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A few years ago, if you’d passed by the Zentrum am Zoo complex along Budapester Straße, you would have been greeted by a friendly face. A glass-encased advertisement for a nearby Chinese restaurant framed a grinning portrait of German actor and comedian Harald Juhnke, gleefully tucking into a meal of Peking duck. The sign, anchored to a rounded, ground-level column of an aging building of some repute, had become an unassuming and unlikely landmark of the City West district.
A casual holdover of the Cold War, the beloved ad is now gone, as is the half-century old restaurant—the oldest Chinese eatery in the city. Their eviction was occasioned by the rollout of a new “concept mall” housed in their former location’s revitalized shell, the colloquially termed Bikinihaus. (A Berlin blog pleaded with the mall’s operators to “bring back Harald!”) The building is the centerpiece of Bikini Berlin, a doggedly hip shopping and design hub that opened in early April. In its first week of business, close to half a million visitors passed through its doors, though it’s anyone’s guess if they actually purchased anything.