Cantina agave gets a facelift and menu upgrade
Cantina Agave has introduced Shanghai locals to a much more nuanced understanding of Cali-Mexican cuisine since 2008, in a way that is experimental while remaining approachable and friendly in a casual environment at the busy corner of Fumin and Changle Roads.
Everything felt familiar here in the past but owner Raffe Ibrahamian decided to give the space a complete upgrade — a place that would bring new energy yet stay true to its roots for a convivial dining experience where the vibe is as enticing as the food.
Designer Hannah Churchill from hcreates, a design firm, was up for the challenge. She wanted to devise a way to create a visually impactful interior space that would draw customers in.
The bar was moved to the back wall facing out toward the street — a strategic layout change that made the previously obscured bar the focal point. Churchill then looked to create an environment where both large and small groups could dine comfortably.
The bar is framed by a large, back-lit, mirrored arch, featuring a red neon “coctels” sign. Bare concrete walls line the sides of the restaurant with hidden lighting softly accentuating the natural textured surface.
Upholstered banquettes and simple oak joinery finish off the interior with clean, refined lines. Custom-made cactus wallpaper was designed to add a bit of fun to the back of the cantina and toilets.
Raffe was completely satisfied with the result. He also updated the menu with new creations. For example, his love of Hunan cuisine inspired him to create a Hunan cumin beef taco — a perfect marriage of two different cultures. Cantina falafel taco is another delight favored by many vegans. Homemade falafel with tomato-cucumber salsa and lettuce, enhanced with tahini sauce and homemade chili mix, makes for a satisfying, tasty, plant-based option. Whatever taco you order, there’s no holding back on flavors that make you crave more — probably the reason Cantina Agave has its regular Tuesday taco night — all you can eat tacos for 100 yuan per person.
The restaurant’s many starters are also ideal for cocktail pairing. I loved the Elote Mexican street corn’s grilled and charred juiciness slathered with a mixture of lime juice and cream, dusted in chili and queso fresco (Mexican fresh cheese).
Set in a central location of urban living, the outdoor area has always been a great meeting place to indulge in second-to-none margaritas, tropical cocktails and premium tequila.
Opening hours: 11am-midnight
Address: 291 Fumin Rd
Average price: 120 yuan