It’s been said time and time again that Kuwait lacks in Mexican cuisine. Over the years, this issue has been resolved with different Mexican restaurants opening in Kuwait and serving street food such as our old favorites, tacos and burritos, but while other Mexican places in Kuwait are authentic and delicious, satisfying specific cravings for tacos and other Tex-Mex fare, Azteca celebrates traditional Mexican cooking inspired by all regions throughout the country. “I’m from the south of Mexico, Oaxaca, which is known for its rich culinary tradition, and our food is influenced by that tradition.” Says Sylvia Aguilar, owner of the restaurant that has been a hit with the Mexican, North and South American expat communities, boasting the Mexican ambassador as a regular since its opening three years ago.
Situated in the locally renowned The Village complex in Abu Hassaniah, the decor of Azteca pays homage to its name and heritage. Fitting into the scenic and sleepy vibe of the neighborhood, the restaurant is glittered with authentic Mexican detailing. With its artsy yet homey vibes, you feel as though you’re about to turn to find Carlos Fuentes sitting at the table besides you sipping a refreshing Horchata (traditional Mexican rice-based drink with added milk, ground almond and a touch of cinnamon) from the rustic mason-jar inspired mug and munching on the complementary sea salt, chill and garlic clove infused peanuts that were set on our table.
For starters, we indulged in the more traditional take on the classic Mexican favorite, guacamole. Served in a gorgeous granite Mortar, the guacamole, prepared traditionally, had the bright touch of fresh mango chunks peeking out of its traditional green creamy texture. While many who stray towards the Tex-Mex side of the cuisine may look at this with skeptically raised eyebrows, believe us when we say it worked. The sweet tartness of the mango married with the creamy avocado made the dish sing, especially when paired with the freshly crisp, homemade totopos, as it’s known in mexico, or known localy as nachos.
The next course, the soup course, was the perfect way to warm our throats and hearts. The Sopa Azteca, a tomato-based chicken broth expertly poured over an artfully arranged teepee of fried corn tortilla, toasted ancho chili, chicken, cheese, avocado and cream, created a symphony of flavors and textures (which is a personal favorite when it comes to soup) with the tortilla adding a crunchy element to the soup.
Afterwards, we were graced with a glorious order of Enchiladas, which we had the choice to enjoy with green or red salsa, and whichever level of spiciness we liked – we chose green, making them Enchiladas Verdes. The enchilada, a Mexican favorite, is stuffed with chicken and wrapped in a cheese filled decadent dough then bathed in a salsa with a side of cream drizzled frijoles refritos (refried beans) and a side of the ever-popular Arroz Mexicano, (Mexican rice) that Azteca has been acclaimed for by the Mexican community in Kuwait. Love their rice? This rice is so authentic, Azteca sells it in bulk to keep the Mexican residents of Kuwait feeling like they’re close to home, eating at tía’s house. Another main we tried was Azteca’s take on the classic Tacos El Pasador, swapping the traditional meat used for chicken. Recommended: squeeze some lime onto your meat, and keep it simple!
For dessert, we were presented with a piece of dense, decadent white cake decorated with kiwi and strawberry. At first glance, the cake brought us back to the classic birthday cakes we’d have as children in the late ’80s and early ’90s – but when we tasted it, we knew this cake was the business. Named Pastel Tres Leches (Three milk cake), this bad boy has been simmered overnight in a vat of milk that was soaked up in the sponge creating a beautifully dense masterpiece of creamy goodness. This cake is no joke to the faint of heart, eat with caution, enjoy till the last bite, especially when paired with the classic Mexican coffee. Mexican coffee is the coffee to beat all, as it’s reminiscent of traditional Turkish coffee, but has a sweetness to it that can’t be beaten.
Azteca knew how to make us feel at home. The food was perfect, the decor welcoming, and being steps away from a large parking lot; parking wasn’t an issue at all. If you’re looking for authentic Mexican food that goes beyond the basic tacos and burritos, this is the place for authentic Mexican food. Buen provecho!
Azteca is located in The Village, Abu Hassaniah. For more information visit www.restaurant-azteca.com or call 239 075 46 or 516 90 112 for reservations. Instagram @restaurantazteca. Photography by Muneera AlKhulaifi.