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Neta: Mexican food fight

It’s been deemed the best Mexican in town, but not everyone agrees – not even among our team: Seymour Gris and Jane Silver are still feuding over it. Read their pro and con, then tell us what you think!

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Photo by Francesca Torricelli

It’s been deemed the best Mexican in town, but not everyone agrees – not even among our team:

PRO: Hot and meaty

American expats can get whiny about Berlin Mexican food. It’s never authentic enough: the nationality of the people cooking is incorrect; the salsa isn’t hot enough; the ingredients sub-standard. Enter Neta. These all-German newbies make some of the best burritos and tacos in town.

One could position Neta’s cooking somewhere between the Californian-style over-stuffed vegetarian-friendly freshness of Dolores and the hearty Mexican style of Maria Bonita and Santa Maria. Neta focuses on ‘real’ animal flesh – which makes it quite “authentic” in itself. No soy meat here. The Cochinita Pibil (pork), Pollo Asado (chicken) and Barbacoa (beef) fillings have been expertly marinated in various chillies and spices making for moist, toothsome results, and the delicious homemade pink pickled onions add a nice acidic touch.

As for the veggie option, it contains succulent marinated aubergines.

Neta’s corn tacos can hold their own against Maria Bonita’s.

The “Cristobal” combo (€7.50) comprises three, each with a different meat filling, topped with salsa and cilantro. The best filling is the Barbacoa (slow-cooked beef with chipotle, serrano and ancho chillies). It usually comes with their mango-habanero salsa, but if you like it fiery, douse your food in their hot salsa roja, squeeze on lime juice and slide the mess into your mouth.

Negra Modelo and Pacifico beer (€3.50) are the perfect  match. For full German-made Mexican authenticity, order a side of crispy chiccharones (pork rinds). Chingon! SG

CON: Meh-xican

Know that saying about how insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? So it is with Berlin Mexican food. Sure, Neta is not bad.

But in a food landscape where passionate eaters regularly discuss the merits of lacto-fermented sunchokes and chong qing xiao mian noodles, ‘not bad’ isn’t good enough – especially not at these prices (about €7.50 for a burrito/tacos) and for that wait (expect a good 15-min at peak time).

Those fuchsia beetroot-dyed tortillas might look pretty, but what’s the point of hecho-ing them a mano if they’re just going to taste like cardboard? Nobody in Berlin (except small-scale taqueros La Tortilla Atomica and Taco Kween) has figured out how to make a taco with the right proportion of meat to salsa to other toppings, and Neta’s no exception. Sloppily filled with oversized chunks of overly dry meat in overly moist sauces, they’re impossible to even pick up, which should be the point of “street food” (their words) in the first place.

And what about the undercooked, bitter aubergine in the vegetarian version? There’s a reason tacos de berenjena aren’t a thing in Mexico. The salsa’s alright, but do they need to put those pickled onions on everything?

What’s that other saying again? “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, maybe I should just get my damn tortilla press shipped over from the States already and start making this stuff at home.” JS