Agave Y Aguacate - delicious Mexican
- jlunar Mar 27, 2011 12:12 PM
Saw Petek mention this in another thread and it reminded me that I hadn't heard anyone talk about Agave Y Aguacate here yet. And it really deserves to be talked about.
I first heard about Agave Y Aguacate from Steven Davey’s review in NOW Magazine. I hadn’t noticed the rating he had given it at the time – 5 N’s – but wholly concur after making my own visit to this one-man operation. Everything is made fresh and to-order – tostadas are fried, guacamole is prepped, tomatoes are sliced – all while you patiently observe and salivate. Watching Francisco Alejandri work is fascinating, as it reveals the care he puts into the creation of every dish. And the results are worth it.
I started with the green tostada. The guacamole is heavily laced with lime – just the way I like it – and piled on a freshly fried tostada with lightly marinated tomatoes and a slice of queso fresco cheese. It is then topped with crema, as well as a guajillo chili and tomatillo salsa. This dish, while rich and creamy from the guacamole, cheese, and crema, gets balanced out by the acid from the tomatoes and lime. The salsa gave things a vague hint of heat and a little sweetness. I splashed some of the habanero sauce that was on offer beside the table, but the sauce wasn’t very hot and I thought the dish was better without it. The fresh and bright flavours really took me away from the dreary rain spitting from the grey sky outside.
Like the green tostada, the flank steak salad had great fresh flavours – lime, fresh red onion, vinegar, jalapeño, tomato, coriander – mixed with the shredded flank steak. This was sided with tortilla chips that are fried to order, apparently. I missed this part as I was dorking away on my cell, but I remember hearing the sizzle from the fryer. I could have used more jalapeño for more kick, but the flank steak salad was a really beautifully crafted dish with awesome layers of flavour. I also somehow thought this was a sandwich when I first read the menu. Must read slower.
No photo (gasp, I know) of the pinto bean soup I had taken home to eat. This soup – again, made to order(!), like every thing else – was piping hot when it went into the container. A container that had fresh chunks of avocado in it. And if you’ve ever cooked avocado, you’ll know it gets bitter. Otherwise, this carefully crafted soup was quite good and filling. Made with ancho chiles, more of the queso fresco cheese, and topped with tortilla strips and crema.
Remembering that the NOW review had directed readers to not leave without the lime Charolotte, I got this dessert to-go as I was both full and out of time. Lime-custard layers alternating with Maria biscuits topped with fresh lime zest and dose of arbequina olive oil. This is a dense and creamy confection, lightened by the citrusy zing of the lime.
I missed out on a few things on the menu, but the one thing that I wished I had ordered: the hibiscus agua fresca. Sounds refreshingly delicious! Will have to save that for my next visit. To make your own visit to Agave Y Aguacate, look for El Gordo’s Fine Foods with signs on the outside for churros. Then, head past the bakery toward the various food vendors at the back. Though this is a counter-only kind of place (with maybe five seats shared in the entire place), optimally, you want to eat the food as soon as you can. Take-out isn't the main thrust of this place.
Most dishes hover around around the $5 mark (cash only), so things aren’t expensive, but portions are more snack-sized than meal-sized for the items I tried at lunch. I went during a slow period, so had no issues with the speed of preparation, but I can imagine things getting pretty slow during peak times. Fast food, this isn’t, so don’t be in a rush if you visit Agave Y Aguacate. Quality takes time, and this is well worth the wait.
Photos and menu on the blog: http://www.foodpr0n.com/2011/03/20/ag...
Agave Y Aguacute
214 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON , CA
Sounds fantastic, especially in our Mexican-deficient city. I think another cheap and cheerful Kensington Market/Chinatown tour is in the cards for me!
Francisco needs to open a sit down restaurant. Having recently tried his "non-fast" take-out food and watched as he fastidiously and passionately prepared each component of every dish, I can only imagine the depth of his culinary prowess. Also not to be missed are the tinga (chicken) tostada, which I liked even more than the green tostada, and the meatball sandwich.
Just remember that you really have to be patient. I waited about 30 to 40 minutes for my 3-item order and it wasn't that busy (2 people ahead of me). I'd happily do it again.
The food was good here. Good, not great. The meatball sandwich was tasty but needed much more zip to claim it as a "Mexican Meatball". Tostadas were tasty and the soup was decent. It was mega-slow!!! I know some of you are fawing over his passion and attention to detail but alot of the slow down would be avoided if he tackled some proper mise-en-place before he opens shop. There is no justifiable reason to hold things up while you julienne tortillas, sorry. If a major portion of this work was done before service he'd have more time to lift his head up, charm customers and most importantly serve customers and turn over customers. I'd mos def hit him up again but if there is a line 10 people deep I'd most likely not wait it out. Which is unfortunate because the food doesn't equate to a wait like that. Good food, quickly.
I go by all the time and have looked in to see if there's a lineup. Usually, there isn't.
I first went a couple of weeks ago before he was "discovered." If you go earlier in the week the only time I've seen a line (ie 3 people) is right at noon. Earlier than that or after 2, there's nobody. However, Sat and Sun the place is crazy busy as are the churros and empanada places he shares the space with.
Best bet is to place your order, pay and come back in 20 to 30 minutes after you do your other shopping. Or, if you go mid-afternoon, you can watch him put everything together - quite fascinating if you're interested in cooking "real" Mexican food. He's very friendly. I heard he cooked at Scaramouche (?).
If you just want cheap slop on a plate with no wait, there's plenty of places nearby.
Unfortunately, there's no seating at all. Just a bit of a standup counter area.
However, there is a bench and exactly 2 seats next door at Segovia. The owner of El Gordo inside where A y A is and Segovia are related. So maybe if you ask at Segovia if you can sit there they won't mind. You can always get some of there alfajores and some sweet empanadas for desert. Or get an order of their feijoida to take home for dinner later. Or some of their sausages. Or try their tasty pulled pork sandwich . . . :-)
It's a decent spot, but no, not knocking out the missing taco ladies from Perola's. Best way to describe AYG is on some Rick Bayless Xoco steez. Hopefully he realizes having a few 9 pans of mise is perfectly acceptable and won't be detrimental to freshness. It's ok, fine dice some onions in advance, not a big deal if they're an hour old.
Btw, a new taco stand took over the back of Perola's a few weeks ago. I haven't tried it yet but took a pic of the menu hanging up on the wall (tacos, quesadillas, tamales, chile rellenos, pozole).
247 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON M5T, CA