Monday, January 17, 2011

mojo tapas

close to tower grove park on grand boulevard, next to a great bookstore and around the corner from a coffeehouse we love, mojo is in a prime location. there are loads of restaurants further down the street, but we'll save some of those for coming entries. mojo tapas caught our attention--surprise--because of their hummus, but the rest of the menu looked interesting enough and we do like this area. so, despite our reservations about tapas, we wanted to give it a shot and we went with open minds one evening early this past week.

tower grove

the inside is quite nice: they don't bother with fussy decorations but just let the furniture and woodwork speak for themselves. the colors are warm, as you would probably expect in a tapas place, and the simplicity of the decor puts the focus on the exposed brick, ceiling tiles, and accents like the pretty wine cabinets. the only problem with this kind of minimalism is that there's nothing to absorb noise, and as people tend to make a lot of it when they gather for drinks and chit chat, it can get pretty noisy pretty quickly. we chose an unfortunate night for dinner there, as there was a huge gathering of some neighborhood volunteer/networking group (we're not sure what that means, either). we were just happy to get out of there before the karaoke commenced.

we realized when we walked in that this crowd could be a bad sign for us, and having to stand around and wait for five minutes before any wait staff came near the host's station made us wonder if we should just get some pancakes at city diner and try again next time. finally someone came over and asked, "you wanna table?" as though we might just like to stand in the doorway all night. as we sort of expected, it took a few more minutes to meet our server, and she seemed a little unsure as to what to do with us--not because we're vegetarian, just in general. but she was very obliging, checking with the chef on certain vegetarian options, and coming up with a way for us to order the spinach salad without bacon (it's actually in the balsamic vinaigrette, if you can believe it, so he'd have to just whip up a little oil and vinegar). we decided against the salad, but the willingness to cooperate was nice, even if she seemed doubtful about it at first. we're sure the vibe is not always like this; surely the large event just put everything a little off.

we started the meal with curried edamame hummus with lavash crackers. it was competent, but not something we'll remember. there just wasn't enough curry. it's still tasty and has great texture. we really like that they offer it, but this little plate just doesn't live up to its full potential. don't let the picture get you down too quickly: there's a little more hummus under the crackers. (but still not $6 worth.)
(as an aside, we want to mention that schlafly bottleworks used to have a curried edamame hummus, and there would be no comparison if they still had it. that stuff was killer, good enough to sometimes make us forego their hummus [which is our favorite, ever]. it was also served in a huuuge mound with their housemade curry crackers, all for the same price mojo lists theirs for. still, however much it breaks our hearts to say it, schlafly doesn't make it anymore and if you're curious, mojo does make a decent effort.)

next, we had a cup of the butternut squash soup garnished with spiced red wine reduction. it's not much to look at, but this was delicious! this little cup packed so much satisfying sweet-savory flavor and happy-making warm goodness that we rubbed it clean with our bread. we were sorry not to have ordered a bowl. if we go back, we would be delighted to have a bowl each.

for our final tapas, we got the roasted veggie cakes with smoked tomato aioli. if they look a little soggy in the picture, it's a fair representation, but this only detracted from them a little bit. they're soft without being mushy, dressed just right, and even if they are a tad soggy, we would still take that over too dry. i worried that it would be too like a veggie burger patty, but it really stands on its own. our server actually told us after the meal that this is her favorite menu item. we can see why.

finally, we finished off with a flatbread of exotic mushrooms, goat cheese, arugula, and truffle oil. it was a competent flatbread. dough not too thick or dry, not too thin or greasy--a nice sort of goldilocks balance. it really lacked in flavor where there wasn't any char, though, and a couple bites in we agreed that it'd have been nice to at least have some herbs in the crust. the mushrooms were lovely, really flavorful and cooked perfectly. there could have been more truffle oil, but we can't complain about fewer calories and less grease on our hands. there was enough for flavor, but a little more wouldn't hurt. the arugula was also a nice touch--lois is particularly gaga for arugula--and it offered a nice contrast in taste to the rest of the ingredients. we like that they didn't skimp on the green and that, most importantly, they weren't limp. still lively and delicious. 

while we did enjoy aspects of everything we had, we did think there was room for improvement on each dish. we know we're just not as into the tapas thing, but what we're really taking into consideration is the value for the money and attention to detail. mojo was definitely a better experience all-around than the other tapas restaurants we've visited, but there just aren't enough options for vegetarians for us to enthusiastically endorse it.


vegetarian-friendly score:

Mojo Tapas Restaurant & Bar  on Urbanspoon

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