Berlin is blessed with culinary delights of lands near and far. A mélange de tout, the Hauptstadt has something to offer to everyone. While the influence of Middle Eastern flavors is felt on every corner in form of Döners, Falafel, and kebabs, the Iranian cuisine is still heavily underrepresented. Few restaurants are trying to inject some of the exotic East into Germany’s beating heart and few people too. Among such people is Anahita, an Iranian girl whose Sabzi and Coucou are bringing in the Persian flavors with an added twist.
Anahita had arrived in Berlin from Iran when she was sixteen. “I could barely speak a word of German,” she laughs. “Ich spreche kein Deutsch” was all she knew. Several years later however she had secured a major in Economics and was thinking of doing something on the side. That was back in 2009 when she started developing ‘Sabzi’’s concept. For somebody who allegedly ‘could not fry an egg’, opening and running a restaurant posed quite a challenge.
A couple of months into its opening however, the lunch bistro with its select Iranian lunch menu had managed to gather quite a following and food would run out after only an hour. “I remember this guy who would show up three days in a row and the food was already gone.” Turning a guest away with empty hands or an empty stomach to be exact is a far cry from Iranian hospitality so on the fourth day, Anahita put a Persian platter together and set to deliver it to him. “He was shocked as I was embarrassed carrying that food around in his workplace, trying to find his desk,” Anahita giggled remembering. He showed up the next day with a bouquet of flowers to say thank you.
As Sabzi grew in its popularity, it became evident the business had to grow. A recently-evacuated café in Sabzi’s proximity had recently became available and Anahita initially only intended to use its kitchen to keep up with the flooding patrons. In 2012, ‘Coucou’ finally put it spacious location into good use and the restaurant opened up its doors. With a menu still inspired by the Persian flavors but partially removed from Iranians’ favor for fry-until-crunchy, bake-until-crisp, Coucou started offering healthier options to hungry customers. Recipes were developed by Anahita herself who had come a long way from ‘frying an egg’. Drawing on Iranians love for heavy use of turmeric, she whipped up ‘Kurkuma-latte’ which is now a signature hot drink of Coucou and perfected a fruit cake blessed with loads of nuts and apple sauce. Being a deli as well, food and desserts could be enjoyed either in Coucou’s homey fashionable setting or taken away.
Iran has sometimes been shunned and often been cloaked in air of mystery but here patrons have nothing but words of admiration for Anahita’s. Some have even travelled to Iran recently and they come back with stories of amazement with Iran’s beauty and old-school hospitality. Most however come back for a taste of Iran in ‘Coucou’ and ‘Sabzi’.
Sabzi, Luisenstr. 15, 10117 Berlin- Mitte, Open Mon-Fri 11:30-16h
Coucou, Reinhardtstr. 37, Berlin-Mitte, Open Mon-Fri 8:30-17h
Text: Ida Reihani
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