Have you been to the intersection of Kirkman and Conroy Rd? Not exactly a high end, blue backdrop lights, stainless steel metal encased kind of hip area, right? Wrong, you have not stepped into Agave Azul.
This intersection is not at all high end, but it has seen better days. Standing at one of the entrances to Dr. Phillips and Metrowest area on one side and the Mall of Millenia a few miles away, this intersection should have been more happening. Being a few blocks away from Universal Studios Orlando should also lend some Theme Park power. Over the years this area has remained more local than touristy with a Publix Supermarket anchoring across Conroy Rd. Recently, there have been a upswing of restaurants, Zorbas is holding its own corner, El Potro is always packed, BloodHound Brew and Reds Ranch BBQ have opened up nearby. But that little dive club that an NFL player was caught smacking around a girl is now closed. Agave Azul seems to stand out.
Stainless steel tables and chairs on the patio reminisce of Ocean Dr. South Miami Beach rather than land locked Orlando. The grazing crowd is not South Beach but there was an interesting mix of hipsters. The interior is covered with a blue hue from strategically placed lights. Walls are stainless steel plated or painted. There are industrial textures and settings. The stark overhanging canvass ceiling captures a nautical theme. A swanky bar affords the hip and cool a place to keep their beaks wet and look cool. Blue light makes everything look cooler.
A glance through of the menu suggest that you are not at Taco Bell, Del Taco, nor Chipotle. This is all Mexican cuisine. The mouth watering descriptors invoke a sense of authenticity. Naturally, there are a la carte selections of soups, appetizers, and entrees. Most interesting are the combinations. These plates of individual items paired and served with other items promises a feast. The bar menu boast an impressive and enormous collection of Tequilas. No, not just a shot with lime. These are high-end, premium snifter types that can run you upwards of $40 a shot. Of course Margaritas comes in all different combinations. There is also a complimenting wine and beer selection.
Agave Sampler – Mexico city wings, chicken nachos, beef quesadilla, ceviche shot, chicken taquitos, queso dip. What better way to start the feast than a sampling of things. The wings had a shot of heat; nachos, quesadillas, and taquitos were crisp and flavorful; ceviche was tart; that queso dip should be bottled and sold as lotion! I would rub it on.
Arrachera – Grilled marinated skirt steak, topped with chimicurri sauce. Served with rice, charro beans and steamed vegetables. Steak was delivered as requested, medium. Flavors and textures were spot on. Rice was fluffy and flavorful. Beans lacked a little complexity, but was still pretty good.
Plato Grande – A combination of great Mexican specialties, grilled marinated skirt steak, one chicken tamal topped with mole sauce and cotija cheese. One picadillo enchilada topped with tomatillo sauce and cheese. Served with rice, charro beans, lettuce, sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo. I see what they mean by Grande! Steak was wonderful. Tamal was nice and smooth, that mole sauce was nicely balanced. Enchilada was nicely flavored.
Churros – Mexican pastry sticks dusted with canela sugar and served with cajeta and sweet leche dulce for dipping. It wouldn’t be a true Mexican experience without Churros. Maybe I am just partial to fried dough. The sticks were crispy and not too sugary. The dipping sauces were not necessary, the sticks stood on its own. But the dips added that heighten flavor profile.
Torrontes, Bodega Colome– Tropical and fresh, with roundness of melon and peach. San Carlos, Argentina. My personal believe, Torrontes is one of the most overlooked varieties in the US. If you are a die hard Char Char Chardonnay fan, you should surprise your palate with a Torrontes. Loved it.
Malbec, Alamos– Ripe aromas of blackberry & licorice, hints of chocolate & sweety spice.Mendoza, Argentina. The first glass was corked and the server quickly replaced it with a glass from a newly opened bottle. This was an fairly simple Malbec that lacked complexity and depth.
Did you really think I downed all of this food? No, we actually had a good amount of leftovers for another meal. I was drawn in by the curb appeal and mesmerized by the interior. I’ll even say that the food was better than good. The bar menu looks tantalizing. Someone put a lot of thought and energy into creating a decent restaurant. Yet, I have to ask, why wasn’t the service process the same level? We arrived early in the evening before the dinner rush. Our greeter was prompt and lead us to a nice table. The menu cover, menu pages, seats, and tables were sticky. There was an off putting odor. Stale something? A bowl of chips and salsa was miraculously appeared on the table. The chips were fresh and crispy. Our server reluctantly ambled over, with the perverbial opening question. “Something to drink?” All of that fanfare to get me in the door and then this? Both of my wine glasses were dirty. The second wine glass had a huge chip on the foot. We had our first bite of appetizer when the entrees showed up. Huh? Never even touched the entrees when the server showed up to ask how was the food. Better coordination and attention to detail could have made this a better experience.
There are several mom and pops Mexican restaurants in questionable locales that are very good. Agave Azul has filled a gap for authentic Mexican restaurants with a decent and inviting environment. The food and décor speaks for itself. It is my sincere hope that the service operation get’s tightened just a little bit. Don’t take my word for it. Go try it out.