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Sunday, October 02, 2005

It's gonna take more than one mojito

A couple weeks ago, when we first decided to bring the idea of a Seattle food/restaurant review blog to life, we ventured out to Mojito Café. Several people along the way told us that it was an authentic Cuban-style restaurant, complete with ambiance, salsa dancing, and of course, mojitos.

Somewhat rhythmically challenged, the two of us are, we decided to try Mojito more for the food this time round. Maybe try the dancing another night? Or maybe after a few mojitos, who knew?

Upon entering the neon-lit café, we were greeted with blaring fast-paced Latin music. After walking down a long corridor, we discovered a seat-yourself-situation with no desirable tables in sight. The only available tables were right next to the kitchen with a view into the dingy dish station. Roth rolled his eyes at my outward distaste in the seating arrangement, but agreed to move to another table, also next to the kitchen, sans the dirty dish view.

After what seemed like an eternity, we were finally greeted by the waitress who took our drink order. I opted for the mojito – when in Rome, er, Cuba, eh? One would expect that a restaurant named after the mojito drink would serve a kick-ass mojito. And to be fair, I’ve only had one other mojito in my life with which to compare. However, their version seemed watered down, bland, lifeless. The mint was bruised and wilted, and it kept sneaking up through my straw, which was annoying, getting a mouthful of bitter mint with each sip. Roth played it safe with a Corona.
Mojito drinks Mojito Corona
For dinner, I ordered their “top seller signature item” – Parrilla Mojito, or juicy citrus marinated tri tip steak with white rice, black beans, fried yucca, tostones (crispy fried green plantains) and guasacaca (sort of like avocado chutney). Roth went with, surprise, yet another of their signature items – Pollo a la Parrilla, or a juicy half chicken served with the exact same accouterment as my steak dish.

After a rather plain iceberg lettuce salad, we sat and waited. And waited. And waited some more. All the while, anxiously tapping our toes and fingers to the loud music and watching the three young waitresses manically flit about the small dining room. It was a Saturday night, and while the restaurant seemed full, it was hardly overflowing. Why was our food, and signature items at that, taking so dang long, we wondered.

And then the manager came over. This can’t be good. Apparently, the kitchen had run out of half chickens, and would it be OK if they prepared the same entrée with a boneless chicken breast, would we like some appetizers or more drinks, your waitress was scared to tell you, the chicken dinner will be on the house – all of this was relayed in one long sentence by the nervous manager, who if he only knew that we were reviewing his place, he’d probably comp the entire meal. But more drink? Sure, Roth’ll have another Corona! Free appetizer? Sure, bring on the tostones!

Finally, our entrees arrived. And we quickly dug in, barely remembering to capture their essence on camera for this here blog. The tri tip steak was truly juicy and succulent while the guasacaca served as a refreshing dipping sauce. I properly mixed the black beans and white rice together. And surprisingly I enjoyed the starchy sweetness of the fried yucca as well. Roth, who was looking forward to a half chicken because he claims I never let him eat meat with bones which is so not true, still managed to enjoy the boneless version of the dish with all of the appropriate accompaniments.
Mojito steak
When all was said and done, Roth’s entrée, second beer and the tostone appetizer was left off of the bill. The manager apologized profusely for the wait several times, as if somehow he knew that we were taking the entire experience at his restaurant into account. We left the place feeling fairly satisfied with our meals and only slightly disappointed in the service and wait time. All in all, the Mojito Café meant well, but fell just a little short.

Mojito Cafe
181 Western Avenue W
Seattle, WA


At 3:50 PM, Anonymous Phil said...

Mojitos start to get hard to come by as fresh mint gets scarce. Best I've had so far was at Tangletown- they mull the mint separately, individually for each drink. Careful - some places use 7-Up instead of soda, which would ruin it.

Like this site - hope your restaurant budget holds out!

At 9:43 PM, Blogger Sally said...

That is a bummer that you had a bad Mojito--the best I've ever had was in the Springtime there. And funnily enough, this weekend in Victoria, my boyfriend had a bland Mojito at an otherwise great restaurant (The Reef).

The thing I hate about Mojito's (and I almost wrote about it and refrained because it was going to be so negative) is that their service was TERRIBLE. They were extremely slow the 3 times I've been there. Once, we did bring a large party, and they were really put out that we wanted to eat there.

At 6:05 AM, Blogger Skip said...

Great review, thanks for not taking us there! BTW...Mojitos (the drink) are traditionally made by crushing or "muddling" the mint leaves with lime juice and sugar, then adding rum and a spritz of soda (similar to a Mint Julep that uses bourbon)...hence, the bruised mint leaves. The muddling, of course, can also disquise old mint leaves. Re: customer service...the server hiding in the kitchen because the food is taking too long is a good sign of a shitty restaurant...not to mention being out of a frigging chicken signature dish in the middle of dinner!!! I am looking forward to your review of a good, locally-owned (not a chain) steak house in Seattle.


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