you about us… even what we intentionally omit. I love when people crave a specific dish. I love even more when people come because they also crave a certain feeling and vibe.
If Night Kitchen was closed, where would you go to eat and drink with a couple of friends on a Saturday night without having to make reservations?
Gilad: Katz Orange… gorgeous space with lovely people!
Shaul: I’d hit up Chicago Williams for good people and some proper chow.
A big shoutout to the Night Kitchen crew for patiently answering my questions and letting me try their delicious menu. All I can add to what was said is that Night Kitchen is the kind of place that can flip from “dinner with parents” to “bonafide nasty rave” within minutes, meaning it’s exactly my kind of vibe.