The new Ernst in Berlin is without question the opening of the summer, perhaps of the year. The concept is groundbreaking in many respects and an extremely important addition to the culinary landscape in Germany. The focus on pure product cuisine reduced to the minimum is unique in this form. The local origin of the products is also important here, but the relationship with the producers and the shared values are even more decisive.
Dylan Watson-Brawn celebrates his 24th birthday on the day of our visit. Crazy to think that my first visit to one of his supper clubs was over four years ago (see: Young, Green & Blue). At that time, as well as in 2015 at another private dinner (cf. Ernst 2015), there were already individual dishes that were also part of the menu that evening. Sometimes only very slightly modified, sometimes significantly more developed and mature. This is also part of the Japanese tradition that Dylan Watson has been part of since his early years of teaching in Japan: Getting better through a lifetime of repetition and practice.
In earnest, Gast and the small team around Dylan, Spencer Christenson, Christoph Geyler and Paul Klein form a close bond. Twelve seats are grouped along a counter around the open kitchen. Up to 25 courses will be served during the evening. The number and scope depends on the season, the availability of the products and the overall concept. At our dinner it was still the last messengers of summer that find their way onto the numerous (by the way, very beautiful) plates. It is also about the best initial situation of the products in each case. Some vegetables are delivered directly from the field in the afternoon and processed in front of the guests only minutes before serving. Others have already been fermented for many months. A quail that is part of the menu that evening has been aged for three weeks. The last two of them in the wax coat. also the ham that was served that evening is over three years old and was processed and prepared for this long storage by Dylan and the team themselves at an Austrian breeder of Managliza pigs.
The connection with the producers is close. And builds on mutual trust. Years ago, Dylan had conversations with Branca, who is responsible for large portions of the vegetables. In their fields near Frankfurt Oder, the produce grows very slowly. And for the serious, she harvests a little earlier to deliver smaller and more tender carrots and beets.
For autumn and winter the menu changes. Instead of many small, mostly vegetarian courses, game and fish will be more prominent in the future. By then, at the latest, there will be enough reasons to make the short trip to Berlin again. From Sicily in the future regularly come apricots and citrus. This is also a sign of proximity to the producer, which does not have to be exclusively regionally based. It’s a similar story with Christoph Geyler’s wine list. The well over 200 positions come exclusively from biodynamic cultivation. We chose that evening, among other things, a bottle of Schiefergold from the winery Rita & Rudolf Trossen. Here, too, the connection was close: the Ernst team had spent some time on the Moselle just a few weeks before, working in the vineyards.
As meticulously as we source each product that enters our kitchen, so too do we source each bottle of wine that enters our cellar.
This lively exchange in very different directions also promotes the constant transfer of knowledge and craftsmanship. To the fishermen on the Müritz, Dylan taught the Ikejime method for killing fish gently and quickly. Today, the fish, some of which are slowly matured for up to two weeks using this method, can also be found at Nobelhart & Schmutzig, Horvarth or einsunternull. Because the exchange between restaurants with similar philosophies is also lively. This is another rare but so important aspect – this collaboration not only works internally in terms of knowledge, techniques, personnel and purchasing, but of course also externally. The prime example of this is, of course, Copenhagen. An active scene with open exchanges has sprung up there around Noma, putting the city on the radar of global foodies.
And in fact, some of this international appeal is already inherent in Ernst and could also occupy Berlin with this local, honest and product-centered avant-garde cuisine as a food destination. Above all, Japanese precision, as well as the regular presence of Japanese preparations and techniques, and the less dogmatic restrictions on ingredients from the narrower region, expand the radius of possibilities immensely.
With all enthusiasm, the Ernst is of course quite special and certainly not a love at first sight for every guest. But it obviously doesn’t want to be – but without the consistency described, the concept wouldn’t work. The narrative would be missing and the ideoligical clarity, which is not only immediately apparent in the small courses of the restaurant, but also anchored in the minds of the team, could not emerge so clearly.
By the way, Ernst is also breaking new ground in the area of reservations. This is available exclusively online and is mapped via the American booking system Tock. The main novelty here is that the tickets already settle the full price of the menu directly at the time of reservation. This reduces the rate of no-shows to virtually zero. For a restaurant with only 12 seats, this is an extremely important aspect. It remains only a matter of time before more restaurants switch to new systems of reservation. The possibilities here are even more diverse than pure pre-payment by Tock (see Table Reservation 2.0).
Currently, the price for the menu is 135€, in addition, a wine accompaniment can be booked for 85€ – or better yet, the one or other bottle from the extensive wine list can be chosen.
Open: Wednesday to Sunday
Court Street 54
13347 Berlin / Wedding