Every time I have set foot inside Las Mojarras, in the former Me Gusta space on E. Lake St., the place has been completely empty, which is a shame, because it’s one of the most ambitious and attractive Mexican restaurants in the Twin Cities.
Which might actually be part of the problem. Prices are very reasonable by Uptown or downtown standards, but not as low as the other Mexican restaurants on Lake St. It might be a little too upscale to attract the working-class Mexican clientele that frequents La Poblanita and El Mercato, and a little too far from Hennepin Ave. to attract the Uptown diners.
(Maybe things are livelier on Friday and Saturday nights, billed as salsa nights.)
Too bad, because the food – at least what I have sampled so far – is really quite good. On my last visit, I brought my wife and niece, and we only sampled two dishes between the three of us.The Sirena ($16.95), a seafood cocktail, was fresh and lively, and brimming with staggering quantities of shrimp, oysters, squid, octopus, (and a little imitation crab) in a sweet tomato sauce topped with pico de gallo and avocado. (See picture of my niece, Tess, above, to get a sense of its size.)
Even more impressive was the parrillada de mariscos ($48.95), a big tabletop grill piled high with delicious shrimp, clams, mussels, snow crab legs, octopus, a split lobster tail, and a whole fried tilapia, over grilled peppers, nopales cactus strips and grilled onions, served with tortillas on the side.
You can order the whole tilapia by itself for $7.77 a pound, or $12.99 for a1.5 pounder – with your choice of hot sauce, garlic sauce, chipotle cream sauce, grilled “a la plancha” or served “empapelado” – steamed in a pouch.
There is a lot more on the menu I would like to try, including the fillete relleno, a fish stuffed with shrimp, cheese and ham, breaded and deep-fried ($17.95), the aguachile (raw shrimp marinated in jalapenos and lime juice ($12.99), and the costillas con camarones, a combination plate of spare rib tips and garlic shrimp, served with marinated cactus salad ($14.95).