Levante kitchen in Simsim

Saturday, March 2, 2019 / by Dirk Engelhardt (translated German)

Most of my countrymen run falafel snacks in Berlin, “says Marwan Fakhereddin. In December last year, the 26-year-old opened his restaurant Simsim on Kollwitzplatz in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district. Owner Fakhereddin wanted to create with the Simsim a place where there are “the best and tastiest dishes” from the Levant, ie from Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. Fakhereddin, who came to Berlin three years ago and whose family lives in Jordan, is himself from a gastronomy family. “We serve what we eat at home with our families too. We grew up with these dishes, “he describes the menu.

In the restaurant on Kollwitzplatz, Königsberg Klopse and Eisbein served for about 30 years before the map of the then restoration in 1900. Today, there are köfte from the charcoal grill. In addition, the restaurateur relies on grilled shrimp, lamb chops or chicken shish for 14 euros to 18 euros. The guest chooses side dishes – Basmati rice, Toum, a Lebanese aioli, or Kabis, an acidic cabbage salad. Typical of the Levantine cuisine and culture is sharing food, as in Simsim. Therefore, the mezze are popular. Small bites, which are put on the table after the sharing concept. These include grilled Halloumi, Moussaka, Okra, Arnabeet Mekle – roasted cauliflower with cumin and lemon – or the spicy roast potatoes Batata Harra. The lamb sausages are served with a sweet pomegranate molasses sauce. And even vegetarians and vegans lack nothing in Simsim, half the menu is vegan.

Occasionally Fakhereddin has to improvise, as he does not get all the ingredients in Germany: “I spice up the Fattoush salad with dandelion, which really appeals to the customers.” Wines The Simsim sources mostly from Lebanon. Also a tea menu with a large selection is part of the offer of the restaurant, especially popular with the guests is the lemon verbena tea.

Before Fakhreddin could open the Simsim, he extensively renovated the rooms of the earlier restoration in 1900. Now the floor is decorated with Moroccan tiles, black and white photos of the Levante region hang on the walls. The restaurant is also furnished with Arabic furniture, lamps, lots of candles and green plants. Actually, Fakhereddin wanted to place the centerpiece of the restaurant, the charcoal grill, in the middle of the restaurant. The landlord did not approve, so the grill is now in the kitchen. The restaurant has 45 seats inside and 90 on the terrace overlooking the Kollwitzplatz.

Simsim means sesame translated from Arabic. Fakhereddin sees the name of his restaurant as synonymous with the difficult political situation in his homeland. For sesame, like its compatriots, is a resistant seed that can withstand periods of drought, says the restaurateur. His employees mostly come from the circle of friends. Among them are some refugees, the chef comes from about Syria.

Advertising had to make the restaurant so far, the tables are fully booked every day to the last place. Currently the Simsim opens exclusively in the evening. Fakhrerddin, however, plans to extend the opening hours soon to breakfast and lunch.

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