The wait is over. We’ve finally found a Mexican restaurant that has satisfied our too-long simmering desires for big hearty burritos, soft fish tacos, chunky guacamole, and a selection of salsa both sharp and subtle. The new Cantina Agave, located on the Fumin side of the new Mansion complex on Changle Lu, has brought the California-style Mexican fare we fell in love with back home to Shanghai, wrapped up in reasonable prices and a much appreciated focus on authenticity.
It makes sense then that it’s veteran Shanghai restaurateur Kelley Lee, of Closed Door and Boxing Cat Brewery fame, who is responsible for this godsend. The first thing that caught our attention when we walked into the restaurant was the salsa bar nestled in the corner. Fresh cut jalapenos and salsas ranging from the tangy mango and black bean salsa to the bruising salsa de chile arbol were open for the choosing.
Naturally, we ordered the burrito first. both Cantina Agave’s burrito mamita and papito, like everything else here, is made from your selection of meat fillings. Beef machaca, carnitas, chorizo and potato, chicken in salsa verde, lengua if you’re lucky, and fried baja fish. The mamita (55 RMB) is packed thick with rice, beans, lettuce and onions, but we recommend 5 RMB extra each for the dollop of sour cream and guacamole. The Macho Nachos (60 RMB) are indeed a masculine mound of crispy tortilla chips suffocating under heaps of meat and beans and melted Oaxacan cheese. And the crispy fish taco, recently added to the menu, is a delicious bargain at 20 RMB. The aforementioned salsa bar allows you to mix and match with 8 different sauce types. The machaca and the chicken verde were hearty and delicious; the carnitas will keep you stuffed for what seems like forever.
We aren’t going to forget to mention the bar, which serves 50 different types of tequila, draught pilsner from Boxing Cat, and a killer passionfruit margarita. Sure these things are nice and provide for a very holistic Mexican dining experience, but it’s the flavorful food done right that brings tears to our eyes. That and the jalapenos. As another lover of Mexican food proclaimed to me after his first experience here: we can all finally rejoice. Yes we can, and Hallelujah to that.
Cantina Agave – 291 Fumin Lu, Suite 01 A-2, near Changle Lu (富民路291号, 01 A-2, 近常乐路) Tel: 6170-1310, Hours: 11 am – 11 pm daily
Eric Hu is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news and gossip about Shanghai’s food scene to food at shanghaiist.com.