Sublime sushi in a swank setting
Claim to fame: The crown jewel of West Berlin's Asian food scene
Reason to go: A chance to feel like you’re on a date with James Bond
To look out for: Don't be fooled by the shabby exterior, the graffiti is just smoke and mirrors
At first glance, this pseudo-rundown, graffiti covered building looks just like any other abandoned house in Berlin. But then you notice the line of people queuing outside, just before you spot the tiny neon sign above the entrance. 893, it says, and seconds after it's lit, the door opens.
Entering the restaurant is like taking a trip in a time machine, you’re transported straight back to London's swanky 90's nightlife. Supermodel lookalikes dressed in black will check your reservation before escorting you through the dining room, past a handful of small, open kitchens. The dark walls and obscure lighting makes it difficult to estimate the size of the restaurant, but it feels spacious.
This is the secretive temple of The Duc Ngo, the poster boy of Berlin's pan-Asian food scene, with restaurants ranging from a Vietnamese brasserie (a tribute to his mother) to a bombastic Chinese hotel restaurant (a tribute to his father) and everything in between (ramen). 893 Ryōtei is a posh Japanese izakaya whose name stands for luxury and discretion. The best seats are at the bar, overlooking the sushi counter where meticulously cut sashimi and delicate pieces of nigiri are born. The raw fish is sublime: tender, elegant and stripped of all unnecessary flourishes.
Most other dishes are smaller in size, but satisfyingly rich and well balanced, and often garnished with something fancy and expensive, like the side salad of young spinach leaves tossed with miso and generous amounts of black truffle, or the Japanese-Italian mashup mentaiko spaghettini, a brilliant and buttery spicy cod roe pasta. Further influences come from Peru and Mexico, resulting in Nikkei dishes as well as sashimi taquitos. One of the classics is a medley of thick, and slightly chewy, grilled octopus tentacles with avocado and tomatoes.
The vast menu might feel a bit frightening and overwhelming. Don't panic, just surrender to the fact that you’ll have to come back again.