What’s special about Berlin? Nobelhart & Schmutzig is special about Berlin.
Nobelhart & Schmutzig can be found across the street from Checkpoint Charlie in one of the most lackluster sections in Berlin. It’s front facade is nothing more then a curtained wall of windows of an old 60’s office building. Ring the nondescript bell adjacent the door, wait for a hot second, and be greeted by one of the most lovely Michelin stared chef’s in the world.
While outside is grey, vapid, and wholy amorphas, inside is more like a womb of good times about to be had. Gold wood tones, dark velvety greens, carmel collored incandescent lighting instantly brings you to life. Your host, Billy Wagner, brings you a vagina shaped earthenware mug filled with fresh pressed juice to brighten your pallet. He then sits you at the large communal bar that corrals the frenetic kitchen where you get to watch the master, Micha Schäfer, birth your 10 plate gastronomic adventure.
There is no point in describing how amazing this meal was as telling someone how good something tastes is akin to trying to describe how blue the sky is. You just will have to see it for yourself. However, what you must know, is what the meal is. The meal, is, Berlin. Everything you will find in front of you comes from the city and closely surrounding area. These are the flavors of the region, a celebration of a unique geographic phenomena, that is extremely rare to find in one of the most prolific and diverse culinary capitals of Europe.
Each menu item is listed with a name. “This is the person responsible for the ingredients in the dish.” Micha tells us in his signature baritone weighted blanket voice, “we know everyone personally, we must, because the ingredients are simply the best you can find.” Nobelhart & Schmutzig is all about the quality. It’s not about creating flavors you know, or even can reproduce. It’s about tasting the region in a way that is just simply not possible anywhere else.
“You will not find olive oil or coriander anywhere on the menu,” Billy Wagner says in his poetic vibrato, “we only use the ingredients from Berlin. This means we have to explore using things in a different way, like fermented butters, or unripe apples. The tastes here are unlike anywhere else.” he correctly informs me. The apples, it should be mentioned, beyond having the name of the grower who picked them, also has the GPS coordinates of the tree where they came from. Nice touch.
There are no phones, no pictures, no nothing digital allowed inside Nobelhart & Schmutzig by design. This sacred space is meant for communication in vivo, something Billy feels very strongly about. The seating arrangement facilitates the conception of new friendships, where strangers are apt to start up a conversation, perhaps taste each other’s wine, or in the best case scenario as Billy points out “go home together. My favorite part is when I have to refill the condom machine in the bathroom because I know we were a success.”
Nobelhart & Schmutzig is a dining experience that is singular in Berlin, and frankly, hard to find in any corner of the world. Such an elevated respect for cuisine perfectly paired with the casual familiarness of friends, is a recipe for a sublime evening. I was extremely honored to be invited to bring my camera in and share this unique experience, and do hope that next time you’re in Berlin you too experience the magic that happens behind these doors.