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Tuesday
Jan282014

Adventures on El Camino: Agave

The Cochinita Pibil at AgaveI am obsessed with a traditional Mexican dish from the Yucatan called Cochinita Pibil--slow-roasted pork marinated with achiote paste (a savory and flavorful spice derived from the seeds of the Bixa orellana tree). You eat it with corn tortillas and top the taco with pickled red onions (and habanero peppers if you can handle it). We had it every day when we first went to Playa del Carmen back in 2005 and we've been eating it at Manhattan's La Esquina each time we visit New York. While I knew there must be some Bay Area restaurants that feature Cochinita on their menu, I hadn't heard any feedback from anyone I knew, until a customer at the store (also obsessed with Cochinita) told me about Agave in Mountain View. I don't often get further south on the Peninsula than Redwood City, but since I had to hit up Palo Alto Medical Facility yesterday to get my Guyana immunizations (they had pulled the list for Ghana and almost shot me up with five extra boosters), I figured why not continue on down El Camino and give this place a shot?

The decor at Agave is modern with a traditional twist. They have flat screens in HD if you want to watch the game, but high-end, gourmet-esque dinner plates if you want to get fancy. Their list of agave spirits is expansive and impressive and they have a menu with dozens of different margarita variations depending on which tequila you use. My wife and I opted for the lime-guava margarita with macerated jalapeno. It was tangy, tropical, spicy and perfectly balanced. I was impressed. For a starter, we got the fiesta shrimp cocktail, which uses the standard bay shrimp with tomato/horseradish, but adds lime and pico de gallo as well. Delish. 

The Cochinita Pibil was dead on--exactly like I remember it tasting in Mexico and just as good, if not better, than La Esquina's version. I was in hog heaven. My wife opted for the prawns with garlic, spinach and corn, along side a salad of pickled vegetables.

If you don't feel like going high-end, however, Agave has a lunch menu of $10 options that include gigantic wet burritos and a number of interesting variations. I could spend all week just going down the list and ordering each one (not to mention all the margarita variations). This place has its act together.

I highly, highly, highly recommend checking it out. The patio out back must be an amazing locale when the weather is nice. It might be the perfect place to do a K&L tequila event. I'll be heading back soon, if not tomorrow, to try the other fantastic selections.

Another great joint along the El Camino corridor.

Agave is at 194 Castro Street in downtown Mountain View.

-David Driscoll