2014-11-26 / Restaurant of the Week

Mojave

Since it opened seven years ago, Mojave has proven to be a consistently good restaurant and bar, with their outdoor patio in the summer where the best margaritas, cocktails, and beers flow much like so many lively conversations among friends. The colder weather also draws you into the cozy, adobe-like dining room with vaulted, wooden ceiling, creamy walls, and candle glow everywhere. Wednesdays are especially good for a visit, when live, acoustic music gently fills the air, and $5 margaritas flow all night.

Other times, the Happy Hour takes place at the bar from 4pm to 9pm weeknights and until 7pm weekends, with $5 margaritas and $4 draft beers.

Speaking of margaritas, Mojave serves over 100 kinds of fine tequila and mezcal with which the expert barman creates the classic margarita, straight up or frozen, with or without salt, or the fruit-infused varieties such as the blood orange margarita that I thoroughly enjoyed. Try prickly pear, strawberry, mango and jalapeño margaritas too, or a frosty Negra Modelo beer or several other craft beers on tap. The most popular drink is Mojave’s Sangrita, a clever combination of their signature sangria and frozen margarita. We were lucky enough to meet Jay Silverman, the beverage director, who also works at their Manhattan sister restaurant called “Agave”. Jay gave us quite an education on the intricacies of tequila and mescal production, as well as a sampling.

Meanwhile, Genti, the professional, and most amiable general manager, took excellent care of us, along with Frankie, our helpful waiter. We started with corncrusted calamari, crispy on the outside and tender inside, served with smoked chipotle dipping sauce ($12). Tuna cruda is finely chopped raw tuna mixed with delicate spices resting on a bed of freshly chopped guacamole with cilantro and lime juice. Mojave’s empanadas are addictive, filled with either roasted plantains, chicken, or spinach and cheese. Chicken wings are a big hit at the lively bar with their crispy chipotle crust and buttermilk bleu cheese dip ($9). Quesadillas can be an appetizer to share or as your own entrée with tempting varieties including their amazing short ribs (more about those later), crab and shrimp, shredded chicken with spinach and corn, or vegetarian style with mushrooms, peppers, spinach and Oaxaca cheese.

Entrées at Mojave are perfectly executed from fine ingredients. You won’t find mushy refried beans here, only fresh ingredients, prepared to order with an eye to presentation and consistency. Take, for example the short ribs. These beer-braised ribs fall apart at the touch of your fork, having been seasoned and slow cooked for hours. The hefty portion is served with garlic mashed potatoes, carrots, and tequila cream sauce drizzled on top. Trust me, you’ll have plenty for lunch the next day when you’ll enjoy it even more ($25). Sticking with meat options, the rib-eye steak is cooked to order and served with chipotle mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus and mango chimichurri sauce. The “Crunchy Burger” is high on the list of favorites at Mojave, known for its quality sirloin beef with a potato chip crust, cheese, and horseradish mayo on a toasted brioche bun ($16). You’ll need two hands for that burger and a big appetite. The same is true for the duck enchiladas and the mixed grill called Molcajete de la Parilla, which includes grilled skirt steak, chorizo sausage, shrimp, chicken, cheese, and grilled cactus called nopales. You’ll need a friend or two to tackle this dish but it’s worth every bite.

Keep it a bit lighter with grilled salmon with mango and black bean salsa, or pan seared red snapper with mussels and shrimp in tomato chipotle broth. I devoured the stuffed shrimp filled with sweet crab meat and baked, served over saffron-infused risotto with diced butternut squash…a perfect autumn dish. Of course, even crowd pleasers like fajitas and tacos get a new, fresh twist thanks to the innovative chefs at Mojave. The friendly, helpful wait staff will help you with suggestions if you need them, and there are plenty of vegetarian options at Mojave.

It’s customary to have something sweet after such flavorful food, so do save room for a warm chocolate soufflé, Kahlua Mexican flan, or the “Bomba” pastry filled with ice cream topped with honey and chocolate sauce. The decadent Xango dessert is warm, flaky pastry surrounding creamy cheesecake, caramelized banana and vanilla sauce. Bring a friend for that one too!

Mojave will be open tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, with a prix fixe, three course dinner for just $39 with a cocktail. “Bottomless brunch” on Saturdays and Sundays is a great deal with unlimited bar for one and a half hours. There will be a festive New Year’s Eve dinner bash too, so please check their sleek Web site for details. Don’t forget the Birthday Club where the birthday person gets lots of freebies. Whether you stop in for the fabulous margaritas at Happy Hour and some snacks, enjoy a full dinner. or a weekend brunch, you will enjoy a consistently pleasant experience at Mojave. A la vida!

22-36 31st Street  Astoria
718.545.4100

www.mojaveny.com Follow them on FaceBook and Twitter

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