Friedrichshain’s Santa Cantina has launched a menu full of Mexican-fusion instant classics.
Just a few years ago, anything resembling real Mexican food was nowhere to be found in Berlin. Now Mexican cuisine has fused its way into almost every menu across the city. Santa Cantina on Simon Dach Strasse has been a long-term stalwart for bringing us new and interesting twists on Mexican classics.
With the launch of their new menu, Santa Cantina introduces many new world flavours to their Mexican repertoire, many of which come from owner Julian Boyce’s recent travels around the world. Think: jerk chicken or beef rendang tacos.
On top of this, Santa Cantina has upped the shareable nature of Mexican food, bringing in many platters you and your friends can lovingly demolish over a few beers.
We started off with an appetite-crushing array of starters: the chili-cheese yuca fries and the mushroom nachos.
These chili-cheese yuca fries are amazing.
I’ve long been a fan of Cantina’s yuca fries, but things have gotten obscene since they added this chili-cheese sauce. Yuca fries land somewhere between chip shop chips and roasted parsnips – and hold their golden crispiness regardless of what you pour on top of them. So in adding a thick, rich cheese and jalapeno sauce on top, you have found the perfect balance between savoury, crispy pommes and soul-nurturing, delicious mush. It’s a winner.
In their mushroom nachos, Santa Cantina substitutes the classic chili con carne for sauteed mushrooms and refried beans. This veggie-friendly alternative loses nothing in the transition, and in fact gains a rich and meaty new texture from the thyme-scented mushrooms.
Our appetites were already done by this point, but with a tamarind-mezcal cocktail in hand, we ushered on the next courses.
Duck carnitas tacos with duck skin crackling.
I’ve been known to call most ‘pulled’ meats texture-less dog food. And I stand by this. But man, Santa Cantina’s new duck tacos are whole chunks of real confit of duck topped with an avocado-tomatillo salsa. They come garnished with a piece of duck fat crackling for that all-important crunch. So good are they that Julian told us he survives mainly on the fried duck skin alone. Not a diet we’d recommend, but you’d certainly die happy.
Jerk chicken and beef rendang tacos… a departure from classic Mexican.
“Mexican food should be fun…” Julian told us, before adding “…and you can put anything in a taco”. And he’s right – that plucky corn tortilla is a great vehicle for many flavour profiles, Southeast Asian and Caribbean being no exception.
The beef rendang is beef cheeks and shank slow cooked in Julian’s famous laksa soup. It’s topped with peanuts and a delicious coconut chutney. Extra juicy and with that warm, comforting coconut flavour, they’re a perfect winter-time retreat. Especially when it’s cold as bollocks outside.
And with their jerk chicken tacos, Julian has Ricky from Yaam’s recipe in his sights. Whilst he admits it’s still not as good as Ricky’s, it’s not far off. And that habanero escabeche gives a fruity kick.
Take a group of friends.
Santa Cantina’s huge wooden tables make the place perfect for groups. With enough space for probably 10 people around one of them, you can feel pretty tiny if there’s only two of you. That being said, I can recommend nothing more than going along with a few friends and sharing a massive portion of their yuca chili-cheese fries and drinking a tamarind margarita each.
Lastly, this burrito is a fucking joke.
Simon Dach Strasse 22