The Takeout: Southwestern 

Miracle Bar and Grill
415 Bleecker St
212-924-1900
Rating: 2L's

Ordering from Miracle was the most trying ordeal of my reviewing days. I was on the phone for 25 minutes, repeating my order, phone number, and address over and over like the straight man in some multicultural Abbott and Costello skit that gets booed off Amateur Night at the Apollo.

It was truly a Miracle when the food arrived, but what I ordered was a mystery. The menu had changed since mine was printed, and most of what I wanted was no longer. The goat cheese quesadilla I ordered was no more, apparently, and they sent a soggy, but superficially yummy Kid’s Cheese Quesadilla in its stead. The Southwestern Spring Roll ($7.50) was conceptually interesting, being a large burrito filled with shredded cabbage and carrot, served with peanut vinaigrette and ginger-soy dip. Interesting, but not good. Catfish Tacos ($8.95) were acceptable (if boring), crunchy without being oily, in a fried corn shell identical to the blue corn coating the Fried Chicken Salad ($14.95). Served with potatoes, beets, corn salsa, and a touch of mixed greens, slathered in a tingly cayenne buttermilk dressing, this was the best dish, but priced too high to justify the meager portion. There must be better Southwestern to order in the Village. The only miracle here is that anyone orders a second time.

Agave
140 Seventh  Ave South
212-989-2100
Rating: 3L's

What do Cuban-Chinese, Afro-French, and the Asian-inflected cuisine of Jean Georges have in common? The seductive and much-maligned moniker “fusion.” Southwestern, fusion of sorts, has all the allure and potential drawbacks of a cuisine that combines two contrasting traditions. At Agave, despite top-notch ingredients and an inventive menu, the food never realizes its full fusion potential. The only outstanding dish was the Hand-Hacked Guacamole ($10), but that guacamole — lime-inflected, chunky, perfectly salted — had serious chops. Other menu items didn’t manage to transcend their individual components, but they were still uniformly good. Blue Corn Enchiladas ($18) were filled with a satisfying chipotle chicken, spinach, and cheese mixture. I liked the sweet-spicy chipotle chicken, and wish it hadn’t been overpowered by the rest of the filling. The Tejas Blue Crab Quesadillas ($14) veered towards bland, but it was possible to kick them up with liberal spoonfuls of green chili sauce. Agave prepares an impeccably packaged meal in 15 minutes flat, and that’s impressive. What’s not impressive is the disparity between the ambition of the menu (i.e. pumpkin and chevre tacos) and the quality of the food. I love Southwestern, but I didn’t love Agave.

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