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CLOSED: Mio Matto: Easy vegan

Vegan cuisine might still be on its way to full form, but chef Björn Moschinski levels up the vegan dining experience at his restaurant Mio Matto serving amazing Italian dishes and a great view of Berlin.

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Photo by Erica Löfman

Björn Moschinski’s vegan restaurant Mio Matto levels up the vegan dining experience serving Italian dishes and a great view.

Mio Matto is no longer in business.

What better location for Berlin’s latest vegan restaurant than right above animal-free supermarket Veganz – and right next to a leather-free shoe shop?

The man behind Mio Matto, Björn Moschinski, is no neophyte on the scene: with already one notable foray into the vegan food business (Kopps) and three cookbooks under his belt, the dreadlocked, self-taught thirtysomething is the closest Berlin has to a hip chef, with regular TV appearances and plenty of fans among local health-conscious celebs and trendy professionals.

Leaving behind the minimalistic, sleek décor and German comfort food of his previous location, Moschinski has opted this time for a more casual vibe and Italian cuisine. After entering through the sliding door of Veganz and ascending a generic staircase, the diner is welcomed by an unexpectedly pleasant atmosphere: unfinished wood separating walls, stone tabletops supported by iron legs, a playful red-and-white checkered coffered ceiling.

There are private corners and cosy coves fitted with designer sofas… and, rare for Berlin, a ‘view’. We sat at the long ‘VIP table’ perpendicular to the full-height window looking out onto the night-lit Warschauer Brücke and the Spree, a splendid iconic sight – well worth the trip.

Before we had time to even order our drinks, a plate of marinated olives, beetroot-red salt and olive oil had landed on our table. A good first impression, bolstered by the quality of their vegan wines (no animal-based products used during the wine-making process): a nice mineral white from Sardinia and a more than decent Tempranillo from La Mancha.

At first glance the menu boasts the usual Italian suspects – antipasti, soups and salads, homemade pasta and pizza – which, if you think about it, are not a huge creative challenge to the meat-free cook. Our waiter acknowledges: “Many come here for pizza, order it, eat it – and don’t notice it’s vegan until they see the leaflet that comes with the bill.”

They might have fallen for the delicious crust (white, wholemeal or gluten-free) and overlooked that the salami and ham on the Quattro Stagioni were soy and the cheese – a dairy-free, soy-free potato-based ersatz. Or ordered the excellent Quattro Funghi (€12), topped by mushrooms: sautéed in white wine and in a cream of thyme, tamari-marinated shiitake and truffled king oyster. Who cares if it’s vegan, really?

Same with the fennel-celery strudel (€12.80) – oven baked, served with wild red Camargue rice, an awesomely healthy treat that would be on the boring, dry side if it weren’t for the beautiful tarragon mayo and the tinge of anise in the rice. Vegan? It would have been vicious to add animal products to this one!

For a more challenging, typically vegan adventure, check out the chalkboard: the three-course menu (€23) lists the chef’s latest creations. On the December evening of our visit, those were a ‘yofu’ starter (tofu-yogurt with a squishy panna cotta-like texture) topped with a nice but over-the-top sweet pear chutney; delicious homemade panzerotti ravioli filled with celery and yellow beetroot, an earthy combination of tart and salty, expertly balanced by the slightly sweet-sour beetroot sauce.

We also ordered a starter of kohlrabi ravioli (€7.90) – the delicate shells made out of paper-thin slices of the popular German turnip were reminiscent of something from the vegan pioneer La Mano Verde in Charlottenburg. Not surprising, since Moschinski trained with Mano Verde chef Jean-Christian Jury before breaking out to start Kopps. The difference? These were filled with a delicious ‘ragout’ of (cooked) lentils – a decisive step away from the raw-food gospel of his former employer.

There’s also a fillet of smoked bean curd on the regular menu (€15.80), which we didn’t try but should next time. For a take on dairy-free dessert, try the millefeuille: the delicately lemon-flavoured soy-based cream was convincing and the puff pastry delicious. Too bad it was lacking some 997 layers (the name literally means “thousand leaves”). We also sampled the chef’s dessert of the week, an unusually fruity apple sorbet served in a glass filled with a creamy hazelnut Baileys sauce and a sesame nougatine biscuit.

A good, cheap way to sample Mio Matto is their lunch menu (€5.50; €7.50; €9:50 from one to three courses). Expect daily changing specials such as an eggplant-lentil stew served with potatoes, as well as (egg-free) pasta and pizza slathered in vegan cheese. Another affordable introduction to Moschinski’s way is the brunch, every Saturday and Sunday (€12.50).

Being 100 percent vegan means adopting a pretty fussy, dogmatic lifestyle, from leather-free shoes to fish-scale-free nail polish. But dining at Moschinski’s Mio Matto is anything but a dogmatic experience. Reclining in one of the sofas and enjoying the view over a nice plate of homemade ravioli or crusty pizza – never has vegan felt so obvious!

Originally published in issue #123, January 2014.