Over the last few years, the Kitchener Waterloo region has become known for its innovative dining scene. With a diverse population of university students and technology industry workers, you can expect to find excellent cafes, craft cocktails, fine dining, craft beer and Asian cuisine. On a recent trip, we had the opportunity to visit the highly rated fine-dining restaurant –The Berlin.   Located in the heart of downtown Kitchener on King Street West, easily accessible if you’re staying in a hotel nearby.   The restaurant had a welcoming vibe with excellently crafted dishes using locally sourced ingredients.

The Backstory  

Berlin was opened in 2015 by Chef Jonathan Gushue (late of Langdon Hall) and his business partner Ryan Lloyd-Craig. – it took off running – a big hit right from the start. Sadly Chef Gushue was recently wooed away by the luxury Fogo Island Inn, a remote North Atlantic getaway with room-and-food rates starting at $1,675 per night. He’s been replaced by a young up-and-comer, Chef Benjamin Lillico, once chef at restaurants owned by the Kitchener-based Charcoal Group, (Charcoal Steakhouse, The Bauer Kitchen, Beertown, Wildcraft and Moose Winooski’s). Lillico has won medals in international culinary competitions and other honours such as a recent ‘Top 30 under 30’ Hotel Award.

The Berlin Plating action by Chefs

Chef Lillico is ably supported by the very talented Chef Brian McCourt; Culinary Director of The Berlin and Graffiti Market in Kitchener, who, a couple of years ago, won the Uptown 21 Iron Chef competition in support of The Food Bank of Waterloo Region.

As one eats with one’s eyes first, I must say, everything served was artfully plated.

We started with Berlin’s cocktail list, and because we are clever well-seasoned diners, took the advice of our server Rick Baroncelli, a well trained professional with a wonderful knowledge of everything wine. We ordered “Spice up your life”, a base of Spiced Rum with Black Vermouth, Chambord, Lime and Cinnamon, and a “Winter Mist”, Vodka, Chambord, Lemon, Grapefruit, and mint. The former was very nice – but the later “Winter Mist” was a knock-out.

The Berlin - Cocktails

We ordered our appetizers while enjoying a basket of bread – sliced from a rustic well-seeded loaf – served with butter, which had been sprinkled with smoked paprika.

Our selections were the ‘Bay Scallop Crudo’, Scallops with Orange, Fennel and Smoked Bacon Crumble; and ‘Cornish Hen Terrine’, with Leek, Celery, and Buttermilk Foam. The Scallop dish was very delicate as was the Hen Terrine – but the Terrine was lacking the flavor we were looking for.

The Berlin- Chicken Terrine Appetizer The Berlin - Scallop Appetizer

The appetizers left us a bit ho-hum, but redemption from the Culinary Gods came in the form of our entrées – the ‘Smoked Duck’ and what was listed as ‘Locally Sourced Daily Beef’.

The Berlin - Duck Entree

The Smoked Duck was perfectly cooked and rested in a rich jus with Fermented Blackberries, different colored Beets and Wheat Berries that had been simmered to perfection in a very well seasoned stock. The Beef (melt in your mouth eye-of-round) dish I had was accompanied by Beef Cheek, Confit Potato, Parsnip, and Hen of the Woods Mushrooms in a Red Wine Jus. Our server, Rick, recommended wines to accompany our meals and I paired my beef with a scrumptious Chianti (Borgo Scopeto).

The Berlin - Local Beef with Cheek

Both of the main courses more than met our expectations.

We, of course, could not leave Berlin without trying their desserts; and by the way, kudos to the Pastry Chef. The ‘Variations of Apple’, a dish consisting of Brown Butter Pana Cotta, with a fresh Cherry sorbet, crisp apple chips and cooked apple cubes on a bed of pecan crumbles; was only slightly surpassed by the Chocolate Mouse Cake coated in a rich Ganache with Walnut, Sponge Toffee bits and Salted Caramel Ice Cream. It really couldn’t have been a better finish to a lovely meal.

The Berlin - Chocolate Mouse

The Berlin - Panna cotta with Sorbet

Have you been to The Berlin or have recommendations for other restaurants in the area readers may like to hear about?  


The Berlin
45 King St W
Kitchener, Ontario N2G 1A1
(519) 208-8555
For opening hours visit www.theberlinkw.ca

For more information about the Kitchener Waterloo Region visit www.explorewaterlooregion.com