2012-03-21 / Restaurant of the Week

AGAVE

With spring nearly here we ventured out on the first warm evening of the season to the borough of Manhattan to the quaint West Village to visit Agave, purveyors of southwestern cuisine and fine tequilas. Agave’s sister restaurant is ‘Mojave,’ in our very own Astoria, so a family visit seemed in order, especially when the food is equally superb in both restaurants.

When we arrived, a festive Happy Hour was well underway at the sexy, backlit bar. The handsome barman was mixing up Agave’s famous margaritas, mojitos, sangria, imported beers and more for the eclectic crowd. An unimaginable variety of tequilas lines the shelves and the tequila connoisseur will be in heaven here as you choose your favorite brand that goes into Agave’s most popular ‘nectar margarita’ along with agave cactus nectar and fresh lime juice. Acapulco spice is mixed with jalapeño-infused tequila, liqueur and lime juice, then garnished with jalapeño peppers to revive you after a long day at work. Relax in the warm, sultry dining room decorated in adobe style with white stucco walls, wood ceilings and soft pillows on the banquettes. Warm glow from whimsical southwestern candles lends a romantic, cozy touch; the perfect ambience for the flavorful meal to follow. The outdoor tables on Seventh Avenue South allow for people watching in balmy weather and a welcoming private party room caught my attention for a future affair that would be truly memorable. I’ll say up front that everything at Agave is made from scratch and prepared on the spot, so the fresh flavors really come through. Their house made salsas that accompany the blue corn tortilla chips are zesty and bright with spices and cilantro. Ricky, our friendly waiter, suggested some of the most popular appetizers such as the hand chopped guacamole, made table side, and the blue crab chipotle spinach dip, served warm and bubbling with blue corn tortilla chips. We devoured the cornmeal-crusted calamari rings which were tender on the inside and crunchy outside, served with chipotle dipping sauce that added a nice kick ($12). Agave’s roadhouse chili is exceptionally good, made with beef, pork, beer and chilis ($7). The duck empanadas are so savory, made with tender duck, wild mushrooms and manchego cheese. All of these starters are delectable, big enough to share, and can be enjoyed at the bar as well.

Agave’s menu boasts classic Mexican and southwestern entrees that feature meat, fish and poultry, all perfectly executed, beautifully presented and served piping hot. Fresh tacos made with grilled skirt steak or fire grilled Gulf shrimp are fantastic, dressed with chopped salsa and cilantro. The fish tacos are my favorite, served with pineapple salsa and a side of rice. There’s even a vegan taco filled with wild mushrooms, so no one is left out. Generously sized quesadillas are packed with either adobo chicken breast, blue crab and chilies, grilled skirt steak or shrimp. There’s a vegetarian quesadilla here as well, filled with smoked tomato, asparagus and goat cheese.

The expert grill chef renders a juicy Cowboy cut ribeye steak that is out of this world. This steak was flavorful, tender and cooked to my taste. The platter was arranged with verdant asparagus, fingerling potatoes and roasted vegetables. The Black Angus skirt steak is a meat lover’s dream, as is the Kobe beef burger with melted cheese, bacon, chilies or mushrooms ($18). Long bone pork ribs are braised with traditional mole (pronounced MOH-lay) until the meat gives way from the bone, and are then served with chorizo hash for unique, multi-layered flavor.

My dining companion let me taste some of the chili crusted pan seared Ahi tuna that was cooked ‘black and blue’, meaning seared on the outside and raw in the middle. This sushi-grade tuna simply melted in your mouth with the wonderful flavors of the spiced crust outside. The generous portion of tuna was served with smoked tomato chutney and caper relish ($23). Gulf shrimp and blue crab cakes are perfect together, accompanied by arugula, cilantro lime sauce and rice. Fresh salmon is pan seared with a mildly spicy pepper crust, making it a nice contrast to the sweet juicy salmon. Duck enchiladas are a specialty of the chef, made with a family recipe and loaded with shredded duck, sweet corn, melted cheese, salsa and black beans ($22).

Sweeten your palate with one of Agave’s decadent desserts such as Mexican flan with caramelized topping, molten chocolate cake or traditional buñuelos, similar to a doughnut served with ice cream. Xango is a house specialty that defies description so just order one and enjoy along with an after dinner liqueur such as Kahlua or Tia Maria.

Stop in for a civilized lunch where a prix fixe two course lunch is just $12.95. You can also try a hot, pressed sandwich filled with grilled mojo chicken or adobe pulled pork. A festive brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 am to 4:00 pm and includes both Mexican and American meals. Agave is open seven days a week for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. They’re open from 11:00 am until 11:00 pm on Mondays and until 1:00 am the rest of the week. Come see the private party rooms and make plans for your next special event that your guests will talk about for years.

For the fresh flavors of Southwestern cuisine, an extensive variety of tequilas, exotic cocktails and, great service and a sensuous atmosphere, visit Agave in Manhattan’s West Village.

140 Seventh Avenue South
(between W. 10th and Charles Streets)
West Village, NYC  212.989.2100

www.agaveny.com

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