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AHSI ITZCALLI

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.

3 Comments

  1. Frances wrote:

    I found the hospitality here outstanding. The complimentary horchata, sangria and tortillas were a welcome surprise. We found the size of the meals very generous (on 80s-style square plates)so we thought the vegetarian burritos with mole and shrimp tortillas were good value. Yes, it’s bright and usually empty but filled with the frantic sounds of Mexican Idol on the telly.

    Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Permalink
  2. Simon Pound wrote:

    Ingrid and I had a great night here.
    It was otherwise entirely empty, which served to reinforce the post-apocalyptic-in-neon ambience. But the bustle of the never-ending procession of family members emerging from the kitchen with complimentary tasters, drinks and deserts made-up for that. We must have met fifteen lightly-related people.
    At the end a large busted woman came out and was introduced as the head chef. It was very entertaining if slightly exhausting. The food was good – if a bit solid if you know what I mean – I thought it would have been a lot better with a group to all share than for two people to try to have a dinner – a couple of bites was enough of everything we tried – kind of like Canton?
    Still – -have a nap and go rested – it is a really fun safari of an evening.

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010 at 10:03 am | Permalink
  3. Paul Rad wrote:

    If you want service, this place is not for you. We had to order food and drinks individually. We had to go to the cashier one by one and placed our orders and pay for them in front. Food was not so great. Rice was undercook, the portions of meat were so small that were hardly noticed. A truly shocking dinning experience. The food and drinks were overpriced. Expectations were not met, and there is not enough of a pull for me to go back. [This comment has been edited.]

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

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