Author: Linni Kral
I probably don’t need to restate my disdain for Old Town Pasadena. I’ve made it clear in many articles that I find a certain strip of Colorado absent of soul and a little too yuppie for my tastes.
But wait: why do I find myself waxing arrogant on this topic so frequently? Isn’t this treatise given as a prior justification for attending one of these culturally bankrupt establishments?
In this case, yes. I try and try to stay away, but something keeps dragging me back.
This week it was Mojitos, a restaurant with a gravitational pull I could not resist. The source of this pull? The words “Rum Bar” printed on their awning. I’d never encountered such a phrase, nor did I have any idea what it entailed. Still, it was something I needed to discover, regardless of where the restaurant chose to open its doors.
Apparently, “rum bar” means freshly pressed sugar cane at the bar, upwards of ten different mojitos, and even more rums. From coconut to mango, my mojito choices ran the gamut from tropical, to basic, to European. The guava blend wasn’t as flavorful as I expected, but had the basic elements down. The Grand Marnier and champagne-infused French mojito shouldn’t work, but it does, and damn well.
Before I could down these blends, I needed some food in my stomach. If there’s anything worse than being in Old Town, it’s being a drunk girl in Old Town. The star of the appetizer show was the oxtail empanadas served with avocado mousse. Although they were made with flour instead of the traditional corn, the meat was the most flavorful thing I ate during this meal. This was especially true in comparison to the shrimp and white bean hummus starter, which tasted as beige as it looked. The tamales were made with blue corn, a fact they foolishly don’t advertise on the menu, and topped with something referred to as chili that was actually more like a South American pulled pork stew. While this was delicious, the tamales had a disappointingly dry center. I was promised Manchego, and Manchego was not delivered.
Remember when I said the oxtail was the most flavorful thing at this meal? This was tested when my halibut entrée arrived perfectly seared yet soft inside, sitting on a bed of garlic spinach and surrounded by a Manila clam chorizo sauce that is nearly beyond description. Don’t worry, I’ll try. Chunks of spicy sausage floated in orange cream, smashed garlic emerged occasionally from the spinach and the clams lent a salty fishiness so subtle I almost forgot that I hate shellfish.
The most anticipated dish at our table was the ropa vieja, a Cuban tradition of shredded beef brisket marinated in red wine. Mojitos also has a duck ropa vieja appetizer; I’d be curious to try this one because the beef wasn’t nearly as bold as I assumed it would be. This may have been because of the white rice they served it with, a strange combo for a Cuban dish that probably ought to be served with yellow rice or beans. The dish did earn some points with its accompanying ripe fried plantains, though.
Our robotic and rude waitress had tried to entice us to order their 45-minute chocolate soufflé while we were ordering drinks, but thank goodness we didn’t. Ordering three appetizers isn’t the best idea if you want dessert.
Without the closure of sweets, I was feeling a little incomplete on my walk to the School House parking garage. My body was confused by the lack of a sugar rush, but this was replaced with a surge of endorphins when I unloaded my takeout ropa vieja leftovers on a homeless guy. Normally I wouldn’t toot my own horn on this kind of thing, but when I drove by on my way out of the garage, he was going to town with a huge grin on his face. It was kind of a contagious sentiment.
Yes, I left Old Town with a smile on my face that night, so maybe it’s time I give the bashing routine a rest. I can’t promise I’ll seek out restaurants there any more than I have before. I can, however, promise that if I ever find a delicious surprise on Green Street again, I won’t start the review of it with a litany of bratty insults.
For more information, visit www.mojitosrestaurant.com
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