Mojito (St. Louis Park, MN)
Know anyone on Atkins? Yup, so do we. Maybe that's why steakhouses are popping up everywhere. But instead of the same-old steakhouse scene, grab your protein-hungry friends and head to Mojito for some meat with panache.
Mojito has style. Open, airy, and colorful, the dining room is quite perfectly done. Its postmodern swank suggests booze, beef, and the hard road home, while at the same time being a place you can bring your family. The hip bar is to one side, and on the other is the open kitchen where you can watch the cooking take place.
There's only one thing you should order here: the rodizio dinner. Mojito is a churrascaria: a Brazilian import with roving waiters carving rotisserie meats from the skewers right onto the diners' plates. Not an old tradition -- Mojito is the Twin Cities' first -- but it's fun, and popular all over the world.
The rodizio is an all-you-can-eat affair. The list of meats is impressive: flank steak, prime rib, sirloin, filet mignon; pork loin, ribs, and sausages; marinated chicken breasts, wings, and legs; leg of lamb, and seafood. Everything's cooked on skewers in the open kitchen; it's fun to watch this. Not every meat is served every night, and not everything is as good as everything else. Try everything and then have more of your favorites.
You'll start with a large salad in a serve-yourself bowl. Also included is an array of sides: fried polenta, fried bananas, and "Latin root vegetable mash" -- mostly potatoes.
The mash is the best of the side dishes. The polenta comes in an insipid marinara sauce, and the fried bananas weren't nearly as tasty as the fried plantains we prefer. At least they weren't over-ripe. Other sides are hit or miss. We liked the simple grilled asparagus and the collard greens sautéed with garlic, but not the starchy sweet corn mash with cheese, the flavorless black beans and rice, or the cumin French fries.
Unfortunately, the other entree choices are hit or miss, too. Feijoada completa, a traditional Brazilian black bean stew, was boring. It's a Creole dish: sausages, ribs, collard greens, black beans and rice. We found it better as leftovers, with a liberal dollop of hot sauce. One of the daily specials we tried, gnocchi with lobster sauce, also disappointed.
The appetizer choices, too, are a mixed bag. We liked the empanadas, crispy and fresh-fried, served with either spiced beef or Argentine mozzarella cheese. Less successful was the tuna ceviche. It didn't taste bad, but the chopped onions, tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, tortilla strips, and sweet potatoes drowned out the tiny portion of fish. The crab salpicon had the same problem: finding the crab was too much work.
At the bar we tried their signature mojitos, a bit weird with the addition of soda water. One time their sangria was good, but another time we sent it back because it was watery. They're not really very good at pisco sours. On the other hand, the wine list is both interesting and reasonably priced.
And your Atkins-following friends probably aren't there for the cocktails, anyway.
4656 Excelsior Blvd, St. Louis Park
Hours: Lunch Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30
Bar menu 2:30-5,
Dinner 5-9 Mon, 5-9:30 Tues-Thurs, 5-10:30 Fri & Sat, 5-9 Sun
Brunch Sun 10:30-2:30
Atmosphere: Stylish and fun
Service: Friendly and efficient
Sound level: Noisy when crowded
Recommended dishes: Rodizio dinner
Prices: Entrees $13–$30, Rodizo dinner $30, appetizers $10–$12
Smoking: in the bar only
Wheelchair accessibility: Yes
Children: No special children's menu