Before starting this week’s column, I feel like I have some explaining to do. People have been asking me “How come you only do positive reviews? Are there no bad restaurants in Palma?” So, here goes…
Of course, I have been to restaurants where the food was not that good or the service was lacking or the staff looked like they'd rather be somewhere else. But, considering everything this industry has been through in recent years - from the pandemic, to shortage of staff, to price increases all around – the last thing any of them need is for some entitled columnist to slate their best efforts. For all I know, I might have just caught them on one single bad day!? So, I do make polite comments to the owner or the person in charge, but I don't publicly “smack those businesses over their heads” with my criticism. Luckily, there are still plenty of good and great places around the island to shout about!

This week, with a couple of girlfriends, we went to Manataco - a Mexican taqueria in a pretty square behind “Plaza de las tortugas”. They have quite an interesting menu of antojitos (street food type starters), tacos and quesadillas (tortillas filled with cheese and other ingredients, and folded in half, often toasted). We decided to start with some known and trusted Nachos with Cheese. We were served a generous bowl, bursting with totopos (another word for nachos), cheese sauce, beans, guacamole, pickled jalapeños, Pico de Gallo, coriander and crème fraiche. I was not too keen on the fact that the nachos were deep fried, but this did not stop me or my friends to hurriedly scoff down the whole thing before any of us remembered to take a photo!

To drink I stuck with water, as I often do when doing these reviews, but I have scanned their list of cocktails and micheladas (mix of beer, lemon etc.) and will return one evening to try some of those.

Meanwhile, back to food… Looking at other tables, it seemed to me that the tacos were of a decent size, so I ordered just two, secretly hoping that my friends would let me try some of theirs. Cochinita (which for some reason I kept referring to as cucharita!?) was filled with pork stew cooked with achiote (something like paprika) and other spices, beans and pickled red onions. Anything with pork or beans in it reminds me of home – continental Croatia – and instantly gets thumbs up from me! Nostalgia apart, this really was an excellent little taco, full of rich flavours and textures. I would definitely order it again.

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My second choice was a Prawn Taco, filled with prawns topped with a “citrus spicy emulsion”, pickled onion and radishes. The prawns were big and meaty and the whole dish tasted very refreshing, a stark contrast to the previous rich and heavy pork.

Scanning my friends’ plates, I decided that I wanted to try some Crunchy Cauliflower, fried in tempura and served with Serrano chilli and lime aioli. This was a very good snack. I loved the contrasts of textures and tasted – a crunchy tempura against a melt-in-your-mouth soft cauliflower, a spicy chilli against zesty aioli… A great take on a supposedly very simple dish!

I did not feel like trying Red Tuna Tartare Tostada, with avocado, radish, coriander & chipotle aioli, but my friend assured me that it was another excellent dish, fresh and flavourful!

Munching happily on my food and chatting with the girls, I looked around to see what kind of crowd Manataco attracted at lunchtime. It appears to be a mix of locals on their break and tourists who decided it was as pretty a spot as any to stop, recharge and march on, to further explore the city. Even on a random Tuesday all the tables were full. I peeked inside and it was also almost full, mostly with people in their 20s and 30s Decorated in black and metal with a huge mural of a Mexican “luchador” (a masked wrestler/fighter), the interior was a pretty cool nod to another part of Mexican culture, away from food.

These days I have been re-reading Ikigai, a book about Japanese concept for a good long life. Amongst other things, it talks about never eating more than till you are 80% full. So, my share of nachos and two tacos got me exactly to that point. I could have eaten more, but I did not. Surprisingly, I was not even tempted to have a dessert. I have, however, noted down several dishes I would like to try on my next visit, perhaps with a michelada or two!