January 30, 2011

Show Me Your Teeth? Tapas in Kreuzberg

Las Primas - Restaurant - Café -Bar

Let’s talk about teeth. Do you find them aesthetically pleasing? Mildly attractive? Sexually appealing? I remember meeting this girl at a house party in Paris aeons ago. She was petite and her hair stank of unrecognisable substances (or just weeks of unhygienic neglect. It was France at the end of the day). She told me she found teeth sexy and that mine were just perfect. I thought it was a dorky comment and it provided me with the excuse I so needed to get away from her and try to mingle with the beautiful people around. As the evening unfolded I found myself drinking seventeen glasses of cheap vodka and puking on a kitten. In retrospect, I probably should have continued talking about teeth.

But teeth. And sex. Doesn’t it ring a bell? Isn’t it what True Blood is all about? It depicts vampires as highly sexualised beings. Just like that girl’s hair reeked of not-taking-any-showers à la Française, they emanate sex. And they convey their sexuality through their fangs. I must admit that those fangs are quite perfect: they are perfectly white and symmetrical, appealing to every human’s sense of aesthetics. However, this is not the case with everyone’s set of teeth (or fangs, for that matter).

When I was little, my mother used to scare me with stories about people who ate too many sweets and got black teeth which eventually fell out. Her scare-tactics did not, by any means, help combat my obsessive sweet tooth, but they added yet another phobia into my interminable arsenal: the fear of people with black teeth. I find it difficult to look people with bad teeth in the eyes, because I know I will, at some point, avert my gaze onto their teeth with a convulsively disgusted expression on my end. This was my reaction the first time I found myself ordering an espresso at Las Primas on Wrangelstraße. It was about two years ago and I had gone there with a friend of mine on a perfect summer day. As the waitress smiled at us I could not help but notice one of her front teeth was made of gold while the rest were pitch black with completely rotten gums. I cringed and twitched and vowed never to come back.

This ridiculously long introduction brings us to this week’s events. It was one of these days when you feel like eating many small things rather than a real meal. It called for tapas and I had to meet friends later in Friedrichshain. The turn of events made it clear there was no way I could avoid checking out the tapas at Las Primas. I braced myself and prepared to meet that revolting set of teeth yet again.

Having only seen the place from the outside, I had expected the inside to be utterly filthy. I don’t know why, but it was just an illogical premonition, which fortunately proved to be wrong. The café/bar/restaurant is run down in a way that cries both “Kreuzberg” and “Spain” at the same time: dirty-pastel walls combined with tables crammed up together and covered by unappealing tablecloths. There is an evening menu with an appealing selection of main courses, but we decided to go for the tapas. I was delighted to see the choice of tapas was rather limited and the menu did not go on for eternities. There are about twelve dishes for the unit price of 4.00 € and six more for 5.00 €.


We chose Pincho de Tortilla (a piece of tortilla, 4.00 €), Patatas al all-i-oli (fried potatoes in aioli sauce, 4.00 €), pintxo queso cabra (fried goat’s cheese with caramelised onions, 4.00 €), chorizo riojano (pieces of chorizo baked in white wine sauce, 4.00 €), pintxo de terena con reduccion de balsamico (slices of steak in balsamico sauce, 5.00 €) and gambas al ajillo (prawns in white wine sauce, 5.00 €). It was all quite endearing – small plates that were still large enough to get a good taste of the dish. The tortilla was unspectacularly nice, as tortillas are supposed to be like. The potatoes were nothing more than nice, but the aioli was fantastic. The cheese was very good quality and it came in a large portion with very good onions. The chorizo was also quite good quality, but the sauce was just alright. However, the two surprises were provided by the two 5.00 € dishes, with the meat being nothing less than excellent and the gambas turning out to be rather disappointing (the bland sauce killed them, which is quite annoying, as I find killing prawns to be a mortal sin). At the end of the day, most of the tapas were good,if not very good. The only real problem was the stale bread, which ruined the idea of truly enjoying the sauces. I then took a flan (the Spanish version for crème caramel, 2.70 €) to give the meal a good closure. It was alright, but not too convincing: Good size and perfect taste, but the texture (which is probably the most important part) was a bit scruffy.

Las Primas is a good choice of venue for good and hearty tapas. It is one of these places in Kreuzberg that manage to combine both roughness and pretentiousness, but it’s still pleasing enough as long as you avoid the waitress’s million pesos smile. I know it’s not politically correct to slag off people with bad dental hygiene, but I just can’t help it. Despite the bad teeth, the stale bread and the unconvincing flan, four prints seem like what the place deserves.

Overall mark: 

Las Primas
Wrangelstraße 54, 10997 Berlin (Kreuzberg)
Tel: +49 (0)30 60 03 11 32

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