Travel

Berlin’s Panama Restaurant and Bar

Yesterday was a difficult day. The Brexit decision deflated the last bit of fresh air amidst the Trump campaign, Orlando shootings, Paris attacks, the refugee crisis, and for me the Volkswagen Diesel scandal that directly challenges my consulting work on a daily basis. The list goes on. I hear many of us asking at each in these moments ‘what’s wrong with the world?’

I had just enough escape last night at Panama Restaurant & Bar to offer you some hope and optimism. This new Berlin restaurant is inspired by a well-loved German children’s story where little bear and tiger go on an adventure looking for paradise and unknowingly finding it at home where they started.

“The Panama story completely sums up everything we are trying to do: broadening consciousness to the paradise that we are living in now, that is all around. Not by telling everyone that they are doing things wrong, but to have them enjoy what is right,” says Cramer-Klett, whose first restaurant, Katz Orange in the New York Times.

This tale sets the stage for locally sourced vegetable based dishes, a comfortable-yet-dreamlike interior design, a thoughtful and exciting wine list, and playful service that anticipates your needs keeping you in the moment.

This is not a concept restaurant or an abstract dining experience that requires deep interpretation, and in that way for me felt quite German and direct. But the from the moment you walk off Potsdamer Str. through the courtyard you’re taken into a story book starting at a comforting cottage on the first floor where you will later pass through again upon exit like the tiger and bear.

For a short time you can leave the cares of the world behind to be exactly where you need to be: where you are. I recommend arriving before your dinner reservation to enjoy whatever cocktail the bar recommends before going upstairs to the bright and spirited second floor.

The subtleties of the restaurant’s vision radiates through the stories about the sourcing of ingredients, relationships to the wines, and little details about subtly exotic design. Touch the materials around you and feel the soft wood of the hand rails and textures of the fixtures. All intentional.

We were guided through the courses with right amount of care and choice so we could still wanderlust through our meal without getting lost in the woods. The food and plating was delicious (obviously), creative, and playful, but never too complex, demanding nor serious.
This has been one of the very few service experiences in Germany where I felt my needs were anticipated, cared for, and expressed in a way that brought me closer myself and the people I was with. This I believe is one of the most important parts of life and is why we commune together over meals.

We can spend our entire lives searching for paradise. Along the way we will find infinite examples of not paradise. Last night at Panama I was reminded to take great care in who and what we have right now in this very moment. And that I see is the best way to create the future we desire.

What a great opening week for Panama! I recommend making a reservation on OpenTable quickly (and/or booking a flight to Berlin to eat here) before this moment passes. Güten apetit!

Nina Mehta is a writer and product design leader in Brooklyn, New York. She began her design career in journalism and has been writing online for 20+ years. Nina is from outside Chicago and has since lived and worked in San Francisco, Berlin, London, and Tokyo. Learn about Nina at ninamehta.com.

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