Imbiss Balli, U-Bhf Leinestraße

Balli kebab. A gorgeous sight.

What’s this? Dr Döner has been back to Berlin again? Is he not burnt-out by this high-octane lifestyle? Well, Döner Fans, the fast lane is where Dr Döner can be found, and so it was that with nary a care I boarded the Deutsche Bahn Intercity on a wet morning in Amsterdam and shot over to Berlin in a matter of stress-free hours. Or at least, that was the plan. Life, as you may know, is nothing if not consistent, and the so-called direct train turned into four trains, and a two-hour delay. What! This isn’t the glamorous jet-setting life of Europe’s most in-demand kebab reviewer! Perhaps not. But all things have an upside if you look really hard at them, and I suppose these detours gave me a chance to hang out for a bit in the transport hub that is Bad Bentheim, and use the high-tech toilets at Deventer train station, which I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to enjoy. Never heard of these places? Neither had I! And so, with furious strokes of my pen, I filled out another Deutsche Bahn Fahrgastrechte-Formular to claim my measly compensation.

Ja ja, Deutsche Bahn...

But enough of my petty grumbling! That, surely, is not what you tuned in for. Let me begin my tale on the evening of Saturday 25th April, when I finally disembarked in the warm evening glow of Berlin Hauptbahnhof station. My ultimate destination? U-Bhf Leinestraße, in the vicinity of which lay a housewarming party with my name on it. For who, Döner Fans, who would not wish for their humble home to be festively broken in by none other than Dr Döner himself? It is a rare honour indeed. In any case, the way there was long, and while changing trains at Alexanderplatz, I stopped for twenty minutes in the underpass to visit an old friend. Yes, you may remember the inaugural kebab of this very blog, almost three years ago. From that same vendor I purchased a splendid döner, and munched it with gusto at one of the high tables nearby, watching the flow of human traffic as the Berliners went about their Saturday evening business. It was a fine kebab, a delightful kebab. A definite 5/5 for taste on this occasion. However, that is not the kebab I wish to tell you about, Döner Fans. No, let us move on…

Blast from the past. How youthful we all once were...

I shall skip the details of the housewarming party. Suffice to say, the flat was well and truly ‘eingeweiht’. Anyway, once the fumes had cleared the next day, myself and one of the other survivors felt in need of sustenance, and so we took ourselves out into the mean streets of Neukölln in search of kebab. The owner of the newly-christened flat (in whose company I found myself) suggested trying Balli, the döner snack place right next to Leinestraße U-Bahn station, so there the two of us went. It was a grey, muggy day as we approached the counter, and the two gentlemen inside the hut seemed vaguely annoyed at having been disturbed. They slapped closed their magazines and leant out over the counter to take our orders.

All the best kebab shops have their own bus stop.

I placed my classic order, namely a döner with garlic and chilli sauce, and all the salad apart from the red cabbage. It was duly slapped up and handed over. There was no banter, no cheery wink. It was a business transaction, pure and simple. The two of us then went back to the flat and ate our kebabs on the balcony overlooking the street, where the lingering odours of the party were less pungent. All in all, it was quite a pleasant kebab, and the fresh air and leafy surroundings made it all the better. The meat was not the juiciest, but it was a solid standard döner, such as one might demand and expect from a place like Balli. The veg was fresh, and the bread was soft on the inside, and crusty on the outside. It was a marked improvement on Amsterdam’s Eetsalon De Mol.

A tasty döner from Balli, consumed on a leafy Neukölln balcony.

The rest of my visit proceeded in a similarly pleasant vein. Over the following two evenings I took the time to revisit some old classics in my favourite Berlin hotspots, making sure to eat the Mercimek soup at Wedding’s Dedecan restaurant. I was pleased to see the same grumpy gent working there as before, casting his cynical gaze over the bustle of Luxemburger Straße from behind his döner-hatch. He had the grim, set jaw of a man who had seen the troubles of the world, who would never smile in your face, but who would volunteer tirelessly and uncomplainingly at a soup-kitchen by night, while working overtime at the kebab shop to support his family. His look of contempt as he made me my Mercimek Çorbası belied his heart of gold.

Results for Balli

Service: 3/5 (unenthused)

Atmosphere: 3/5 (standard)

Price: 3/5 (standard)

Taste: 4/5 (tasty)

Post Scriptum. Alas, all good things come to an end. As I mooched around at Hauptbahnhof two days later, waiting for my train home to Amsterdam, I was to be the victim of a final parting shot from Deutsche Bahn. I will refrain from too much detail, but I went to visit the facilities at the grand-sounding ‘WC-Center’, where I was charged a 1 EURO fee for the privilege. A whole Euro! But all was not as it seemed. Upon ramming my filthiest Euro with bad grace into the machine, I was rewarded with a 50 cent coupon, redeemable upon my next visit. Thank you, Deutsche Bahn! Now I have a reason to come back and visit the WC-Center again. Rest assured, I will make it worth my while.

The WC voucher. Showing the exact date and time of the visit, presumably so that one can reminisce.

Photographs courtesy of Dr Döner and Mr B. Lawson.

Eetsalon De Mol – Molsteeg 3

Hello Döner Fans. Those of you who frequent the city centre of Amsterdam may have stumbled across the diamond-in-the-rough that is undoubtedly Eetsalon De Mol. If the buskers, pickpockets and selfie-stick-wielding tourists of Dam Square have drained your energy, then why not take a gander to the back streets of the local area? Perhaps the throbbing masses have driven you onto the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal behind De Nieuwe Kerk. Perhaps from there, ducking between the trams, traffic and cyclists, you’ve found your way to the mouth of Molsteeg alley, and are peering into its seedy depths towards the dim lights of Spuistraat beyond. Perhaps you are lost. Perhaps you are desperate. But wait: what’s this? Your eyes alight upon a beacon of hope in this urban desert: the cosy red and yellow sign of Eetsalon De Mol grabs your attention, and like Alice in Wonderland you descend into the rabbit-hole in search of meaty treats. And meaty treats, indeed, there will be. I bring you: Eetsalon De Mol!

Eetsalon De Mol does not discriminate. There is no type of fast-food they will not warm up for you.

Dr Döner has been known to roam the area around Spuistraat and Singel at times, so it is no surprise that his path crossed that of De Mol sooner rather than later. On this occasion, I was hungry. It had been a taxing day. Work had been done. It was now time for sustenance. Gathering a pair of handy eating companions, I plunged into the eerie gloom of Molsteeg alley and opened the glass door that led into the Eetsalon’s inner clutches. We stood and looked over the room within.

The slick, wipe-down chic interior of Eetsalon De Mol.

What strikes you most about the interior design when you enter is the innovative two-tier layout. This involves a lower front dining area and a raised back zone which houses the counter and the food preparation area. Ascending the steps to the counter, you might feel as if you are approaching some higher authority, like the altar in a secretive temple dedicated to the prehistoric gods of food. Once at this heady altitude you must place your order, before being banished back down to the lower chamber below, to await your kebab.

I had ordered a ‘broodje-doner’, or a döner in bread. As we sat there taking surreptitious photographs, it was observed that there was no log of döner meat on display behind the counter. Did this mean that there was some state-of-the-art larder out of sight, whose temperature was strictly regulated, in which the prime döner-meat was housed and prepared? Alas no, the meat was in a sack under the counter. It was taken out and lovingly tossed onto the hot-plate, where its transformation from flaccid grey to crispy brown was meticulously controlled by the moustachioed chef who had taken our orders. We waited. The tension mounted. The chef asked if I wanted chilli and garlic sauce. I said yes. Time passed. Eventually the chef called down to us that our food was ready. We took our parcels and departed. The glass door swung shut behind us, and we were back in the real world.

A selection of garlic sauces, and Dr Döner’s ear.

We took our food to a place of safety, and warily unwrapped the tinfoil that enfolded our food. I have to say, my döner was not the greatest success story to come out of Amsterdam. Most of the filling was OK as it oozed across the tinfoil, but the bread was too well-fired and brittle, and failed to hold its contents together. I was already predisposed to dislike this döner, since the price (though I can’t remember it exactly) had seemed a little high for such a small meal. Nonetheless, I ate my döner to the last mouthful, though without gusto. My companions, who had ordered other things, were less disappointed. The ‘patat oorlog’ was especially nice, for instance. Indeed, I had been warned in the past that an Eetsalon is not an appropriate place to buy kebab since it caters more towards the Snack-market which is popular in the Netherlands. Maybe if I go back to Eetsalon De Mol a second time, I will try some of its other fare. However, I think not. Dr Döner and De Mol have parted ways.

The bready clam is prised open to reveal its meaty pearls.

Results

Service: 3/5 (fine)

Atmosphere: 2/5 (plasticky)

Price: 2/5 (seemed a bit much)

Taste: 2/5 (not the best)

Photography courtesy of Messrs. M. Koopmans and C.J. Hudson