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Authentic Mexican hits the mark

By C.J.Henderson | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-15 10:10
Authentic Mexican hits the mark

Cantina Agave's signature dishes include crispy Baja fish tacos and Too Hot Tamales. [Photo by Fan Zhen/China Daily]

Authentic Mexican food in Beijing - is it possible? Cantina Agave thinks it is, and has sated the cravings of many by opening a branch of the restaurant in Beijing.

More than 600 guests filled the two-level taqueria and tequila bar for its opening party. Since then, the Sanlitun venue has been swamped with restaurant-goers eager to sample authentic Mexican food.

Authentic Mexican hits the mark

We opted to visit on a Tuesday evening to avoid the crowds that make Cantina Agave reservation-only dining over the weekend.

Good things come in small packages, and this was certainly true of the standout dish of the evening: Too Hot Tamales.

There were gasps of delight at our table when the extraordinarily cute little parcels arrived. Chinese diners will note the similarity of Tamales to Dragon Boat Festival's signature dish, zongzi.

While zongzi is made with glutinous rice and wrapped in bamboo leaves, tamales are made with masa, fresh corn and wrapped in corn husks.

Cantina Agave's version was filled with a tasty beef and tomato mixture, and served with a fresh, piquant salsa.

While their presentation is a bit different to that of the street stalls in Mexico, the flavor is remarkably similar - a tasty and fragrant filling surrounded by soft, but not soggy, corn masa that provided the perfect texture to each bite.

Arriving before 7pm meant we were able to sample the generous happy hour specials, including the offer of all-you-can-eat corn chips to accompany the inventive salsa bar - a selection of 12 salsas that includes the classic Salsa Verde and new favorites, such as mango and black bean.

We sampled salsas over margaritas that packed a real tequila kick. Margaritas are served both frozen and on ice, and drinkers can choose from a selection of flavors - classic lime, strawberry, mango and passion fruit. We tried them all.

Finished with the salsa bar and corn chips, we moved onto the food menu featuring all the Mexican favorites.

Authentic Mexican hits the mark

Authentic Mexican hits the mark

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