Friday, April 30, 2010

New Mexican in Grey Lynn

Grey Lynn has a new upmarket Mexican restaurant called Ahsi-Itzcalli, a name with some cultural significance but with a combination of letters somewhat further down on the memorability scale than if the owner had banged arbitrarily on his computer keyboard for ten seconds with a hard shell taco.

The food is excellent, authentic southern Mexican – think beautifully presented chocolatey mole sauces and pancake-like soft tortillas like in the picture above. It's a shame they can't do it a little bit cheaper – $28 for a main being somewhat out of takeaway range, even for the chattering classes of the surrounding suburbs. It's even a little steep for eating in, given one's natural inclination to compare it with, say, Mexicali rather than with other restaurants of a similar price.

That's the struggle Mexican food will always have – it started cheap and cheerful, and it's hard to move up in the world from there (just ask the Chinese). Perhaps aware of this prejudice, the lovely people running Ahsi-Itzcalli provide diners with a list of fallacies about Mexico, culinary and otherwise. Here are some of my favourites:
  • Nachos is not a meal, it's a snack to watch the movies in the cinemas
  • Mexico has parts 2000mts above the sea level were it reach temperatures below cero. Not always is sunny everywhere
  • We supposed to be democratic republic
  • We have party everywhere. Fiesta not siesta ok
  • We have huge jungles and rainforest and beautiful beaches and excellent architecture of centuries, NOT JUST DESERT AND CACTUS
So there you go, don't go ordering the desert and cactus without looking at the rest of the menu first. And don't go straight for a bottle of Corona, as they also offer other Mexican beers, top shelf tequilas and traditional drinks, of which I was given many free samples to taste while I studied the menu. The tamarind and date juice was delicious, much more so than it looks just here in print.

Ahsi-Itzcalli: good for a thinking man's date, dinner with a Mexophile auntie or to stock up before a movie in a cinema. Not to mention for geography students swotting for that final exam:
  • The Mexican flag has three colours, green meaning hope, white meaning purity and red meaning blood. And the eagle standing in the cactus eating a snake, this was the sign were Mexico had to be settle.