Restaurants are back in business and the first visit will be your salvation.
Right before the lockdown we had the chance to have dinner at Irma La Douce in Berlin and all I can say is that not only does the name fit perfectly well, but the food is a celebration of the modern French world of pleasure. “Just like Irma from the movie, we live our very own style that does not leave out anything” as Jonathan Kartenberg describes his restaurant in his own words.
IRMA: You say you are not a French restaurant, but a restaurant that is inspired by French cuisine. What does that mean?
JONATHAN KARTENBERG: Irma la Douce stands for innovative, French cuisine that uses classical cooking methods. Our dishes are lighter compared to French traditional ones, without sacrificing strong flavors. With our unconventional concept we pay tribute to French cuisine, but not to all French traditions. We like to add our personal touch. A good example is the Bourride, a rather rustic fish stew from Provence. We combine this with fried sole, which is the main player on the plate. We add fish velouté with rouille sauce, fresh seaweed and artichoke.
IRMA: Which dish seems easy but is the most difficult to prepare?
JONATHAN KARTENBERG: The snails are difficult to prepare. Especially when it comes down to finding the right cooking point. We serve the snails with blanched Brussels Sprouts and Brussels Sprouts Purée. The taste of the Brussels Sprouts changes constantly – so this dish needs fine-tuning. There are also two complex sauces, which need lots of preparation time. Last but not least, the dish consists of ten different components, that makes it unique.
IRMA:There is a large, wonderfully stocked wine fridge. Does wine determine food or does food determine wine?
JONATHAN KARTENBERG: None of the above. Wine goes without food and food goes without wine – they’re just better together. Irma la Douce stands for full enjoyment: on the plate and in the glass. Our guest can visit us for a glass of wine – we have 300 different types – and sit in the front area or at the tables. We also offer to take some snacks and a glass of Champagne, of which we serve about 50 different types. At Irma la Douce we want to celebrate the modern French world of pleasure. Just like Irma from the movie, we live our very own style that does not leave out anything.
IRMA: The press is full of good reviews for Irma la Douce. The kitchen is praised to heaven. How do you deal with it? Where is your journey going?
JONATHAN KARTENBERG: We are very happy about so many good reviews. But we don’t want to become full of ourselves, so we always keep thriving for better. We are constantly developing new dishes – to create new experiences for our guest. Other than that, we like how things are going now and have no concrete plans for the future.
IRMA: Which dish does Irma la Douce recommend IRMA?
JONATHAN KARTENBERG: We would recommend the salsify with radicchio. Salsify is an old, regional vegetable. It’s a simple vegetable, but a true all-rounder! I am a fan of it since I was in school. The radicchio as an original Italian vegetable and was unknown in Germany till the 1990s, it adds a bitter note to the salsify, which makes the dish a true culinary experience. We put truffles on top of it, because it gives the dish a final luxurious touch.
IRMA: After coming back to my kitchen I wanted to copy some things, like the herb infused butter, for example. I did not succeed. Can you tell me in easy steps how to copy cat you and get it right?
JONATHAN KARTENBERG: We use the herbs you usually take when preparing the famous “Frankfurter Soße”, then we purée
the herbs and mix the purée with butter. Just add salt, lemon and pepper. For the special twist we also add a splash of Worcester sauce. That’s it!
IRMA: A wine from your list which is worth having dinner at Irma la Douce at least once a week.
JONATHAN KARTENBERG: Our sommelier Sascha Hammer is the wine expert. He is a traditionalist with excellent knowledge and a good addition to the team. The focus is on regions such as Burgundy and Bordeaux, but all regions of France are represented, as well as some wines from neighboring European countries. We do cover so many regions, plus, we offer a huge selection of Champagne! So I am afraid I cannot recommend one single wine but instead we recommend to drink 50 different bottles of Champagne on 50 nights!
IRMA: To your opinion which ingredient, product or food will be on high demand this coming summer?
JONATHAN KARTENBERG: To be honest, there are plenty of great products each and every season. We play with various types of products, but especially love the spring with its baby vegetables.