- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

The authentic Caribbean fare at Mojito’s is sure to spice up a cold winter night.

Mojito’s opened last year in a building previously occupied by the Mayo Yacht Club in Edgewater, Md. The restaurant has a casual feel, with bright Caribbean colors on the walls.

A long list of specialty drinks contains the tropical favorites. The mojito, the restaurant’s namesake, uses the freshest mint and was extra refreshing because one could actually taste that bright spark of lime juice, which is sadly lacking in some versions.

West Indies chicken corn chowder ($3.75 a cup) is tender chicken, potatoes and cilantro. The chowder was smooth and chock-full of flavor, with a bite to it. Cilantro can easily overpower the other ingredients, but Mojito uses the right amount.

The hearty Cuban black bean soup is topped with cheese, red onion and sour cream.

The kitchen offers 12 appetizers. Cuban crab fritters ($8) are made with lump crabmeat, chorizo and aji amarillo — the Peruvian yellow hot pepper — and are fried, then served with a mango mojo.

Plates in many Maryland restaurants can be a waste of good crabmeat, but Mojito’s crab fritters are pure heaven. The chorizo and the chili pepper give the fritters a wonderful spicy flavor that complemented the sweet crabmeat. They were browned to perfection, and the mango provided a sweet, cool contrast.

Oysters plantain ($8) are oysters dusted with plantain chips and then fried. Served with a sweet corn salsa and a roasted tomato horseradish cream, these are among the best fried oyster offerings available these days. The coating was crisp but light, no heavy oil or cornmeal or batter flavor weighing it down, and the plump oysters were cooked to perfection.

For the pork lover, there is chipotle pork and goat cheese. Shredded pork meets sweet corn salsa and tostones (fried plantain) served over mixed greens, then topped with chipotle mojo and goat cheese.

Cumin-dusted duck ($18) is half a duck, marinated in mojo, then dusted and roasted, served over congri (white rice and beans) with roasted pimento sauce and house vegetables.

Duck is often prepared with a sweet sauce, such as orange or cherry, but the slight bite from the mojo really provided a nice contrast to the rich meat. The duck was roasted to perfection, with the breast and the leg meat tender and juicy. The mojo and cumin added that great contrast, and the roasted pimento added a nice depth to the dish.

Steak Cubano ($22) is a 12-ounce New York strip pounded, drizzled with mojo, and served with caramelized onions and garlic yuca mashed potatoes.

The steak was cooked a little longer than requested, but the meat, mojo and onions made a nice flavor combination.

Fans of decadently rich mashed potatoes will want to eat this side by the bucketful. Unfortunately, it was served lukewarm, as was the vegetable (probably waiting on the steak).

Tilapia ($18) was seasoned and baked, topped with crabmeat, serrano ham, scallions, peppers and cream and served with congri and vegetables.

When served, the dish appears to be smothered in cream sauce, and “overpowering richness” comes to mind. Don’t let looks deceive you, for the sauce was light, a perfect accompaniment to the delicate fish. It stood on its own, though, getting just the right oomph from the ham and peppers.

Shrimp Maracaibo is large shrimp, chorizo, artichoke hearts and bell peppers over penne pasta with a creamy chipotle pesto.

Five desserts are offered, and all are $5.50: Key lime pie, chocolate cake, flan de carmelo, tropical bomba, and banana xango.

For a light and refreshing dessert that is packed with flavor, go for the tropical bomba. It’s mango, pineapple and raspberry sorbets molded in a ball shape and then coated with white chocolate. It is served quartered, drizzled with raspberry aioli. The sorbet was smooth and light, but the fresh fruit flavor was amazing.

The xango was fun: banana and cream cheese, all wrapped in a light dough and fried. Caramel sauce was a nice touch.

The children’s menu (all $3.50) lists chicken or cheese quesadilla, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, cheese nachos or macaroni and cheese.

RESTAURANT: Mojito’s Caribbean Grill, 1246 Central Ave., Edgewater, Md.; 410/798-7356

HOURS: 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and to 11 p.m. Friday; 2 to 11 p.m. Saturday; 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

PRICES: Soups and salads $3.75 to $11.25; appetizers $4.75 to $9; sandwiches $8.75 to $9.95; children’s menu $3.50; entrees $15 to $29; desserts $5.50

CREDIT CARDS: All major cards

PARKING: On-site

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

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