You can't spit in Berlin without landing on something of historic interest, and the site of Pauly Saal—the new restaurant opened by the team behind the well known Grill Royal—is no different. The former Jüdische Mädchenschule, or Jewish girls' school, was built in Mitte in 1928 and was taken over by the Nazis as early as 1930.
The courtyard, a charming brick patio where you can eat lunch in the afternoon or sip a cocktail at night, was used for deportations until 1941, after which the school passed through a series of owners, eventually standing vacant for decades until the fourth Berlin Biennale used it in 2006 and, most recently, restauranteurs Stephan Landwehr and Boris Radczun remodeled it for their latest culinary venture, Pauly Saal.
You can't get to the dining room without walking through the Pauly Bar, which might as well be the set of a 1930s gentlemen's club with its dark green walls, buttery brown leather chairs and Persian rugs. The dining room, too, is a throwback to a more refined time. Murano chandeliers light the lush green cushioned seats and white tablecloths in golden tones. Against walls covered with locally made ceramic tiles, a life-size, red and white rocket spans the entire width of the room. It's mounted over windows that separate the dining room from the kitchen, where executive chef Siegfried Danler calmly prepares traditional Weimar cuisine completely from scratch.
Your meal starts with a basket of deliciously chewy graubrot, literally grey bread. Somewhere between a weiss (white) brot and a schwartz (black) brot, graubrot is made using grains with the hull removed, so it retains the softness of white bread with all the richness and nuttiness of a darker loaf. Served alongside slabs of cold, salty butter, it's a good sign of things to come. Danler cooks with as much from the restaurant's small garden as he can, and he gets a good hunk of the meat he serves from his father. Given the amount of pork, beef and veal on the menu, Danler's dad must keep busy. Since its opening in February 2012, Paul Saal has offered suckling pig, braised veal, offal and their signature dish, veal heart. Big parties can even order a large cut of meat and have it sliced by their waiter and served up table side.
When we went for lunch the tasting menu (a starter, main and dessert all for the affordable price of €32) featured asparagus salad (the big white kind was in peak season), haunch of roe buck with mushroom pasta and marinated fennel and strawberry sponge cake with yogurt cream and an elderflower jelly for dessert. We opted for a few staples from the regular menu and started with crayfish consommé and a salad with fried asparagus and marinated roast of organic pork. A whole crayfish, cut lengthwise, bathed in the thin, savory broth, and though the pork was a little on the greasy side, the perfectly roasted paper thin slices melted on your tongue.
We followed that with the crispy-skinned, sinfully buttery perch entree and the bell pepper and lemon-glazed veal shoulder with potato dumplings and spinach.
Here we need to pause and pay homage to the rich, slow roasted hunk of veal so juicy and tender we didn't even need a knife to cut it. The paprika-spiced sauce made its way down the plate to four perfectly tender, just-made gnocchi.
We finished with the strawberry dessert on our waiter's recommendation. The small square of layered sponge cake and strawberry yogurt cream made for a light finish to a truly indulgent lunch.
Reservations for the two-hour dinner service are highly recommended. Pauly Saal is open at noon daily.