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A Moveable Feast

Chef Paco Pérez Arrives in Berlin
  • The Mirror

    Chef Paco Pérez plates a dish; a king prawn on rice

  • The Mirror

    The Mirror Restaurant

  • Paco Perez

    Paco Pérez (second from right) in the kitchen

  • Das stue

    Cinco Restaurant at Das Stue

  • Das Stue

    Cappuccino, molecular gastronomy–style; Chef Paco Pérez addressing his staff

CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

The former capital of East Germany, in the far northeast near the Polish border, once again presides over a united Germany.

WHY GO

Few cities in Europe are quite so heavy with 20th-century history, but it’s the future that seems to draw people to Berlin today. Thanks to some unique economic circumstances — including famously cheap rents — it’s blossomed into one of the world’s great creative centers.

HOW

The city’s relative isolation dragged on for a few years after the wall came down, but the new Brandenburg airport, set to open in 2013, will usher in a new era of accessibility.

TABLET TIP

First-time bikers in Berlin might be surprised to note that relations with drivers are generally warm and respectful. Be sure and keep up the pace, however, if you’re in heavy bike traffic, or you might catch an earful from your fellow riders.

Berlin, April, 2013

Anyone with a whiff of interest in avant-garde food knows that, for well over a decade now, something’s been cooking in Catalonia. Bordering southern France and the Balearic Sea, anchored by Barcelona and streaked with a strong sense of independence, the region is fertile ground for chefs. The Adrià brothers — Ferran, whose former restaurant elBulli put Spanish molecular gastronomy on the map, and Albert, a world-class pâtissier — are from here, and so is Ferran Adrià–protégé Paco Pérez.

When Paco Pérez is compared to his former mentor, he smiles and says, “To me cooking in the style of elBulli means being consistent, creative, humble and hard-working, so I’m delighted if it’s true.” It’s that style of cooking that Pérez has brought to Berlin with his newly opened Cinco at Das Stue, though we’d add another descriptor to the list: ambitious.

The twenty-five-course menu at his first restaurant outside of Spain is an onslaught, if a relentlessly pleasurable one, of colors and flavors and textures and ideas. “The aim,” he says, “is to create happiness.” To do so he turns to straightforward-sounding dishes like Caesar salad or fish and chips, though of course they’re always full of surprises, never what they first seem.

The space itself has a decidedly urban, German vibe, but like his fellow Spanish chefs doing molecular gastronomy, Pérez bases his cooking on the simple, traditional fare of his home country, where he started cooking at age twelve in his parents’ tapas bar. To understand the new, one has to understand the old — and in a region like Catalonia, where traditional dishes like Calçotada (a form of barbecue) live peacefully alongside quail egg tempura, this seems especially true.

Ultimately it’s a Mediterranean cuisine with good, simple ingredients at its core, and as such fish and seafood play an especially big role. Pérez’s first restaurant, Miramar, in Llançà, sits on one of the country’s most important fishing ports, on the Costa Brava. So it’s no surprise that it’s famous for seafood. At Miramar, Pérez says, the emphasis on elevating the flavors of the sea “is a reflection of our environment,” while at the Mirror hotel’s restaurant he takes a slightly different approach with similar ingredients. Here, he says, the dishes “are made in a simpler and more traditional Spanish preparation.” And for all the mind-boggling technique on display at some of his other restaurants, the chef does have a genuine appreciation for simplicity. “When we finish the day we like to have some quiet moments, when we eat something quick and easy to make — but just because one can prepare a dish fast, it doesn’t mean it has to be mediocre.” Such is the new Catalan cooking, wherever it’s found: uncompromising to the last.

Ela Marx

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CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

The former capital of East Germany, in the far northeast near the Polish border, once again presides over a united Germany.

WHY GO

Few cities in Europe are quite so heavy with 20th-century history, but it’s the future that seems to draw people to Berlin today. Thanks to some unique economic circumstances — including famously cheap rents — it’s blossomed into one of the world’s great creative centers.

HOW

The city’s relative isolation dragged on for a few years after the wall came down, but the new Brandenburg airport, set to open in 2013, will usher in a new era of accessibility.

TABLET TIP

First-time bikers in Berlin might be surprised to note that relations with drivers are generally warm and respectful. Be sure and keep up the pace, however, if you’re in heavy bike traffic, or you might catch an earful from your fellow riders.


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