Cafe Uma is something of an anomaly. I have spent far to long thinking about what exactly to say about this little Cafe located in Friedenau (Friedrich-Wilhelm-Platz 3), it is both fantastic and simple. There is a sweetness that is so profound, that it can't help be become part of you.
I start with the food, it is the most complicated part of my experience to talk about. The menu is a set three course meal, one that feeds into the Ayurvedic concept of balance and harmony and are foods are a combination of salty, sweet, spicy and bitter, all of which the stomach needs at every meal to feel relaxed and maintain a sense of fullness. The price for the meals is incredibly reasonable, for a small portion of the three course menu (which was enough food for me) the price is 6,90 euro and a large being 8,90.
The meal that I had was:
- Parsnip Soup
- Celery Root Schnitzel with Mint Quark (like a combo of yogurt and sour cream), Curried Veggies with Red Lentils, Basmati Rice and a simple salad
- Quark bake with Cherries (difficult if not living here to explain this dish)
My wife had the three course Vegetarian Meal:
- Semmelknödel (bread dumplings) with a creamy mushroom sauce and a side salad
- Quark bake with Cherries
From a visual aspect the food was generally presented simply. It is what it is, not a lot of fluff or decoration (garnish) just here is your piece of celery root, your veggies and rice. It is in here that the anomaly occurs. What should be discounted as a half-hazard throw some food at the plate becomes this unbelievable complex and well thought out concept.
Each part of the dish, barley works on its own, for instance the celery root schnitzel lacked any depth of flavor but when combined with the mint quark, it sparkled. The biggest example for me, was the bread dumplings and mushroom sauce, which separately were okay, the mushroom sauce was a little salty and the bread dumplings didn't have enough salt, but together were amazing.
Even the soup, I found was worked with this concept. When I first eat the soup, I thought the flavor was nice but the soup was a little watery, but has you eat the rest of the meal you realize that the thinness of the soup was perfect. It activated the digestion system which made digestion of the rest of the food easier. Like I said, well thought out, well planned and masterfully executed.
It is hard for me to give a proper rating, the concept being more about the whole and less about the individual, more about the bodies needs and less about the bodies desire. So all I can say about the food is that as a whole fantastic and (maybe more importantly) my body was incredibly happy eating it.
What turned the experience from being a great experience though vexing, to one of genuine happiness was the service and ambiance. In my life I have worked both the Front of the House (servers, bartenders....) and the Back of the House (cooks, dishwashers....) and I know that a good Front of the House person can take an okay meal and make it great and I know that amazing food can sometime overcome a terrible Front of the House. But usually the people that can do this are playing a game, it is part of them but it is very much an act, like a joke that they have said a hundred times before to make up for the long wait time.
Never before I have I seen such a sweetness and belief in what they are doing, being able to push one's experience up a level. I know how hard it is to run a restaurant, crazy hours, crazy hard work, so every restaurant I genuinely hope is successful but this restaurant was different. I want them to succeed because I get a sense authenticity, a humble desire to share their knowledge and it is in the humbleness that I want to do what I can to support them.
The world is full of good people doing the things that they really love, not to make the most money possible but because it gives their heart a smile at the end of the day. It is these people that I gladly support with everything I have. From personal experience I know how hard it is to follow your dreams into the vast plane of insecurity, not knowing if you will make enough money to survive and I know that there are so many people that let these fears overcome them, they never fully express their dreams and end up working a job that doesn't mean anything to them just because of the fear.
At the end of the day, Uma Cafe was fantastic, a place that I want to see succeed and a place I would be happy to go back (and I will) to with friends and family.