By Vanessa Wolf
In a veritable Mexican food wasteland all but forsaken by authenticity with the likes of adobo, chilaquiles and mole, Amigos is considered one of the island’s lesser south of the border-style evils. With three locations to serve you – Lahaina, Kahului and Kihei respectively – we went in with high hopes.
The Long Version
On our first visit to the nondescript strip mall location in Kahului, we tried the Shrimp Ceviche Bowl (small $8.99, large $10.99). Mama Pajama, it’s good stuff. Boatloads of small, lime-infused shrimp mingle with tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, oregano and cilantro. Better yet, the hearty portion is topped with a generous amount of fresh avocado. Ole!
The Guacamole (8 ounces for $8.99) possesses a texture that screams either “squeezed from a packet” or “Help! Where’s the ‘OFF’ switch on this blender!?” None too impressive for $18 a pound.
The flavor was acceptable-ish, but the baby food-like consistency punctuated with bits of onion and tomato is unfortunate when fresh local avocados are often available.
The Chicken Nachos ($9.99) feature a mega-helping of shredded seasoned pollo, but very little (unmelted) cheese. The additions of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, guacamole and a deluge of refried beans rendered everything kinda soggy. Not bad, not great, and thank goodness for the salsa bar to help counter the overall blandness.
At the cramped Lahaina location, service was sloooooooow, but eventually we were able to place an order for some a la carte items.
The Al Pastor Pork Taco ($2.99) was sweet, with an almost BBQ sauce-like taste. We added some salsa atop the heavy ration of raw onions and that helped tip the flavor scales away from K.C. Masterpiece and back toward La Costeña country.
The Carne Asada Taco ($3.50) had an excellent grilled flavor and was topped quite traditionally with onion and cilantro. You can’t go too wrong here. The Shrimp Taco ($3.99) wasn’t what we expected, but we ate it anyway. The same small shrimp found in the ceviche arrived in a mojo de ajo-style red sauce. Not very traditional with lettuce, tomatoes and orange cheese, it’s edible nonetheless.
The requisite Chile Relleno ($6.99 a la carte) – the standard by which all Mexican American restaurants, arguably, can be judged – was at least partially well-executed with a fresh poblano pepper roasted and stuffed with copious cheese. Although the egg batter was hella greasy – maybe heat the fry oil a little hotter next time – and the presentation lacked the traditional Ranchero sauce, we’d still order it again in a pinch.
In order to do so, we hit up Amigos in its relocated-a-little-over-a-year-ago location in the Long’s Shopping Center in Kihei. Boasting what is by far the most appealing ambiance of the three, it is also the busiest.
Although we already had photos, we couldn’t resist an encore with the Shrimp Ceviche Bowl ($10.99). Still every bit as amazing as we’d remembered flavor-wise, this version had just six small pieces of avocado and two of them were going bad. Bummer.
We also tried the Chile Relleno and Tamale Combo Plate ($13.99), which took over half an hour to arrive.
The tamale was dry, but flavorful and – side note – surrounded by beans, rice and a ludicrous amount of iceberg lettuce. Perhaps because of the excess greenery, our relleno was clinging to the edge of the chilly plate as if thrown on as an afterthought. Judging by the frigid interior and rock hard cheese, we suspect they found it hanging out in the fridge. We would have asked for a redo or at least a few minutes in the microwave had the waitress ever come back. Alas, that was not to be.
With amigos like this, who needs enemies? We did what we could with the soggy, greasy pepper and hoped things would fare better with our last dish.
Sadly, the Shrimp Fajitas ($14.99) are the kind of dish you’d expect to encounter in the economy section of an airplane. The menu claims they are “sizzling to perfection.” Really? The only thing that sizzled was our enthusiasm. If this dish was even threatened with a photo of a hot grill, we’d be amazed. So much for worrying about burning yourself on a flaming hot cast iron dish: Amigos delivers you an exceedingly safe lukewarm plate topped with a jumbled up mess of raw onions, red and green bell peppers and (what we suspect are) boiled shrimp. Fajitas are admittedly a “Tex Mex” invention… but what in the actual hell?
On the upside, there are a generous 15 of the (wholly unremarkable) shrimp, so… yeah. Caveat emptor.
Go to Amigos and get the ceviche. Ask for extra avocado if you’re not already in Kahului. Under no circumstances order the fajitas and intervene with extreme prejudice should anyone in your party attempt to do so. That is all.
Amigos is located at 1215 South Kihei Rd. in Kihei, 333 Dairy Rd. in Kahului and 658 Front St. in Lahaina.