For many years now, I’ve traveled outside of Orange County for added experiences that bring an element of surprise to my increasingly jaded palate. There have been trips overseas, within the continental USA, and right here in southern California. To the north and south are LA and San Diego and LA, so easily accessible to us. Then, there is Long Beach, sitting quietly in the middle, minding its own business, but all the while, popping up little independent eateries with distinctive charm and ingenuity.
Last year, I find several noteworthy restaurants in this city, including Restauration, which I can’t gt enough of. It isn’t February yet, and I’ve found another enchanting spot in the LBC. Berlin Bistro is pretty packed when we arrive for dinner. I am surprised to see Fingerprints, a music store and book store attached to it. I later do a little digging and find out that besides being a retail store, it is also a huge supporter of indie bands and often hosts in-house jam sessions.
As we settle in, I notice the menu offers a good mix of items for meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans alike. We begin with Mushroom Crostini ($8) a plate of five toasted ciabatta slices spread with cremini duxelles, a rich paste traditionally made from finely chopped mushrooms, onions, shallots, and herbs sautéed in butter. The crostini is then topped with brown beech mushrooms and blue cheese crumbles. It is a flavor packed appetizer so simple, yet so rich in taste.
Next is Smoked Salmon Flatbread ($12). Upon taking my first bite, I exclaim “this is REALLY flatbread, not thin crust pizza pretending to be flatbread.” The European style flatbread comprises dill cream cheese, smoked salmon, fresh dill, capers, sliced red onions, heirloom tomatoes and a light drizzle of lemon oil. I’m just tickled with this, so much so I take an order home with me for my son who devours it within minutes.
Market Greens Salad ($10) is an array of the freshest greens on a plate tossed with a simple blood orange vinaigrette made in-house. I inquire about the ingredients and am told that they are sourced from Farm Lot 59 (a local farm which many of Long Beach’s restaurants uses) and from Santa Monica Farmers Market that very day. I love how there isn’t a mixed baby green – from a bag — in sight. I especially love the vinaigrette with citrus aromas which wafts throughout my mouth and olfactory senses.
If you love Shrimp & Grits ($13), the one here arrives in a baby skillet with grits on the bottom, a layer of braised chard, then finished with bacon and plump shrimp. A hint of Tabasco adds a little heat and acid to the chard, There is a definite southern flair to this dish. We thoroughly enjoy all the flavor profiles melded together.
However, we are blown away by the Bison Burger ($14) – I added a fried egg – a half pound of lean bison patty, nicely seasoned, topped with caramelized onions, gruyere cheese and Dijon mustard. The brioche bun holds up to the many ingredients sandwiched between and a solid offering which I will gladly order again.
We manage to chat with owner Kerstin Kansteiner, a Berliner (hence the name) who now calls Long Beach home. I applaud her for offering real flatbread, and a no-fuss menu with food that is fresh, clean and of the highest quality. I thank her for bringing a breath of fresh air to the dining scene, and not gouging customers with inflated prices and boring us with more of the same old stuff we see every day.
If you’re looking for a cool place to hang out for breakfast, lunch or dinner, take a drive to Long Beach and experience this “coffee house bistro restaurant” for yourself. I know I will be back!
420 E 4th St
Long Beach, CA 90802