Over the last few years, the Kitchener Waterloo region has become known for its innovative dining scene. With a diverse population of university students and technology industry workers, you can expect to find excellent cafes, craft cocktails, fine dining, craft beer and Asian cuisine. On a recent trip, we had the opportunity to visit the highly rated fine-dining restaurant –The Berlin. Located in the heart of downtown Kitchener on King Street West, easily accessible if you’re staying in a hotel nearby. The restaurant had a welcoming vibe with excellently crafted dishes using locally sourced ingredients.
Berlin was opened in 2015 by Chef Jonathan Gushue (late of Langdon Hall) and his business partner Ryan Lloyd-Craig. – it took off running – a big hit right from the start. Sadly Chef Gushue was recently wooed away by the luxury Fogo Island Inn, a remote North Atlantic getaway with room-and-food rates starting at $1,675 per night. He’s been replaced by a young up-and-comer, Chef Benjamin Lillico, once chef at restaurants owned by the Kitchener-based Charcoal Group, (Charcoal Steakhouse, The Bauer Kitchen, Beertown, Wildcraft and Moose Winooski’s). Lillico has won medals in international culinary competitions and other honours such as a recent ‘Top 30 under 30’ Hotel Award.
Chef Lillico is ably supported by the very talented Chef Brian McCourt; Culinary Director of The Berlin and Graffiti Market in Kitchener, who, a couple of years ago, won the Uptown 21 Iron Chef competition in support of The Food Bank of Waterloo Region.
As one eats with one’s eyes first, I must say, everything served was artfully plated.
We started with Berlin’s cocktail list, and because we are clever well-seasoned diners, took the advice of our server Rick Baroncelli, a well trained professional with a wonderful knowledge of everything wine. We ordered “Spice up your life”, a base of Spiced Rum with Black Vermouth, Chambord, Lime and Cinnamon, and a “Winter Mist”, Vodka, Chambord, Lemon, Grapefruit, and mint. The former was very nice – but the later “Winter Mist” was a knock-out.
We ordered our appetizers while enjoying a basket of bread – sliced from a rustic well-seeded loaf – served with butter, which had been sprinkled with smoked paprika.
Our selections were the ‘Bay Scallop Crudo’, Scallops with Orange, Fennel and Smoked Bacon Crumble; and ‘Cornish Hen Terrine’, with Leek, Celery, and Buttermilk Foam. The Scallop dish was very delicate as was the Hen Terrine – but the Terrine was lacking the flavor we were looking for.
The appetizers left us a bit ho-hum, but redemption from the Culinary Gods came in the form of our entrées – the ‘Smoked Duck’ and what was listed as ‘Locally Sourced Daily Beef’.
The Smoked Duck was perfectly cooked and rested in a rich jus with Fermented Blackberries, different colored Beets and Wheat Berries that had been simmered to perfection in a very well seasoned stock. The Beef (melt in your mouth eye-of-round) dish I had was accompanied by Beef Cheek, Confit Potato, Parsnip, and Hen of the Woods Mushrooms in a Red Wine Jus. Our server, Rick, recommended wines to accompany our meals and I paired my beef with a scrumptious Chianti (Borgo Scopeto).
Both of the main courses more than met our expectations.
We, of course, could not leave Berlin without trying their desserts; and by the way, kudos to the Pastry Chef. The ‘Variations of Apple’, a dish consisting of Brown Butter Pana Cotta, with a fresh Cherry sorbet, crisp apple chips and cooked apple cubes on a bed of pecan crumbles; was only slightly surpassed by the Chocolate Mouse Cake coated in a rich Ganache with Walnut, Sponge Toffee bits and Salted Caramel Ice Cream. It really couldn’t have been a better finish to a lovely meal.
Have you been to The Berlin or have recommendations for other restaurants in the area readers may like to hear about?
45 King St W
Kitchener, Ontario N2G 1A1
For opening hours visit www.theberlinkw.ca
For more information about the Kitchener Waterloo Region visit www.explorewaterlooregion.com