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Wine & Dining

A Tribute to Mexican Artisanry
Text by Elena Estrada
Photos John Harrison

I love Mexican food, but I haven’t had the real thing since my “ex” took me to Cabo San Lucas four years ago. Now, me and my sister Irina have a new hangout, the short bar at Casa Agave Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar, which just opened near Metro Kitai Gorod. It’s the first real Mexican place since the short-lived Hacienda opened on Komsomolsky Prospekt. Sure there are places like Pancho Villa or La Cantina that serve Tex-Mex, but no real Mexican. Casa Agave is not just the Mexican-American enchiladas, tacos and chile rellenos I got in LA and Chicago with Carlos. Casa Agave has a real Mexican Chef, Pedro Martinez, who just arrived in Moscow after seven years in Madrid at Las Mañanitas, a restaurant well-known for its authentic Mexican flavors. There’s some creative cooking going on in the back of the house at Casa Agave.

Casa Agave is a cavernous, high-ceiling 850 square metres, broken by old, heavy brick arch-work. Wall colors are deep cream, bright yellow, old mauve, and azure. Robert Greco, Moscow’s premier tequila importer, is responsible for the bitchin interior. He spent a couple of weeks combing the artisan markets around Guadalajara to fill two containers for the finish. His selections of fabulous, authentic Mexican artwork, figurines, pottery and tapestries decorate the walls, and his heavy brick-red terra cotta tiles cover the floors. The containers also brought the wood and wicker bar stools, stretched leather chairs, and tableware. Robert commissioned some rad sculptures that greet guests at the entrance.

There are two bars, the small one is our favorite, and a deep brown heavy oak monolith that looks like twenty meters. A huge, ceramic Russian stove, a holdover from the previous tenant, manages to fit right in behind the bar. Its big open layout, ample bars and incredible tequila and cocktail list mean Casa Agave is sure to make it a comfortable hangout. The ventilation appears good so I don’t have to take my dress to the cleaners like I would after a night at Pancho’s. A roving South American trio plays Mexican and Latin favorites at tableside every night. A pitcher of Margaritas runs 900 rubles, a Heineken 180 rubles, and Corona 260 rubles. Casa Agave is a Doug Steele production, so we can expect some great promotions, and some big party nights. Breakfast is served in the morning: Chilaquiles (595r) and Huevos Rancheros (195r). Irina and I will be bringing down some of her institute friends to work on their Spanish and English. Carlos, may he rest in peace, would have loved the place.

The menu, which bills Casa Agave as a Celebration of All Things Mexican, itself is a work of art. The first thing on the table is a complementary basket of corn chips, just like southern California. Guacamole (325r) heads the appetizers, followed by Nachos (495r), Quesadillas (425r) and Flautas (295r). The names will sound familiar to North Americans but the preparation is Pedro’s. For instance, the delicious Guacamole is dressed up nicely with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. I like the Queso Fundido (695r), a gooey appetizer of melted cheese with spicy chorizo and peppers.

The Ensalada Acapulco (395r) is a refreshing blend of mango, pomegranate, oranges and pine nuts covered with tamarind juice and served in a fried tortilla basket. Of course I need soup and bread, so I enjoy the Sopa Maria (270r), a chicken soup with cactus slices, served with boiled egg and totopo (baked corn chips). For a main course, I went crazy over the Pollo Con Mole (395r), an oven roast with a luscious dark chocolate and chili pepper sauce. The dessert Crepas con Cajeta (195r) is alone worth the trip to Casa Agave. It’s a sticky, white homemade sweet made with goat milk and filled with vanilla ice cream and chopped walnuts—wow!

Casa Agave
Bolshoy Cherkasskiy Pereulok 17
+7 495 624 5766

Pedro promised to keep the spices down on some of our favorites, just for us of course. Irina and I would love to get him out of the kitchen to feed him a little Russian cuisine, if you know what I mean. We’re a little worried that the “buffet” might get rather crowded here, but we have first dibs. I know from his big smile that he’s just waiting for a few free hours. Perhaps we could cooperate on a Russian-Mexican dinner—I’d be glad to swallow just about anything he can prepare, and I hope he can reciprocate.

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