Kebap With Attitude
Elevated Döner experience with a focus on high-quality, prepared-from-scratch food. Try the O.G., a beef Döner modeled on the kebab of a legendary Istanbul grill house, and a homemade Ayran with fresh mint.
Address: Gipsstrasse 2, 10119 Berlin (Mitte)
Hours: Sun-Thu: 12-10pm; Fri & Sat: 12-11pm
Kebap With Attitude, like Imren Grill, seems to be one of the most frequently debated Kebaps in the city. Unlike Imren Grill, however, the controversy surrounding it does not relate to a polarizing flavor profile and instead stems from its premium price point. Indeed, K.W.A’s Kebaps fetch a heftier price than perhaps any other in the city, but as one of its owners, Deniz Buchholz, tells me, “we tried to find a way to sell Kebap for 4-5€, but if you want to sell quality [Kebap] and pay your employees officially, it becomes really complicated.”
Within three weeks of Dönerstag’s conception, I had already heard of K.W.A. and, more specifically, that they were one of the only places in Berlin stacking their own kebabs. What I did not realize, until finally visiting in early July, was just how committed they are to not only selling what is easily one of the highest-quality Döner in the city, but also creating an elevated Kebap experience.
It is clear from K.W.A.’s polished social media posts, trendy brand design, and carefully curated interior—you’d be hard pressed to find a Döner shop with better atmosphere—that a lot of thought (and money) has gone into shaping the Mitte mainstay’s image. “We want to be your Döner Kebap for your Mitte lifestyle,” Deniz tells me. “You have people running around with Louis Vuitton bags and expensive cars, and these people need a place… where they can drink their Spritz or Weißweinschorle and eat a truffle Kebap.” The truffle Kebap in question is the Truffle Delüks, a 12€ beef Döner piled high with free-range beef, wild asparagus, roasted potatoes, field salad, tomatoes, spring onions, pomegranate, shaved black truffle and truffle mayo. “This was a funny idea we had because we knew, as a kebap shop in Mitte, that we’d have to do something special.” The menu at K.W.A. features many similarly creative twists on traditional and not so traditional Turkish dishes—Baklava with homemade Ayran whipped cream and Turkish Empanadas and are just two of the unique creations crafted “with attitude” by the K.W.A. team.
Do not mistake Deniz and his co-founders’ playful approach to their food for a lack of seriousness, however. In order to come up with their recipes, the K.W.A. team travelled to Turkey, where they spoke with Kebap masters (Ustası), before returning to Berlin where they tirelessly tested and tweaked their recipes. This has resulted in an almost scientific approach, that very much reflects the current culinary zeitgeist in much the Western world, but that is seldom, if ever, seen in Döner shops (in Berlin). “It’s a lot of trial and error,” Deniz tells me. “In the summer, for example, the air is hotter, and you need more fat… between the layers so the meat doesn’t dry out when it is cooked. It’s totally different from in the winter.”
Deniz is acutely aware of the shortcuts many Dönerläden in Berlin take to cut down on cost and production time and assures me that all of the sauces used at K.W.A. are made in house using fresh ingredients. “There are no magic spices or anything in [our sauces]. It is just simple, fresh ingredients. This is what Turkish cuisine is all about!” The Ayran, too, is made in-house, out of yoghurt from a farm in Brandenburg, and is perhaps the best I have had (I only first tried Ayran about two months ago).
On my both of my visits to Kebap With Attitude, I had The O.G., a beef Döner that Deniz tells me is modelled after the kebab of a legendary Istanbul Kebap house, called Iskender, that has been around for hundreds of years. The meat in the O.G., like all of the other Rindfleisch at K.W.A., is made from beef neck and shoulder, instead of the usual veal, and is seasoned only with salt. It is incredibly succulent, dripping with fat and stuffed alongside whole grilled peppers, tomatoes, parsley butter, and sauces of your choosing. I opted for the default tomato and yoghurt sauces, but admittedly regret not going with my standard Scharf and Kräuter. All of the flavors in the sandwich are incredibly subdued, bordering on under-seasoned, but they work. They work the same way that a (real) Philly cheesesteak does, slamming unrestrained into one’s primal, umami-craving taste receptors. The beauty of both sandwiches lies in their messy simplicity. They scratch that itch, even if they lack something more in the way of complexity and/or balance, which, to be certain, the O.G. does (to an extent).
The Tschick, K.W.A.’s take on the Gemüse Kebap, feels a lot more nuanced than the O.G. The meat is well-seasoned and significantly less bold than other, cheaper Gemüse Kebap in Berlin. Its individual flavors are more distinct—fresh mint and lime add bright, fresh notes and pickled red onion a touch of acidity. One could expect to get such a kebab, deconstructed alongside fresh bread, veggies and homemade sauces, in platter form at a Turkish grill house. One could also expect to pay a similar price, if not a higher one. For some reason, however, the latter scenario feels far less out of the ordinary than the former, and I suspect that this very disconnect leads to a lot of the apprehension (over spending 8,50€+ on a kebab) that Dönerstag readers have expressed to me on multiple occasions.
Part of the appeal of Döner, as we know it, is that it is cheap, fast, and filling. The economics and ethics of keeping it so are beyond the scope of this article but, suffice it to say, you are usually not just eating veal when you bite into a Döner that you bought for 3,50€ at 4 in the morning. The ubiquitous acceptance of Döner produced using the cheapest possible ingredients is, for many reasons, unsurprising, but has, nevertheless, caused anything that falls outside of this paradigm to be intensely questioned. It is no surprise, therefore, that a kebab nearly three times more expensive would anger many long time Döner aficionados in Berlin. I enjoy Döner of all price points but can certainly understand both sides of the argument.
To answer the oft-asked question of “is K.W.A. worth the price?” is a complicated endeavor. Our tastes and spending habits are so subjective and ingrained that for one person to definitively say one experience is more worth having than another, would be an exercise in naivete. If I thought it was just plain bad, I would tell you to take your money elsewhere, but I do not think it is just plain bad. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I stopped writing this article halfway through to fetch another O.G. Kebap. I would, however, urge those considering a trip to K.W.A. to consider the following: Kebap With Attitude is not a Dönerladen or Imbiss shop that you would pop into for a cheap, post-club snack and should not be framed as such. It is very much a sit-down restaurant to which you might take your parents or an out of town guest for lunch or dinner. The staff at K.W.A. goes to tremendous lengths to ensure the quality of their products is a high as it can reasonably be and prepares almost everything in-house using recipes formulated through a great deal of trial and error. While I do feel as though items such as the Truffle Delüks or the upcoming Surf and Turf Kebap stray beyond what I am willing to consider Döner, I appreciate that Deniz and his crew are innovating on a dish that, despite its enormous popularity, has seen very little change.
“We want to start the game and we want to change the game. We want to motivate other people to also come up with great Kebap concepts and to even bring this concept out of Berlin,” Deniz tells me as I pack up my things. As I depart, I cannot help but feel that Kebap With Attitude is a natural progression in Berlin’s rapidly changing culinary landscape. I do not predict that 9,00€ Döner will become the norm, but would be surprised if we do not see a new wave of chef-driven, quality-obsessed Döner operations in the coming years. Until then, however, the 3,50-4,00€ Döner that we have come to know and love, is very much here to stay.