Blake Bronstad photos
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Lovers of Los Agaves who are yearning for a full-service experience complete with creative cocktails, expanded seafood specialties, and a sleek and modern environment need look no further than Santo Mezcal.
Carlos Luna, owner of Los Agaves, always wanted to open an haute cuisine Mexican restaurant, and with the growth of the lower State Street area gaining MOXI, the Hotel Californian, and more businesses to come, he jumped on the opportunity to join the transformation with this upscale endeavor.
“We saw Santo Mezcal as our opportunity to do something more modern while still honoring the traditional cuisine of our Oaxacan roots. We were able to test various menu items at Los Agaves to see which ones our customers really liked. The best of the best made it on the menu at Santo Mezcal,” Luna said.
Appetizers like their bright and beautiful ahi tuna ceviche with cucumber, jicama, cilantro, salsa machacada, corn, and sesame oil, and ceviche pulpo (octopus) complemented with red onions, cucumber, avocado, and cilantro are sure to awaken palates ready to take on bold new flavors. Meanwhile, Los Agaves’ complimentary fresh chips and inventive salsas are a welcome reminder of the restaurant’s roots.
“Our executive chef, Ricardo Garcia, has developed a slightly elevated, more contemporary menu, rooted in Mexican flavors and traditions that also celebrate local and seasonal ingredients, with a real focus on seafood,” Luna said. “It gives guests the chance to be adventurous and try new things like tacos de pulpo or huitlacoche, as well as enjoy favorites with a twist, like crab enchiladas.”
Never having tried huitlacoche, a fungus that grows on corn, I was pleasantly surprised to see this mold turned delicacy shine in their tlacoyo de huitlacoche y hongos. Layered amid thick fresh blue corn tortillas, mixed with tender mushrooms and cheese, and topped with sour cream, radishes, and red onions, the savory umami flavors blended perfectly and transported me to the markets of Mexico City.
Perhaps the most dramatic difference between Los Agaves and Santo Mezcal is the latter’s shiny, fully stocked bar showcasing an impressive collection of mezcals, tequilas, house-pressed juices, and seasonal farmers’ market ingredients.
Area mixologist Sean Sepulveda created the unique menu of margaritas, which can be made with either tequila or mezcal (tequila’s smokier, earthier, trendier cousin); seasonal, featured cocktails, such as the La Mermelada (The Marmalade), a creative mix of whiskey or tequila, seasonal jam, lemon agave nectar, and seasonal fruit; and house craft cocktails, such as La Flor Ahumada (The Smoking Flower), with mezcal, honey-lavender syrup, lemon, and lavender bud. The detailed, colorful presentation of drinks and dishes at Santo Mezcal tantalizes the eyes as much as it does the taste buds.
Their wine and beer list has also spread its wings from the offerings at Los Agaves, including selections both local and global, such as a crisp rosé from Spain and the on-tap Los Agaves Lager made by neighbors Figueroa Mountain Brewery.
Even if you haven’t saved room for dessert, the pan de elote is a must have. A dreamy cross between rice pudding and flan, the melt-in-your mouth combination of shaved corn, eggs, and tres leches, topped with creamy vanilla bean ice cream and ripe strawberries, goes down easy.
With happy hour recently launched, visitors will have opportunity to try even more delicacies at a greater value. “We’re rolling out all new menu items that are perfect for sharing like sopecitos yucatecos, crab quesadilla, tostaditas ahi tuna, and all different tacos than you’ll find on our regular menus,” Luna said. “We also offer our regular cocktails for just $7 during happy hour … it’s such a deal, maybe I shouldn’t be telling you!”
With an exciting bar program, exotic eats, tried-and-true favorites, and friendly service, word is already out on this gem, and based on the success of its older sister, it will continue to spread!
Santo Mezcal is at 119 State Street. Call (805) 883-3593.