Dalad Kambhu and Rirkrit Tiravanija are taking over the dóttir restaurant in Mitte for two weeks – and the idea is family style contemporary Thai cuisine
The door stood wide open when I arrived a few minutes early at dóttir in Mitte. It’s 11 o’clock in the morning and the restaurant’s team is busy with the first tasks of the day. Dalad Kambhu comes rushing up on her bicycle, completely dressed in white. We stay in front of the door and then take a seat on two chairs at the curb so that the Thai New-Yorker can tell me a little more about her pop-up project with Argentinian born artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, who unfortunately couldn’t be there because he was still stuck in filming work for his new film:
How did you and Rirkrit meet?
We actually met on my first trip to Berlin, years ago. I was in Italy on a backpacking road trip with a suitcase. I wanted to be in Italy to eat pasta and all this yummy food, but somehow I came to Berlin. It was dark and very grey, so I didn’t exactly love it immediately. On that trip I went to Grill Royal for a drink and dinner and a wonderful man called Martin asked me if I knew this great Thai artist named Rirkrit. I said that I’d heard his name many times, but had never met him in person. Afterwards I was introduced to Rirkrit by Martin and another man. I was told later that the other man was Ólafur Elíasson and, as it turned out, Rirkrit even knew my first high school boyfriend from back when I was 15 years old. It was meant to be.
How did the idea for this pop-up restaurant come about?
I was cooking dinner for Moritz from Grill Royal, and he liked it so much that when they needed someone in the kitchen – because Victoria Eliasdóttir was going to Hong-Kong – I thought “why don’t you just have me and Rirkrit come over and do it?” And Rirkrit was on board, so then we just went over and tested recipes together and came up with this menu [editor’s note: The chefs recommend coming to this pop-up restaurant in a group]. Obviously Moritz was extremely helpful with all of this.
What is the idea behind the act of sharing food? What does it mean to you personally?
The thing is, in the western world this is something really new – even in America. I mean New York is an open city and there is a lot more culture coming in, so it’s something more common there. But when you eat in Thailand, traditionally you have rice in the middle of your plate and then you share everything else. Usually you have about 5 dishes in the middle that people would share. So when we took over dóttir, we wanted to do it “Thai family style” and I think that’s a little bit new to Germany – and to Berlin.
What makes Dóttir the right place for this project?
I am a big fan of dóttir. For me, there is atmosphere to the experience when you go out dining. I mean, you can make amazing food at home, but then when you go out, the experience in the restaurant is another element. It can transport you in that moment, but you still feel like you’re in Berlin. It’s kind of romantic and sweet at the same time, and it’s kind of a little bit more hip.
Will this be a one time thing, or can you imagine making this a series? And if yes, in what ways?
Cooking and creating dining experiences are my main passion. So far people love it and the feedback has been wonderful. So yes, Rirktrit and I are working really well together. And we come up with such wonderful things together, so it definitely opens up possibilities for the future.
Coming from New York, what is your perception of the current food scene in Berlin? How would you say this project enriches it?
I find that in Berlin there is more room to experiment and to make mistakes, in a weird way. But it’s actually good, because there is less fear to do things. And that is what has become interesting to me.
Unfortunatley Rikrit couldn’t be present for this interview because he is working on a film project that you also appear in. Can you tell us more about it?
So he’s filming this project, and he told me they want me to do the catering and if I could do it and I said, “yeah for sure”. And then he said, “can you be in it, too?”. So that’s why I appear in it a bit.
What do you like the best about working with him?
It’s a combination of him having amazing and unexpected ideas. All of the things he does are pretty ingenious, all the little things and ideas. It’s a combination of that, but also how he allows me to work with the ideas. Sometimes you work with people that are so forceful and it doesn’t allow you to be more creative. But with him, I find I am more and more creative.
How did you choose the menu?
Well, it’s contemporary food. Yes, ancient ways of cooking – which isn’t modern – but contemporary. So I said, “why don’t we just do contemporary Thai food?” And that also made it this thing where we get together and start experimenting with dishes together. I wanted papaya salad, but we don’t want to import papaya because I try to avoid using imported products as much as possible and besides spices and herbs, everything is pretty much from here. So our friend Gisella from New York said “I love kohlrabi”. Kohlrabi! That’s it! So I tried to use Kohlrabi and I experimented in cutting it in different ways to see which way would go well with the dressing. That’s how everything came together.
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