Mountain View Voice

Eating Out - November 2, 2012

The right place at the right time

Fiesta del Mar owners' upscale new Agave a good fit for downtown

by Sheila Himmel

When the restaurant fits, eat there. In downtown Mountain View, a number of mismatches have occupied the northeast corner of downtown Castro and Villa streets, but now we may have a winner. Agave restaurant meets so many needs.

Owners Alejandro and Susan Garcia have long experience running successful restaurants, with Fiesta del Mar and Fiesta del Mar Too in Mountain View, and Blue Agave Club in Pleasanton. The new Agave, which opened in July, is an up-tempo Mexican restaurant with food, service and ambience to justify the tab. Vegetarians will find plenty of choice, and people with food allergies or quirks are invited to make their demands.

In addition, Agave offers:

•A meeting and party space, with an attractive, non-claustrophobic private room.

•A clean, well-lighted sports bar.

•A cheerfully refreshed patio. That could also be the better venue for a date, because the main dining area is in the bar, and acoustics are not wonderful.

For the World Series opener, people settled in to watch one of four panoramic flat-screen TVs while a Giants party convened in the room next door. Happy hour was featuring a special anti-Detroit margarita and $5 plates of chicken wings and nachos.

A recent weekday lunch started with palate-tingling, cold marinated red potatoes, carrots, onions, and jalapenos. That was complimentary. For chips and salsa, you fork over $1.95 but they are great, house-made chips and the salsa of the day.

My companion objects to paying $8.95 for an appetizer of two little chicken tostadas, topped with crunchy shredded cabbage, creamy avocado and tart green sauce. It's a question of quantity vs. quality and table service.

Enchiladas de tinga ($11.95 for two, $7.95 for one) do not drown in sauce and cheese. Chicken simmered in chipotle chiles, tomatoes, onions and garlic is wrapped in corn tortillas drizzled in red sauce featuring mild guajillo chile, topped in toasted cheese. The enchiladas, as all lunch entrees, come with moist white rice and excellent vegetarian black beans.

Huevos divorciados ($9.95) are a perfect marriage of just-cooked eggs with corn tortillas and sauce, one mild red, one tangy green. They come with the best chilaquiles my well-traveled companion has had outside of Oaxaca.

The server was very enthusiastic about the chef's special dessert, chilindrinas ($8), puff pastry topped with caramelized apples and vanilla bean ice cream. By now besotted with pleasure, my companion noted, "This feels great in the mouth."

For dinner, the menu expands to include lots of seafood and fish, from ceviche to fried calamari. The Veracruz-style spicy shrimp cocktail ($8.95) is ample in all departments. An entree of cochinita pibil ($17.95) featured chunks of pork, slow-cooked to tenderness with a cavalcade of spices, achiote, cumin and tomatillos. It comes with white rice and corn tortillas for sopping.

Service was earnest and friendly, except for one long lapse in waiting for the check.

Agave's tequila menu nears 200 offerings. It may be wise to start with a flight of samples.

Agave

194 Castro St., Mountain View.

(650) 969-6767

www.agaveca.com

Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5-10 p.m. Fri. 11:30 a.m.-midnight. Sat. 4 p.m.-midnight. Sun. 4-9 p.m.

Happy hour Mon.-Thurs. 5-7 p.m. Fri. 3-6 p.m. Sat.-Sun. 4-6 p.m., also Fri.-Sat. 10 p.m. to midnight.

Reservations: yes

Credit cards: yes

Parking: street and city lots

Alcohol: full bar

Children: yes

Outdoor dining: yes

Party and banquet facilities: yes

Noise level: medium-high

Bathroom cleanliness: excellent

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