The premises of the Tante Fichte eatery may well be familiar to ambitious gourmets, as it was home to Herz & Niere for six and a half years. Praised by critics and long an integral part of Berlin's gastronomy, the restaurant decided in the course of the pandemic that it wanted to develop further and closed its doors. In the restaurant, however, it goes on.
As Tante Fichte with a different concept, a new chef, but parts of the old team. Owner Michael Köhle is no stranger to Berlin's gastronomic scene: before Herz & Niere, he was head sommelier at the Ritz-Carlton and Hugos. Now it's time for Tante Fichte.
It's supposed to be less complicated, more approachable than the ambitious nose-to-tail concept. A fixed menu with five to seven courses is available at Tante Fichte, accompanied by - of course - fine wines. These are also available without a reservation, but with appetizers such as oysters and cheese, as well as one or two delicacies from chef Dominik Matokanovic's native Croatia. Kulin, for example: "These are hams and sausages from the interior of Slavonia. Lots of garlic, lots of paprika, very smoky, typically Croatian," Dominik explains.
In addition, we taste some delicacies from the sea from Istria - marinated anchovies, outstandingly good capers from the island of Pag, the peppers filled with salted anchovies almost take our breath away with umami deliciousness. "Hot shit", you want to whisper and we find a beer extremely appropriate, but we are sure that host Michael and hostess Vicky would also serve us a perfect wine.
To go with it: Focaccia prepared with lots of olive oil, "it's nice and velvety on the fingers, and that's the way it should be" emphasizes the chef. The tomatoes from farmer Peter Janoth from Groß Kreutz - another old gastro acquaintance - are his "babies" and we understand at the first bite why they are allowed to remain so pure. A few drops of the best Croatian olive oil, more do not need the sun balls in all imaginable colors of the garden.
But now we are actually for the menu: A whole fennel has each:r in the first course on the plate. Cooked and marinated, shaved, flavored with waxy egg yolk. Charmingly served on a red onion pattern, the china becoming more dignified as the evening progresses. Culinarily, however, it remains delicious and approachable, not too complicated.
Because that's Dominik's cuisine: local products - of course - gladly combined with Mediterranean flavors from his family's Croatian homeland, classic craftsmanship, little attitude. So he was also just considered one of the favorites as "Rising Star of the Year 2021" of the Berlin Master Chefs. "We always try to keep the dishes relatively simple so that everyone understands them," he explains. "You do," we counter.
And so we continue with a wild-caught mackerel from the North Sea and young carrot from Peter, blanched and sharply sautéed, accompanied by a carrot cream. Its tenderness and sweetness combined with the strong fish make for an extremely satisfying dish. To accompany the confit cod, Dominik serves homemade goat cheese, whose leftover whey he pours into our plates at the table. "If any of it is left over, we make ice cream out of it. We don't throw anything away and reuse everything." That makes sense.
The barley cooked like a risotto may be less of a feast for the eyes than the other dishes, but doesn't knock us off our feet any less because of it. The interplay of the sloppy grain with Belper tuber and puffed spelt transports you straight to grandma's kitchen table in terms of homeliness. The dish gets a freshness kick from the rat tail radish, which we had never heard of until this point in our lives.
"It grows in my garden. It doesn't form tubers and shoots straight up, forming these pods. Tastes like radish, but doesn't look like it.", host and sommelière Vicky is not only convincing with her adept and pictorial description of wine, her knowledge of wild herbs and other garden growth is also remarkable.
She has a small garden in the Spreewald, from which she always contributes parts of the menu. Herbs such as purslane, sprouts and cones, pickles, of course, or experiments such as olive-pickled mirabelles and plums.
Not surprisingly, we enjoy a balanced and exciting wine accompaniment, positions from Vicky's native Styria, from the Mosel but also a Pet Nat from South Africa is included. Because of the summer, the focus is on white wines, but with quite pithy notes. To the strong leg of the Dammhirsch from the Schorfheide with eggplant and buckwheat we have therefore a fresh and concentrated Tokaji Furmint-Harslevelü of Attila Homonna from Hungary in the glass.
The absolute highlight of the evening is the classic corn-fed chicken from the Prignitz region, which even makes me rave as a little poultry enthusiast. Sou-vide cooked leg meets seared breast - so far, so classic. It's accompanied by an equally classic pea puree. Wood sorrel, leaf sorrel bring a lot of oxalic acid, the plate is rounded off with sauce suprème as well as aromatic truffle from Croatia. Pure elegance.
Marinated peach, as well as its ice cream and mousse, in addition raspberry are as conclusion a fresh-fruity dream. In the end, we are inspired and leave Tante Fichte happier than when we entered, full and buzzed. We were not promised too much.