'You Won!' was the subject line. I'd almost forgot that I'd entered Stil in Berlin's giveaway for the Mr. Susan dinner in the Hidden Chefs series, part of the Stadt Land Food festival, when I received the email saying I was the proud owner two seats for a six-course Korean/German/American extravaganza that Sunday night. My mind could barely comprehend how lucky I was and then I realized.... oh shit. My celiac is going to ruin this for me. I looked back at the menu and saw words that trigger my fears when even considering eating out. Damn gluten sneaks its way into more than one would think.
So I frantically messaged them - Mr. Susan is the duo of Susan Choi and Stefan Andres - cringing as I typed the kind of inquiry I used to scoff at when I overheard people being 'difficult' in restaurants before. They quickly responded with just a couple of courses that I would likely have problems with, and I spent the next couple of days debating pawning my ticket on a friend, so that someone could enjoy every last bite that I would not be able to. In the end though, I decided to make a go of it and boy, am I glad I did.
Getting there at 8p.m. on the nose, we were the last to arrive and were seated at the bar, with a prime view of all the magic happening in the kitchen - a place I love to be seated in a nice restaurant. We were quickly caught up with cocktails from the charming Italian boys of Nudo, the restaurant hosting the event, and the jars of fermented veggies our table mates slid over for us to enjoy. After digging into some pickled beets, kimchi that left the perfect burn on my lips and a round chewy veg neither of us could identify, I started to remember how much I always enjoyed Mr. Susan's burgers (pre-celiac diagnosis) at Burgers & Hip-Hop and their regular offerings at Street Food Thursday and my mind eased a bit more.
The next two courses, the ones that looked to be the only two 'main' dishes I would be able to enjoy, honestly scared me just a little bit. Now, I've become quite the adventurous eater from the super picky child I was growing up. I've enjoyed sweetbreads at a wedding in France, cow tongue at the most expensive meal I've ever eaten in Prague and baby goat cheeks my brother-in-law prepared during his time as a sous-chef back in San Francisco. In all these years of travel and eating, somehow I'd never tried oysters (which I believe had more to do with my mom recounting her first unsavory experience with them than my aversion to all things seafood) and I steered away from organs after realizing that liver was never a flavor I was keen on, no matter the preparation. But I was completely surprised by both courses.
The oysters, one with just a fresh squeeze of lemon, the other with a dash of kimchi relish, were fresh and tasted of the sea, not the skunky aquarium taste I feared ever since I first tried sushi. Diving into the beef heart and foie gras tartare, I admit I was fighting the urge to be put off by eating, you know, heart - and eating it raw. Pushing aside any Indiana Jones-esque visions of animal sacrifice, I tentatively tried a bite. The flavorful meat mixed with the capers, fresh lemon zest and delicate garnish came together in the most unexpected and delicious way. Enjoying a bite on the hand-cut crisps it was served with provided a nice crunch in an otherwise soft and rich course. Surprising myself with how quickly I cleaned my plate, I couldn't help but think this should help my iron deficiency tremendously. Take that, anemia.
Anyone who knows me won't be surprised to hear me say that even after all these amazing courses, dessert was definitely my favorite. A float of olive oil ice cream suspended in a concoction of a thick raspberry vinegar, pisco and sparking water was the ultimate grown-up version of a childhood dessert. Perhaps taking pity on all that I could not eat, Susan offered me even more ice cream, which I greedily agreed to despite the status of my surprisingly full belly. I am not one who can say no to more dessert. Ever.
We left Nudo positively stuffed and just in awe of how much the evening's meal blew us away. I mean, we expected good things, but these were great things. Before you despair, dear reader, that you did not get to enjoy this decadence, let me offer some words of hope: they are working to open a whole restaurant of their very own. While they are taking their time seeking out just the right spot, have patience, because I can guarantee if the results are anything like this special meal, it will be well worth the wait.
You can find Mr. Susan regularly at Street Food Thursday at Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg. Online, stay up-to-date by following them on Facebook and see their photos on Instagram and Tumblr.