Ahsi Itzcalli has closed, but we’ve decided to keep this post for posterity. Try Mexican Specialties.
If, like us, and most of New Zealand, your experience of Mexican food is limited to what is really Tex-Mex – nachos, perhaps a frozen margarita – then you’re in for a surprise. Ahsi Itzcalli is not the Mexican Cafe. There are no cheerfully overpriced beans, chicken, rice plates indistinguishable from each other. What Ahsi Itzcalli is, despite being in a barely made-over space that used to be Nando’s, with the same chairs and tables and floor, the old sign torn down and replaced by a laminated one, is quite good.
It’s good for a group, a birthday. Prices are perhaps ambitious, but only because Mexican food is normally a $5 taco: a main here hovers around $25 here (well, $25.99. For some reason they insist on using The Warehouse pricing model). The mole is good, unusual but moreish, well balanced savoury-sweet, and decorated with a swirling, flourished “‘Mexico”. Stay with the traditional drinks – horchata, a rice-based drink laced with cinnamon and almond, while not alcoholic, is rich enough to be intoxicating. Besides, after it reached widespread notoriety as the title of a Vampire Weekend song, it’s very satisfying to know what it actually is.
The staples – scopes, guacamole, salsa and chillies with corn chips, fajitas – are all impeccable. Where Ahsi Itzcalli falls down though, is when it veers into safe, Europeanised territory – the steak was disappointing. This is not refined food, and if you’re a steadfast fan of Tex-Mex style that’s served at other Auckland joints you might even find it difficult to adjust to the less obvious flavours. If you’re after a cheap, casual meal, you’d be better off at their stall at the Ponsonby Food Court, but this restaurant is an under-attended find that deserves a visit. NS
HOURS Open seven days, 11 am til 3pm, and 5pm til late.
ADDRESS 2 Surrey Crescent, Grey Lynn, ph 376 0196.
IMPORTANT DETAILS Everyone mentions it, but it doesn’t make it any less funny – whoever wrote the menu is either a comic genius or has an extremely backward grasp of the English language. Perhaps both.