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2 Ways to See Berlin

Taxis are a great way to blow your budget: instead, take the U-Bahn rapid transit system to hop around the sprawling city.

Photo: Christian Kerber

The Long Lunch: Facil Restaurant

The restaurant Facil is one of those places you can’t stop yourself from describing as an “understated oasis,” even if you can’t imagine what an overstated oasis would look like. The lighting is low and kind, the service is nimble, and the bread plate has the sort of excellent butter you want to eat with a spoon and steal from other tables. The chef, Michael Kempf, works the palette as well as the palate: golden char roe topped with a luminous, deeply yellow sous vide egg yolk. These are colorful, attractive plates, all very good and well cooked and curated. The food is not vividly memorable but, rather like the room itself, is expertly composed and easy to like. Which brought up the question: What’s an experience like this worth? It had been a bit more than four hours since the elevator delivered us to the fifth floor and the whisper-quiet automatic glass doors. For this time we lived within a polite bubble where all needs were guessed at and met by a battalion of waiters. We had that good butter on pretzely breads and ate pink Charolais beef and tender char from the Ammersee lake, in Upper Bavaria. A 2003 Yann Chave Hermitage ($180) was the kind of good where your eyes go very wide, in equal parts appreciation and alarm. That’s the thing about this type of experience: at $750 for two, you wouldn’t eat this way every day even if you could. Restaurants like Facil are a retreat from the normal world, a soft-focus place where every bite is precision-engineered for maximum contentment. The money makes no sense unless you think of it as a day spa with wine pairings and petits fours. It was fun in our bubble, but then the glass doors reopened and we were back in the Berlin of Imbisse, bus rides, and beer, in need of a nap.

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