You gotta admire a place that offers grasshopper tacos in wine country. Melanie Wong has been checking out the fare at Agave Mexican Restaurant & Tequila Bar since its opening this summer, and reports that it just keeps getting better.
Those tacos de chapulines, a special one day, made a convert out of Melanie. "I’m now a chapulines fan, if they can be as tasty and crunchy as these." Seasoned and freshly roasted in-house, the grasshoppers are small and crispy. The taco is topped with a spicy salsa roja. Mole negro, made by the owner's mother, comes off a little differently in enchiladas than in tamales. The enchiladas were too sweet for Melanie's taste, but the tamal is nicely balanced and meaty with chicken—the steaming of the tamales alters the flavor a bit. Tamales are made with olive oil instead of lard, but the masa doesn't suffer for flavor. It's also amped up with lots of house-made chicken broth for a light but tasty treat.
Particularly in summer, the region's bounty finds its way into specials like organic strawberry agua fresca and grilled local oysters topped with garlic butter and a squeeze of lime. But for winter, the "simple and glorious" consommé de res, a traditional Mexican beef soup, might be the ticket. "The oxtail and short rib were exactly on point and deeply beefy with just enough seasoning to highlight the natural, nearly unadorned taste of the meat," says Melanie. The meats are seasoned in advance, then cooked separately from the stock. "The double-meating was evident in the depth of flavor which rivaled the best pho bo." The soup is carefully skimmed to remove any grease, and perfectly done vegetables—potatoes, corn, carrots, and green beans—are added to the bowl.
The owner is gradually introducing Oaxacan specialties like tlayudas and regional stews to a clientele more accustomed to burritos, and is looking for someone to make tortillas by hand.
Agave Mexican Restaurant & Tequila Bar [Sonoma County]
1063 Vine Street, Healdsburg