Modern Art of Asia (MAOA) - Mitte
Last week I had the misfortune of landing in the wasteland otherwise known as Potsdamer Platz around dinner time. Don’t get me wrong – the place has a few redeeming features, like the Philharmonie, the Stabi, the film museum and the fact it’s never empty. And yet, finding something decent to eat over there appears to be a super-human ordeal.
But we were hungry and the weather did not leave room for flexibility on the subject of location. So we were pretty much stuck where we were. Glossing over the dismal choice of restaurants available around the square that gave the world the traffic light, I could only shrug and grunt an undecipherable complaint about the desertification of central Berlin. With a choice of overpriced and sterile-looking venues, Potsdamer Platz really does feel like an urban desert with a few bright lights and never-ending loads of tourists.
We ended up marching into Modern Art of Asia, one of the sterile-looking restaurants on Leipziger Platz. The pan-Asian restaurant is always crammed pack with people and getting a table is not easy, which was – at lest – reassuring. The interior reminded me of the hotel aesthetics in Lost in Translation, the 90’s version: bright lights, long tables, basic colours. The concept reminded me of another concept that seems to have been left to rot somewhere in the 90’s: Mongolian buffets.
You must remember the loud rise and silent fall of Mongolian buffets. They were everywhere in the late 90’s: the concept was assembling a dish from scratch using available ingredients, as an able looking chef then took over one’s creation and turned it into a work of fine showmanship on a scary looking grill. The same applies here. The menu is fairly basic, with a few starters and horribly overpriced drinks. The main course, however, is the buffet, available as a stuff-your-plate-full-for-one-serving for 16.90 € or as a recurring extravaganza for 23.70 €. We decided to go for the buffet and ignore the rest.
Every serving consists of stuffing a bowl full of whatever ingredients one chooses to eat, selecting a marinade from a list of different options and handing that opus-magnum to the exhausted chefs slaving at the grill (unfortunately, MAOA offers no spectacular show of knife throwing at your food). The available ingredients start with basic things like onions and different sorts of vegetables (bell peppers, carrots, courgettes, etc.), move over to spices like chillies, coriander or dried fruit and end with a copious amount of meat and seafood. The meat selection is actually the best thing about the buffet, as it offers just about anything from duck through beef to kangaroo. The other ingredients, however, are not as exciting with vegetables and spices remaining very German (between broccoli and champignons).
|What a bowl looks like|
|The meat section|
And yet, the main feature of the buffet is that je-ne-sais-quoi DIY experience. It’s fun to assemble things and come up with the most ludicrous combinations. The marinades (from blackberry-sake to fennel-garlic) are also pretty pleasing in most cases. They are fairly mellow and offer a diluted, Germanised sensation, but this should come as no surprise at a pan-Asian restaurant that looks like a hotel lobby. Which brings me to the bottom line: If you happen to be around Potsdamer Platz, have enough money to spend and feel like stuffing your face like a pig, be my guest, it’s fun. However, do not expect any refined experience of superior taste.
Leipziger Platz 8, 10117 Berlin