Mexican food brings back memories of the summer of 2000 for me. I was 10, and my step-mum would occasionally pick my brother and I up from school and take us to the pools. After cooling off by paddling around for a couple of hours, we'd be starving and Elain would break out the Old El Paso for a quick dinner.
During the cold snap we had in June I had a hankering for Mexican, maybe in an attempt to evoke the warmth I remember so well, so Stephen and I hopped on the train and walked the short distance from Central to Crown Street. We arrived at 6pm, and were offered a seat at the upstairs level. Our smiling waitress handed us our menus and informed us that between the hours of 6pm and 7pm, margaritas were $5 off.
Stephen kept it tame with a lemon, lime and bitters, but I felt like some alcohol. This was my first taste of a margarita, and I sort of wish I had researched what actually went in one of these cocktails, because it was completely wrong for me. Stephen did assure me that it was a well-made concoction of tequila, orange liqueur and lime, but I'm really not a fan of citrus and I couldn't finish my drink - I only ordered it to try it.
I ordered this as a starter because I've heard about it and always wanted to try it. It's a terribly simple dish of traditional refried beans served with totopos (salted corn tortilla chips). The beans seemed almost pureed and had a mild, earthy flavour that was given a hell of a chilli kick.
The croquettes were Stephen's choice; they were stuffed full of shredded chicken and studded with small chilli pieces. They had a lovely, dark and crunchy coating on the outside, and they were also served with a thick chilli sauce.
In this dish, mildly spiced potatoes were encased in super crunchy tortillas and topped with a guacamole and salsa that had a cooling effect on the tongue. It was a favourite of mine and I could have easily had Stephen's share.
For the Molcajetes there was a choice between chicken, prawn, beef or vegetables - Stephen chose chicken, which was rubbed with a spice blend (predominantly chilli) and presented in a manner that vaguely looked like stew. It was served in impressive stoneware and accompanied by feta, tortilla, guacamole and salsa. The chicken was incredibly hot on the tongue, but the pieces were tender and juicy. A black chilli sat malevolently in the middle of the dish, daring us to try it - we chickened out.
According to the menu, this meal originated in the state of Puebla, which had me intrigued. Chicken was cooked to perfection before being covered in a sauce that was a blend of dried chillies, cocoa and almonds, and the taste was very earthy. It was served with rice and tortillas:
All in all, Agave was a fair cry from the usual Mexican I've made at home, but it was a lovely experience, and having the usually simple and rustic flair jazzed up a bit was a novelty. We would definitely come back here, especially to try out their varied cocktail menu.
2/410 Crown St
Surry Hills, NSW
Phone: (02) 9326 9072