Traveling to the Far East from Germany in just under three hours is finally possible.
Dinner at the Oukan Berlin beams you into a peaceful alternate reality characterized by mindfulness, minimalism, ancient Japanese tradition, and a plethora of exquisite flavors. So many exquisite vegan flavors.
Hidden away behind a polished red door in a courtyard in Berlin-Mitte, finding the Oukan is a feat in and of itself. With no signs indicating the restaurant’s main entrance, the Oukan Deli and tea shop out in front is the only thing giving away the culinary gem nestled away in the back.
Once successfully locating the restaurant entrance, guests enter a realm of 50 shades of black.
The Oukan’s interior design is simple and minimalist, yet modernly elegant.
Conceived of by restaurant designer Tran Mai Huy Thong, the Oukan’s architecture is inspired by modern minimalist Japanese styles. Incorporating Wabi-Sabi (not wasabi), a traditional Japanese aesthetic derived from Buddhist teachings, the restaurant’s design creates a calming, peaceful dining ambience.
Upon entering, guests are channeled through a dimly lit mirrored corridor, past private séparées, and spilled out into the impressive dining room. Once a ballroom, the space scores with its high ceilings, long tables, and calmness-radiating three meter high bonsai.
Restaurant Philosophy: Vegan, Japanese, and Shōjin Ryōri
Oukan’s culinary philosophy revolves around Shōjin Ryōri. This traditional dining style followed by Zen Buddhist monks grew popular in 13th century Japan. Because Buddhist tradition prohibits the exploitation and killing of animals, Shōjin Ryōri is free of meat, fish, and other animal products. It also abstains from using pungent flavors such as onion and garlic.
Harmony is a key concept in Oukan’s kitchen. This includes the harmony of the “five colors (white, black, red, green and yellow), the five flavors (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, umami) and the five types of preparation (cooked, steamed, stewed, fried and raw).”
Local, organic, and seasonal products also play a central role in the conception of Oukan’s dishes. Throughout the year, the menu changes with the seasons – giving guests at least four good reasons to return to the restaurant.
Despite its Japanese focus, Oukan sources the majority of its plant-based ingredients from Germany. From the famous Spreewaldgurke from Brandenburg to mushrooms from Bavaria, only very few ingredients are still imported from Japan.
The Food: Vegan Dining Deluxe
Having visited the Oukan in August of 2022, we had the pleasure of trying out the Japanese restaurant’s seasonal summer menu. You can choose between a three-course and a seven-course menu with (or without) tea pairing. Opt for the latter (trust me).
The slideshow below shows impressions of Oukan’s seven-course summer menu.
Safe to say, we loved every single bite. Even the harshest critics of vegan cuisine will find it hard to argue against the Oukan’s culinary genius.
Special Highlight: Tea Pairing
The Oukan’s vegan culinary creations are undoubtedly the star of the show. But they’re not the only reason dinner at the Oukan is 100% worth it.
Just like you would opt for a wine pairing to accompany a fine meal, we chose the restaurant’s signature tea pairing.
What we didn’t expect were the fantastic explanations of the Oukan’s passionate in-house tea sommelieuse. Her loving descriptions of the hand-picked teas (ranging from Oolong to brewed buckwheat) were equally as fascinating as the descriptions of the individual courses themselves.
Each tea’s aroma harmonized perfectly well with the corresponding dish. Served in tall elegant glasses, simply marveling the different colors of the individual teas was engaging.
Dinner at the Oukan was a straight 9/10.
With the exception of the “fancy spring roll” dish, each and every course was a culinary highlight. Paired with the restaurant’s stylish ambience and the amazing tea accompaniment, that evening’s dining experience was hard to beat.
In final words: Bring all of your anti-vegan friends – they won’t know what hit them.
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