Photography by Adam Kindred
Temper your expectations at this slickly appointed modern Mexican restaurant in RoRo.
Miel de Agave (“agave nectar” in Spanish) is an ambitious new Roosevelt Row restaurant self-described as a “modern Mexican cantina and event space,” outfitted with a DJ setup and a stage. The main dining room is dark and vibey, providing a dramatic backdrop for a menu that puts a trendy spin on traditional dishes, while occasionally adding a touch of fusion.
Now, if only the food were half as thrilling as the menu and environs. Many dishes are pleasant but unexceptional, which is also true for cocktails, despite their inventive presentations. Yes, I like my sotol-based Catedral, but am I dying to have it again? Eh.
Digging into a petite portion of guacamole, sweetened with mango, sprinkled with crunchy chapulines (deep-fried grasshoppers) and served with four small blue corn disks, I find myself wondering if the novelty of eating insects makes this dish worth $19. Although the textural contrast is cool, I’d be happier with a big bowl of citrus-sparked guac from Otro Café, offered with endless chips for $7.50.
Meanwhile, the elote, served with the husk attached, looks fancy, but – alas! – the wizened corn kernels are dry and devoid of sweetness. La Bamba offers a juicier, better version for nearly half the price.
Thinly sliced tuna tiradito, sprinkled with limp slivers of fried onion strings, lacks the flavor punch I expect from prime tuna dabbed with piloncillo-laced salsa. It’s decent, but not worth $28. I dream of Kaizen.
And blue corn empanaditas gobernador, stuffed with shrimp, chiles, tomatoes and onions, are a bland blur of cheese and cream, paling in comparison to any five-buck empanada at República Empanada.
The good news: Octopus al pastor tacos – blue corn tostadas topped with tender, adobo-braised octopus and a sharp, spicy-sweet salsa of charbroiled pineapple, mango and habanero – feel original and fun; and the La Discada skillet, a luscious jumble of meats, including prime skirt steak, chorizo, pork belly and Wagyu ground beef, goosed up with peppers, veggies and charro beans, bursts with umami, salt and spice. I love
Sadly, I can’t say the same for Miel de Agave, which too often reminds me of places I’d rather be.
Miel de Agave
Contact: 705 N. First St., Phoenix, 602-466-8066, lamieldeagave.com
Hours: M-W 5-9 p.m., Th 5-10 p.m., F-Sa 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Su 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Highlights: Guacamole with chapulines ($19); octopus al pastor tacos ($12);
La Discada skillet ($20)