Dönerstag 011: Imren Grill
Overall Döner Score: 9/10
Notes: 5 is the baseline in this rating system. That means anything above 5 is above average and everything below is below average
Boppstraße 10, 10967 (Kreuzberg) Wiener Straße 11, 10999 (Kreuzberg) Hauptstraße 156, 10827 (Schöneberg) Karl-Marx-Straße 75, 12043 (Neukölln) Buttmannstraße 1, 13357 (Gesundbrunnen) Müllerstraße 134, 13349 (Wedding)
Imren Grill is, in many a circle, a divisive Döner. While Berlin's Turkish population flocks here en masse for authentic Turkish fare, many Berliners just cannot seem to acquire a taste for it. For reasons I will mention shortly, I briefly fell into the latter category. Thankfully, I have since come to my senses and am now proudly #teamImren.
I was terrified to review Imren Grill. I knew I would eventually have to do it but I also knew that the spectrum of opinions surrounding it is a polarizing one. The first time I went, I really didn't enjoy my experience. I was expecting fatty, salt-laden meat with suspiciously sweet, mayonnaise-laced sauces and standard Döner fixins. That isn't what Imren peddles in. When I got something as different as what Imren actually sells, my brain returned a 404. ENJOYMENT NOT FOUND. Thankfully, my main man, Per, of Berlin Food Stories convinced me to go back. If you haven't already, I definitely recommend checking out his work.
There is a rumor— one which I am guilty of perpetuating— going around in Berlin that the meat at Imren is lamb neck. This, as it turns out, is not true. "But the meat is so...
so lamb-y" you might be thinking to yourself. While that is true, the lamb flavor actually comes from the lamb fat that the Imren guys skewer on top their Dönerstack, a term that I have just now coined and plan to use liberally throughout this and future reviews. As it is heated, the fat liquifies and runs over the meat below, giving it its polarizing, lamb-y character. To be clear, I am not a lamb guy. I actually find the flavor of it really unpleasant. Even as I was returning home after this trip to Imren, I couldn't stop thinking about how badly I needed to wash the lamb scent off my upper lip because I found it so offensive. Even with that mindset, I really, really enjoyed the meat at Imren. It's flavor is actually fairly mild, leaving a lot of room for notes that might otherwise be lost in all the noise of a standard Döner kebab. Cinnamon, in particular, comes through very clearly, as does the tang from the yoghurt sauce, which cuts through the fattiness of the meat quite effectively. I had been told that the meat at Imren is marinated in yoghurt and spices overnight before being stacked, and the aforementioned flavors, in addition to other, less identifiable ones, really validated the hell out of that statement.
The sauces are all homemade, which, in this case, means a yoghurt sauce that tastes like yoghurt and a spicy sauce that tastes like peppers. If there is added sugar in either, its presence is subtle. The spiciness was more than tolerable but certainly extended beyond, what many like to call, German-spicy, the implications of which, I believe, are obvious. The spicy sauce definitely takes a backseat to the yoghurt sauce, and both sauces definitely take a back seat to the meat. I guess that puts the spicy sauce in the trunk. Oh well. As is pretty much everything at Imren, the bread is homemade. It had some serious crunch to it but was really not far off from your standard pide.
The main conclusion I drew from my experience at Imren is that it should really be in a
category of its own. If for no other reason, it should be so because the quality of the product here is so vastly different from 99.9% of the Döner shops in the city. I will absolutely be back sometime in the near future– if not for the Döner, then to try some of the other tantalizing Turkish offerings behind the counter. If you are concerned that you will buy a Döner from Imren and hate it because of the lamb flavor, then buy it anyways. Partially because it only costs 4€, but more because you will probably really like it.