2012-01-25 / Restaurant of the Week


By Teresa Barile

If you’re looking for Mexican food in Astoria, Mojave welcomes guests with a warm, cozy interior, upscale Mexican cuisine and a vast variety of tequila drinks that will melt your winter blues away. Mojave is so conveniently located, just below the “N” train Ditmars Boulevard. station, yet it provides an oasis from the outside world. With its whitewashed, hacienda walls, wood ceiling, cozy fireplace, and glowing candles everywhere, the inviting dining room is an ideal place for an intimate dinner for two, or a festive gathering of friends. In warm weather, the outdoor patio in the rear allows for cool, casual dining and lots of margarita sipping. The Mojave Birthday Club is very popular and works like this: bring six people to celebrate your birthday and you, the birthday person, will drink free all night and receive an exclusive Mojave t-shirt. Bring 10 people and you’ll drink and eat for free! Join the birthday club now for your next birthday fiesta.

Mojave opened four years ago and is run by Susan Mc- Carthy who sees to all the details in ensuring the highest quality food, preparation, presentation and seeing to the festive bar which stocks dozens of fine tequilas and spirits. Their sister location in Manhattan’s West Village is called “Agave” and offers the same high quality food and drinks. The General Manager, Genti, welcomes guests and makes everyone feel at home here is Astoria.

We visited on a Wednesday evening, which is an especially good night to visit since margaritas cost just $5 and there’s live music, which lent a lovely note to the convivial atmosphere. Margaritas are mixed up fresh, using a variety of fresh fruit infusions, such as mango, prickly pear, pomegranate, blueberry and passion fruit. Served up frozen or on the rocks, you may even choose your favorite brand of tequila. The “hot and spicy” margarita is made with jalapeño-infused Patron tequila, lime and more peppers for brave souls only. Mojave’s sangria is a delicious concoction, and there are nice wines and beers to choose from.

There are over a dozen inventive appetizers on the menu, including their fabulous handmade empanadas filled with roasted plantains, lamb chorizo, chicken, or spinach and cheese. These flaky empanadas are ideal for sharing, and arrive beautifully arranged on a plate with a puddle of dipping sauce. Queso fundido is sort of a fondue of melted cheese, sweet crabmeat and spinach, served with blue corn tortilla chips to scoop up the warm, savory dip ($12). Mother’s road house chili is thick and chunky with braised beef and pork, flavored with Dos XX beer and chilies ($7). Fresh guacamole is hand chopped to order and the chipotle crispy wings are spicy and delicious, served with blue cheese dip. Calamari rings are dusted with corn meal for extra crunch, while the Margarita gulf shrimp are plump and juicy, made with tequila lime juice and poblano chilies. All appetizers are great for sharing, or you could make an entire meal of them by ordering a few to nibble on.

Entrees include classic tacos, fajitas and quesadillas that are elevated to new heights, thanks to Chef Baltazar Garcia. Tacos are filled with savory steak, juicy gulf shrimp, adobo chicken, juicy salmon or vegan tempeh and mushrooms. Choose whole-wheat or white flour tortillas and all tacos are nicely seasoned and served with vegetarian Mexican rice. Fajitas are marinated in Mojave’s special brew and served sizzling hot with onions and peppers. Choose among Black Angus skirt steak, organic chicken or shrimp and wrap up all those savory juices in a soft tortilla ($19-$23). Vegetable fajitas and quesadillas are available as well, for those avoiding meat. Quesadillas are generously filled with shrimp and chorizo, steak, adobo chicken or blue crab with lots of fresh cheese, chilies and salsa, ideal for sharing or as an entrée for one ($11-$15).

For a taste of “interior” Mexican cuisine, you ought to try the seared pork tenderloin made with the chef’s grandmother’s special sauce. These tender medallions of pork are marinated and perfectly cooked in this heavenly sauce, served with fingerling potatoes ($21). Kudos to the Bandera duck enchiladas, another dish you won’t find in run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurants. Here, succulent, slow-cooked duck is seasoned with grandma’s sauce and herbs, then tucked inside tender tortillas and topped with red salsa, queso crema and avocado crema representing the colors of the Mexican flag. What a treat! Mojave’s grilled skirt steak and cowboy cut rib-eye steak are served with potatoes for those with a more American palate. The Roadhouse Burger is a delectable, two-handed affair made from deluxe Angus beef smothered in Roadhouse chili, three cheeses and caramelized onion, served with sweet potato fries ($15).

A hearty Mexican / American brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 4pm and offers classic brunch options such as silver dollar chocolate chip pancakes, cinnamon-apple or blueberry pancakes and traditional eggs Benedict. Spice things up with a morning quesadilla filled with fluffy scrambled eggs, bacon, peppers, onions and black beans, or try huevos rancheros with beef and pork chili. A two course prix fixe lunch is available Monday to Friday for just $11.95. Desserts are very special here too. One of the most popular is the Xango a creamy, crispy, delicious confection, or Mexican chocolate fondue with fruit for dipping. Molten chocolate cake and cool fruity sorbet will end the meal on a sweet note.

Bring your Valentine here when a special “white tablecloth” prix fixe dinner is planned. Call for more details and make your reservations now. Make any night special with Mojave’s fabulous Happy Hour, Monday through Thursday. Margaritas cost just $5 and draught beers just $3 from 4pm to 7pm in the whole dining room, and extends until 9pm at the bar only. Wednesday night features live music and join in the fun on January 26 for the first Greek night, with live Greek music by Levante. Don’t forget to join the birthday club by visiting the Web site, and while you’re there, check out photos of the gorgeous dining room and outdoor patio. Life is a fiesta at Mojave… buen provecho!

22-36 31st Street  Astoria


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