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Dippin’ it: Fondue in Berlin

There's something fun and engaging about dipping food into a shared pot. Be it boiling oil, hot cheese or chocolate fondue is here in the city. We tried three of Berlin's hottest (s)pots: Feuer und Flamme, Ars Vini and Tian Fu.

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Tian Fu. Photo by Erica Löfman

Fondue may have peaked in the 1970s, but dunking stuff in molten cheese, hot oil, broth or chocolate will never lose its appeal. We tried three of Berlin’s hottest pots.

Feuer und Flamme

Claiming to be “DAS Fonduerestaurant”, “Fire and Flame” is very popular with Berliners – and not-so-packed with tourists. The menu runs the gamut of what one could imagine as fondue. We dared to try a couple of their more audacious varieties.

Their signature spicy cheese fondue (€12.90) was a little sludgy, the bread too dry and the cornichons weren’t the nice French-style vinegary kind. Yet the “Caribbean” (€18.90), as experimental and odd as it sounds, was decent: deep-fry your own pork and banana sprinkled with coconut flakes.

Chocolate fondue (€5.50/ person) comes in dark, milk or white variations, into which you can throw anything from Smarties to marshmallows to gingerbread.

A big plus: one hell of a friendly waiter brimming with East Berlin charm.

Am Comeniusplatz 1, Friedrichshain, S+U-Bhf Warschauer Str., Tel 030 2977 6595, Mon-Thu from 18, Fri-Sun 18-1

Ars Vini

This mini-franchise has locations in Prenzlauer Berg, Mitte and Charlottenburg – all perfectly cosy, candlelit places, popular with tourists and locals alike. Here, the traditional Swiss mixture (€14.90) – just one of 13 cheese variations – contains garlic butter, rosé, a blend of Gruyere and Appenzeller and a dash of kirsch schnapps.

Importantly, the cheese has the right consistency – not sludgy! – for dipping the copious amounts of fresh white and dark bread provided. The only garnish is a half-hearted little salad with vinaigrette – a portion of “mixed pickles” costs an extra €2.50.

Meat fondues range from the classic meat-in-hot-oil medley with barbecue, Cumberland and aioli sauces (€23.90) to the Thai chicken and seafood in coconut curry broth (€19.90).

Templiner Str. 7, Mitte, U-Bhf Senefelderplatz, Tel 030 3060 9486, Mon-Sun 17-24

Tian Fu

The Szechuan restaurant’s Chinese hotpot (€15 per person, or €16.90 for a single order) is an affair to be shared. The big steel pan in the middle of the table is divided in two: a spicy Szechuan peppercorn and chilli broth, and a mild chicken and pork broth with a “secret mix of spices”. Vegetarian broths are available on request.

Grab a plate and load it with noodles, different shapes of tofu, bok choy, mushrooms, snapper, shrimp, lamb, beef or turkey from the vast selection at the buffet station, and start cooking your dinner. Fill your bowl with a side of rice and add condiments: sesame seeds, garlic sauce, chilli oil, pickled tofu sauce…

At the table it’s almost impossible to keep track of who put what in the pot, and who ate it, but when the concept is “all-you-can-eat”, does it really matter?

Berliner Str. 15, Charlottenburg, U-Bhf Berliner Straße, Tel 030 8639 7780, Mon-Sun 12-23

Originally published in issues #121, November 2013.