Sometimes you need to indulge in a special meal. Let your senses run free and dive into some imaginative chef’s whimsical world. Joe and I have made it a point to discover at least one spectacular dining experience per country. Something a bit (or a lot) over the top but completely worth it. And we certainly hit the jackpot with our latest little gem: allow me to introduce ernst Berlin.
Recently listed as one of the best new restaurants in the city, Joe stumbled across its description online a few weeks ago. The article spoke of its brilliant, young, and innovative chef – I believe the word “prodigy” was employed – and its beautiful, farm-to-table cuisine. We were intrigued and, after a bit of googling and a few minutes of justification, we booked a table.
First things first: I’ve never experienced a 25-course meal. I’ve never sat at a “chef’s counter.” I do really love food, from the simplest to the most complex, but I’ve never seen or tasted anything quite like this. The five-man team, anchored by Chef Dylan Watson-Brawn, flowed seamlessly around the open kitchen, prepping everything before our eyes. It was a stunning dance, with each performing his part. There were no superstars here.
As we settled in for our long meal, various members of the team greeted us individually. Our entire experience was custom-tailored to our wants, needs, and eating habits. We chose the recommended beverage pairing, and ernst’s dynamic sommelier, Christof, poured our wines (and beer) with a flourish each time. Our glasses never ran dry, but Christof judged our tolerance perfectly – we never felt tipsy, just satiated.
It took me a while to pick out Dylan from the lineup. He sliced, poured, sautéed, drizzled, wiped, and plated in the same rhythm as the rest of his team. When asked where he cooked before ernst, he simply responded, “my apartment.” Now, this is technically true: before opening his 12-seat chef’s counter in August, Dylan ran the concept from his apartment, serving just six fortunate diners at a time. After some prying and cajoling, however, we learned that he spent some time in Japan. I later learned that he cooked at a restaurant with three Michelin stars. So modest and down to earth.
The men behind ernst are passionate about their products. They regularly visit the farms, wineries, and suppliers with whom they’ve built rock-solid relationships. Nothing is more important than freshness, locality, and seasonality. The menu changes multiple times a week based on what’s available that day. Yogurt made fresh that afternoon is standard fare at this establishment.
Each course brought something new to the table. The dishes were ultimately, purposefully simple, and allowed each ingredient to shine. ernst’s cuisine is primarily produce-focused, and even the simplest piece of broccoli or wild herb salad managed to surprise and delight with its delicate flavors. We tasted an egg yolk with the texture of soft dough, bit into tender and perfectly crispy tempura squash, and dipped our spoons into soft, jelly-like egg custard and soup. I can’t even begin to describe each course fully.
By the end of the meal, I felt like I’d been on an epic journey. Our guides were these young, knowledgeable, incredibly experienced, kind, approachable chefs who made our evening magical. I’ve never tasted food quite like what we had that night. Each bite produced a completely unexpected sensation. Every once in a while, we’re lucky enough to immerse ourselves completely in a chef’s world and vision. And the world of ernst is stunning.