We met on the S-Bahn platform and took the eastern exit to the canal. The cobblestones were bright with rain. There were moments when Aine began to doubt this bleak dark sidewalk could take us to a wonderland of fish, but I promised that I had checked the map, and that this was the way.
False alarms included a car repair shop and this spätzle place I've been wanting to try for ages (have you been?). When we pushed open the door to Balikci Ergün, we heard the blare of a television broadcasting a sporting match. An older man greeted us with a quizzical expression, perhaps because it was only 5pm, then showed us to a table. The speakers let out a televised cheer. For an instant, as you do, I wondered if this had been a terrible mistake.
The whimsy of the yellow cards hanging everywhere won me over first. The unscrupulous restaranteur will write fake reviews on Qype, but no-one would manage this multilingual (German, Arabic, Japanese, English, Spanish...) chorus of praise, often copiously illustrated.
Then the waiter had that warm intelligence that instantly sets me at ease. What's good? we asked, because really, what to do with page after page of choices once you've mentally scored out the salmon? We ended up with two platters of crisp simple salad rich with dill and pomegranate seeds, a tangle of sardines and the trio of fish you see above. (I wish I could tell you what they were, but something about German fish names triggers instant amnesia.)
We squeezed lemon over the crisp fish and delicately separated succulent flakes of meat from invisible bones; I tore the flatbread to mop up the oily salad juices. The room filled up, mostly with men. The small space might feel oppressive on a summer's day, but it was just right for November. The meal itself — unprinked, unshowy, delicious — was the sort you would eat in a beach shack near San Francisco or Hong Kong.
Part of my pleasure in the meal might have been the good company, but Balikci Ergün is an oasis, to be sure. When we exited into the sharp November air (Aine to the Akademie der Künste for an evening celebrating Schlingensief, I home to whisky, David and books), it came as a shock, and not only because recent days had been so mild.
PS: Where to eat in Konstanz? Need not be shack-like.
Balikci Ergün, simple fish shack under the S-Bahn tracks, Lüneburger Straße 382, Berlin-Moabit (map)
Tel. (49) (30) 397 57 37
Two platters of fish plus salads and drinks came to €36.