Musashi

Kottbusser Damm 102–10967 Berlin

From screaming Kottbusser Damm you sweep into a mellow subdued space, still wrapped decoration moves around in artificial windy currents on a sweaty Berlin summer Monday afternoon. Heated atmosphere: lampions seethe magically, great waves rush through the room. You seat yourself around beer grates and packages full of supply: cardboard boxes with irresistible ornamentation and rich colors. Used wooden chopsticks are the lovechild of the spreading pragmatism that reigns here. You might overlook it at first, but once noticed, the beauty of it is undeniable: The sink is fixed up with a towel to prevent it from flooding the tiny bathroom with such caring affection, that it will move you to tears. You are not shoved into a pretty decor, but you sit down in what it is and how it is: cluttered, a bricolage of necessities. Everybody around seems too busy to care for you, might it be because of a partner, or a child, or a smartphone. Men stoically face a wall that boasts a messy urban mosaic. The Nora Jones album — apparently still a favorite — mixes well with the noise from the street that floods in through the open door and that will keep you engaged but also encapsulated.

Edamame, strikingly salty and deliciously firm, will slow you down. Noshing a bowl of soybeans has an almost meditative quality and will send your thoughts roaming around. The Edamame come in an easy array, well-crafted, not soggy and should be the cornerstone of every meal. The miso soup is balanced: tiny icebergs of tender tofu surface once you stop whirling around to prevent the fine, sandy grain of miso to sediment. This could already be a meal and maybe this is also all you should get. Musashi offers a variety of Japanese standards, all solidly made and satisfying but not overly exciting. The salmon lays vividly in an overly fresh coldness. Fine white streams of fat crawl the strong meat. The soy sauce they serve is not — like in quite a few other places — this harsh, nasty, thick, overly salty dark liquor but a smooth, lofty, brown fluid that sticks nicely to the fish and has this tickle of sweetness in it, that is so addicting.

It is not the food that draws me in — it is how it works. Musashi is like a well-oiled machine, a robust process, which even hordes of the young and the hungry minds cannot bring down. Sometimes there is a lot going on, but it never seems nervous or on the brink of collapse. It is perfect for following up on your thoughts while being encompassed in the flow of the everyday hustle and bustle, like a dazed particle. The lady behind the counter halves paper pieces, to note down a few numbers for your order — not wasting any paper. It is how she will patiently wait and look at you while you crawl through the menu. There is time, no rush, a nice word, trying to make conversation.(Salmon Sashimi is 9 €)

Come here in late afternoon or early evenings.