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Agave, Surry Hills

[ 2 ] March 17, 2011 |

Where is the best Mexican in Sydney? I’m not talking about Mad Mex, Guzman Y Gomez or Beach Burrito style take-away/hang-over cure. I mean an authentic, sit down Mexican restaurant without the commercial undertone and Aussie-fied flavours. I’m not sure it exists. Having recently posed the question on Twitter I was met with an overwhelming response and long list of suggestions. Amongst them was Agave on Crown St, Surry Hills.

Last Sunday and I’d planned to visit Taste Festival again with my friend Mr McFoodie. Both starving we arrived to the entrance at 5.30pm only to have our foodie hearts crushed and told it closed at 5pm. We ventured to Crown St in search of sustenance, our mouths watering and bellies rumbling. Our taxi (yes too hung over and hungry to walk) pulled up near Billy Kwong, not feeling the Asian food vibe and being a Sunday it was all about comfort food. This gave me the perfect excuse to try Agave.

On first impressions Agave is a warm and inviting place. The fit out is fun and colourful, there’s authentic Mexican style music in the background. There is an upstairs street level and downstairs near the kitchen, big enough for a large group. Between 6-7pm they have 2 for 1 sangria and $10 margaritas. McFoodie and I opt for the sangria and order food.

I took two sips of the sangria and was majorly disappointed. It was far too sweet, had hardly any red wine and the rind of some orange floating on top. Neither of us finished our drinks and considering that hardly ever happens you get the point. Fingers crossed the food would be better! Sadly, it was not. I ordered the Molcajetes ($28) fajita style seared beef rubbed with mexican spice blend, served with guacamole, rice, feta, salsa & tortillas. The meat was chewy and hard to swallow. There was too much rice and not enough tortillas. The salsa was good as was the guacamole and the presentation was great.

McFoodie ordered the Adobo de Borrego ($16) lamb braised in a 5 chilli red adobo sauce (morita, pasilla, mulato, ancho & guajilla chillies). Again, the meat was chewy and tough, hard to cut through with a knife let along your teeth. The sauce was lovely though and we both enjoyed the chilli flavour. He also ordered the Flautas de Pollo ($14) 2 chipotle chile chicken filled crispy corn tortillas, topped with guacamole and salsa. McFoodie liked this dish a lot better and I think the guacamole helped. The refried beans ($4) were fine, nothing to rave about.

We walked away from Agave disappointed with our choice and didn’t feel the quality of the food fit the bill at the end.

Ms Darlinghurst: “I wish we could go back 2 hours ago when we were standing on Crown St deciding where to have dinner and choose again”

Mr McFoodie: “We should have stuck with Billy Kwong”

Gelato Messina for dessert saved the night from a foodie tragedy. I personally will be trying another Mexican place next time but would love to hear what other people think. Maybe we just had an off night, it happens!

Agave Restaurante Mexicano

2/410 Crown St, Surry Hills, 02 9326 9072

www. agavesurryhills.com.au Open 7 days 6pm til late.
Agave Restaurante Mexicano on Urbanspoon

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Comments (2)

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  1. Mr McFoodie says:

    Like Ms Darlinghurst, I have received a number of good reports on Agave and as a fan of flavoursome and spicy foods, I enjoy a good Mexican as much as the next Hombre and so was looking forward to checking it out.

    My first impressions of the place were that they have gone to a lot of trouble to create a busy and authentic aesthetic in untraditional building, I think they’ve pulled this off – Good start.

    Sunday sangria sessions are never a bad thing and for some reason we opted not for a jug, but two glasses. This was a stroke of luck, the sangria had very little wine and so wasn’t great, maybe worth tasting the mix before serving? (If you are after good Sangria, check out Spanish Fly in The Spot.)

    When the food finally arrived (I don’t think it actually took that long, it’s just that I was famished) I was immediately excited by the appearance, there had clearly been a lot of thought and effort put into design and execution. In the end Ms Darlinghurst has done a good job of summing up the experience; meat chewy, overall flavours good and good looking dishes.

    They have a decent enough selection of wine, I went for the Viejo marchante tempranillo gran reserva SPAIN 01 ($9 glass), a nice drop. If you do decide to go to Agave, you might want to check out their Tequila list, it’s extensive and there’s a certain Partida Anejo on there.

    So, to answer your question Ms Darlinghurst; the best Mexican in Sydney? For my money it would be Azteca ‘s in Randwick. They haven’t spent as much on the fit out, but the staff are Mexican, warm and engaging and the food which speaks for itself, is authentic unAustralianated Mexican that’ll have you thinking of El Mariachi and Cactuses, rather than the restaurant across the road.

  2. Alec says:

    Agave isn’t exactly an authentic choice. It is closer to the commercial Tex-Mex combos that show up in the US, but has become somewhat of a Spanish-Mex combo. If you take it for what it is, conceptually Mexican, it isn’t bad.

    I often find that Australian Mexican restaurants do have a bad habit of mixing up Spanish and Mexican cuisine such as with Agave and their tapas menu and sangria. Mexican food is supposed to be simple and tasty.

    I have lived in Australia for three years now and the only place where I have experienced what I consider to be an authentic sit down Mexican restaurant is Cafe Pacifico on Riley Steet in East Sydney. I have other US expatriate friends who consider Baja Cantina in Glebe to be the pick, but I think I’ll stick with Cafe Pacifico.