Fast Foodie: Los Agaves
Published: January 4, 2012
The owners of Los Agaves, the latest in a series of restaurants of different ethnicities in the same shopping center space, are said to be from Mexico City, but it's a little hard to detect that from the food. Cabrito sounds more Monterrey, coctel de camaron speaks of the coast, and cochinita pibil? The Yucatán. But if the menu is of the pan-Mex, hit-parade persuasion, the food coming out of the kitchen is almost entirely persuasive. We started with a sopa de tortilla and were immediately intrigued by its presentation: the rusty broth, afloat with avocado and generously endowed with chicken, was served alongside a platter filled with add-ins much in the manner of pho or pozole. There was a pile of fried tortilla strips, bowls of crema Mexicana, cilantro, onion, and queso fresco, and a mound of crackling chicharron. Once all was added, muy sabrosa. Though we did add a little of the table's toasty salsa to the tacos norteños, two very good flour tortillas stuffed with well-seasoned arrachera, queso Oaxaca, beans, and avocado didn't need it.
Also exceptional was a brace of generous tostadas de tinga de pollo; where tinga, consisting of shredded chicken simmered with tomato and chiles, can be dry and uneventful, here it was anything but. Cheese, crema, and more bulked up the presentation but didn't dominate. With the unfortunate exception of corn tortillas, Los Agaves prides itself on making most everything in-house — even the mole. Once we learned that there was a lady "in the back of the kitchen" who made it, we had to have enchiladas de pollo bathed in the complex sauce. The plate was impressive looking, the chicken good in its own right… but the mole, its graininess convincingly suggesting ground nuts, was almost cloyingly sweet, more than hinting of Hershey's. Hard to get beyond. In time, we did get over the notion of the beanie-weenie-style borracho beans that accompanied the enchiladas. The sliced sausage was jarring at first, but jalapeño and bacon eventually turned the tide, as they tend to do.
Although evening entrées run from $7 to $19, most lunch plates are in the $6-$8 range, making Los Agaves an especially worthy midday destination.