Palsta: a natural breeze from Scandinavia
For centuries, the French determined how to cook and what to eat. Around 2004, the “New Nordic Cuisine”, a cuisine of proximity based on the ancient hunter-forager narrative, was born. This “movement” became a gastronomic ideal through the innovation of NOMA, an epicentre from which the ideas radiated, with its founder Claus Meyer and head chef Réne Redzeppi. In a sense, NOMA made fine dining trendy and propagated a minimalist aesthetic with a deep focus on vegetables and seafood. However, in recent years, the ethical and formal dogmas of such modernised cuisine have been challenged from within. This has resulted in restaurants loosening their format whilst keeping true to the products, flavours and looks of the Scandinavian gastronomy. “Palsta”, a wine bar and Nordic Bistro in Berlin, is the perfect example of a restaurant using this context to position itself in the gastronomic scene whilst rejecting rather classic formalities.
This hidden Scandinavian temple, freely translated as ‘a parcel of land, sea and air,’ is tucked away in Neukölln’s Oderstrabe. Thanks to Viivi Haussila-Seppo, the Northern lights can be admired from nearby the empty Templehof, an ex-nazi airport now turned into a recreational park. When entering the restaurant, people’s attention is immediately grasped by the glass ceiling covered in a bed of corks from natural and lo-fi wines that are displayed on a crafted shelf. After being casually greeted, visitors are taken to one of the three seating areas. The area on the right is rather cosy and elegant whereas the other rooms are a little less privileged and warm.
From almost every table, the experienced chef, Filip Sondergaard, can be observed. The atmospheric aesthetics of the restaurant feel and look Scandinavian: grey and dark blue paired with green nuances. The combination of light and dark (raw) wood dominate the tableware while playful variations of green, yellow, ochre and brown infiltrate each one’s plate. Through the combination of its light wooden floor and darker withered wall with unfinished rough pieces, the restaurant exudes a postmodern adage: imperfection is the new perfection.
The artworks displayed in Palsta betray a form of nostalgic escapism. Structurally, the printed photographs radiate an icy silence but, conceptually, these contribute to the warm exhilaration when ordering the small and medium-sized progressive "tapas". These plates are an ode to the vicissitudes of nature.
Since almost everything is coming from the Chef’s city garden, Nordic flavours have never seemed any closer. The menu is characterised by, on the one hand, (cold-water) seafood and vegetables and, on the other, by cooking techniques where ingredients are burnt, cured, fermented and smoked. The starters undeniably appeal most to one’s imagination, in particular the goat cheese croquettes with pesto and slightly fermented cucumbers. In one bite, this dish summarizes what the restaurant stands for: (healthy) fats, pure and earthy flavored vegetables that are enhanced by an acidity coming from aromatic oils or light emulsions. Despite these high-quality ingredients, the smoked salmon with cucumbers, mustard seed and sour cream was not mind-blowing. This creation was, in my opinion, too well behaved by the use of classic flavors that failed to create depth or smash the taste buds.
However, all dishes are the perfect marriage to the carefully selected organic, natural, lo-fi or whatever they call these wines today. Without generalising, unfiltered wines tempt to create a funky freshness in the mouth and are expressive examples of a round balance between minerality and savoury textures. The different wines experienced at Palsta were uttermost enjoyable: juicy, fully ripe and mineral. These contained beautiful autumn fruits with funky shrooms, gassy leather on the nose and some citry/pomgrenatic zests as well as bitter chocolate in the glass.
Considering its informal atmosphere and respectable food, Palsta is a place where people feel right at home. With their affordable and compelling menu-format, Palsta exempts itself from any pressure whilst achieving its primary goal: giving customers an honest taste of Scandinavia while pampering them with a free and sensuous experience.
50€ per person (almost all-in) - Menu changes constantly
+49 176 22330605