A Berlin Restaurant That Cooks Without Compromise

Despite Berlin’s reputation for its uninhibited night life and progressive counterculture, traditionally the city’s fine dining restaurants have fit within the same ho-hum, predictable mold. In the last few years several small but ambitious restaurants have managed to break free, but none have managed to match Berlin’s cheeky, creative spirit as successfully as Mrs Robinson’s.

Located in a small space (formerly a kebab restaurant) in the Prenzlauerberg neighborhood, the tiny kitchen is headed up by two recent and young Berlin transplants: the Israeli chef Ben Zviel and Samina Raza, a London native. Mr. Zviel, 28, who first trained with Amir Ilan in Tel Aviv and then, briefly, worked under Wylie Dufresne at WD-50 in New York, had always desired the freedom to develop his cooking without compromise.

After some stints in Berlin, he decided that the German capital was one of the few major European cities affordable enough that he could make it happen. With help from several friends, Mr. Zviel and Ms. Raza renovated the space on a tiny budget and finally opened Mrs Robinson’s (named after a “saucy and warmhearted” friend of Ms. Raza’s) in late 2016.

“We have a small budget but complete freedom,” Mr. Zviel said. “We are committed first to our truth and then to our customers, never to the whims of an investor.”

Ben Zviel and Samina Raza, the owners of Mrs Robinson’s.

From the street, the well-lit room with white-brick walls and pale oak floorboards can resemble a minimalist stage set. Once inside, though, it feels more like a friend’s dinner party where everyone is hanging out in the kitchen. An initial visit just a month after Mrs Robinson’s opened revealed an early taste of what Mr. Zviel aspired to: a lively kitchen where he could play and riff with Asian-inspired, umami-rich dishes directly inspired by New York City chefs like Mr. Dufresne and David Chang: a bowl of crispy charred brussels sprouts served with crunchy toasted rice and…

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