A couple of years ago a Mexican new wave crashed through town – saturating Kreuzberg with ‘authentic’ food from Mexico as a counterpoint to the miserable Tex-Mex chains that have tarnished that country’s culinary reputation for decades in Europe.
Goodbye, reheated, refried beans and ketchup-y salsas. Hello, soft corn tacos, mole, cilantro, limes, proper hot sauces.
This ‘real’ Mexican food has been largely confined to hot spots, from the Western Marias (Santa & Peligro) and Ta’Cabrón to P’Berg’s Maria Bonita, away from the New Mitte…
An exception is Típica on the ground floor of the Instituto Cervantes behind Hackescher Markt.
At first, Típica looks questionably upmarket compared to those reputed hipster haunts: no scratched wooden tables, no Mexican wrestling masks on display, and (presumably) no stoned kitchen staff.
Instead: sombrero-free design featuring a photo of an agave field, highlighted by potted cactuses large and small – and pretty damn satisfying cooking – proving this place isn’t all style and no substance.
Founder and chef René Brembach spent half a year in Mexico City kitchens before opening Típica without previous restaurant experience. And yes, real Mexicans do regularly dine there.
While the menu is a little overwhelming design-wise (an English version does exist), eating here is a bit more fun than at your average taqueria, as you can build your own tacos, stuffing the tortillas (three corn and three wheat at dinner) with your choice of meat/veg, salsa (10 types, from super-mild to the “marinera”, featuring red peppers, coriander, chives and habaneros that lives up to the “über scharf” label), sides (from Mexican rice, black beans, well-spiced salads or delicious mini roast potatoes to a great chunky guacamole), plus cilantro and onions and a squeeze of lime juice on top.
Meats include “Al pastor” (the traditional marinated, spicy pork), bistec (beef), pibil pork, chicken and “tenera” (veal marinated in a delicious tamarind sauce). A taco plate costs €11.50-13.50 and half that for lunch with less choice and slightly smaller portions.
Típica also does enchiladas – stuffed, rolled tortillas covered with melted cheese – and quesadillas.
There’s an ever-changing seasonal menu: we tried an excellent pimiento relleno (€12), two green peppers stuffed with well-seasoned ground beef, served with black beans and roast potatoes, and an unbeatable daily changing biz-lunch menu (€8).
Overall, least satisfying were the veggie options (note to vegetarians: if you like ‘traditional’, get off your high horse for a day and pig out on some awesomely marinated carne – real Mexicans eat meat, don’t they?!!).
Uncompromising types will still enjoy the plate of (homemade) tortilla chips with one of the delicious salsas (€5, the “tamarindo” with tamarind and chipotle is another great, hot option) and/or a side of chunky guacamole.
Mexican beers are the perfect liquid accompaniment – we were especially pleased to see Tecate (€3.50) – though they also have decent Spanish, Italian and German wines. For a booze-free meal, try an agua fresca, a sweet Mexican drink made with hibiscus (very sweet), lime or tamarind (our faves), or horchata, a milky, almost dessert-like beverage made from rice flour.
There’s real dessert too, including pastel de tres leches, an unexpectedly delightful, soggy sponge cake soaked in three types of milk, including cream and condensed (€4).
No matter what your food cred is, don’t pass on a snifter of Cuervo 1800 Reserva Reposado for a nice finishing touch!