BERLIN – The official name is Kaufhaus des Westens but nearly everyone calls it simply KaDeWe. Indeed, the shortened name is all that shows on the side of the seven-story department store, the second largest in Europe after Harrod’s.
The first five stories of KaDeWe (kah-day-vay) hold the typical fashion and design elements found in any upscale department store, in Europe or the States. But it’s the top two floors that make it unique — and a must-do destination for any foodies visiting Berlin. Those levels are designated almost entirely to food and wine, with dozens of small service counters, each representing a cuisine or food specialty. If you’ve been to Harrod’s food stalls you’ll have an idea of the concept and quality but not the scale. KaDeWe’s food floors dwarf Harrod’s.
You’ll find Asian, French, Italian, seafood — fresh fish or an oyster raw bar — cheese, charcuterie, desserts and much, much more. More than two dozen in all, along with prepared foods, gourmet items and even a produce department. Many are branded and operated by others. When I visited for New Year’s in 2011, I ate at the Paul Bocuse counter. This time, Bocuse was gone.
We weren’t able to settle for just one choice, so we began with a plate of three cheeses and a glass of wine at the cheese counter. The orange and waxy mimolette and Comte were delicious, but the cantal was just so so.
For our mains, we chose the German stall — It’s Berlin, for crying out loud — and found a place to eat at one of the large windows overlooking Tauentzienstrasse below. A couple of plates of wurst — one with potato salad, one with sauerkraut — and two glasses of beer made for a full feast.
On the top floor is an extraordinary array of foods in an area unjustly called the buffet. True, it is a sort of experience where you wander among the various types of prepared foods and help yourself to whatever looks yummy (which is pretty much all of it). But it’s unlikely you’ve ever encountered a buffet like this anywhere else. Lobsters, prawns, steaks, roasts, casseroles, all arrayed gorgeously and enticingly in the bright open space. Thirsty? Help yourself to a flute of Veuve Cliquot. You’ll have a hard time keeping yourself from loading your plate, but beware: most of the items are sold by weight.
Another caution: before deciding where you really want to grab a bite, make an effort to wander the entire space. I learned that lesson after the first visit. Although the Paul Bocuse experience was good, I found at least four others I would have rather tried if only I had seen them first. Also, bear in mind that these are actual food counters with high stool seats. Protocol is that if there is an open stool you may just grab it and have a seat.
KaDeWe is at Tauentzienstrasse 21-24, A Wittenbergplatz, Berlin. Here’s a link to the KaDeWe website, but its info on food stalls is lacking. Still, you’ll want to refer to it for hours of operation and directions. (The U1 stop is just outside the front door.)