Long-awaited and beautifully recreated Mojave has reclaimed the former Ray’s Rio Bravo site on Powers Ferry Road near the I-285 New Northside exit. That’s a shortened version of a revolving door situation from the Chart House, a dueling piano gig, Peter Chang’s, and three more sandwiched in.
It will be up to history to decide if the winning formula is timing/location and/or what happens inside. Mentioning location/timing is appropriate because at the earlier points in this history, the One River Place residential complex right next door was not full as it is now for easy walkover, as is the more formal Ray’s on the River on the west side adjacency.
The new Mojave, now almost three months in, retained the free, easy-out front parking and the verdant setting beginning with the lush Southwest cactus/palm tree scene with water running through clay pottery at the entrance and the extraordinary view of a fountain and circular manmade lake flowing over a dam into a tributary of the Chattahoochee River out back.
Mojave also did an architecturally pleasing job of simulating cropped and sculpted green ivy around the adobe-like entrance. For nice weather days and nights, there is an outdoor lighted patio with full meal and drink service. Indoors a cozier second level is available for overflow and private events.
Husband and wife team Rachel and Miguel Ayoub are behind the rebirth, pivoting off their experience as proprietors of the Rose and Crown Tavern. Rachel, a designer, did a particularly sophisticated job with the sleek interior. No more beer barrels and cantina signs, Mojave is white tableclothed and spacious, with trendy ivory beige draped drum lighting and scarlet hued paintings that one might see in Rio or Lima. High points are scored for the low noise level, where diners can actually hear each other’s convos.
The menu portends Latin American cuisine derived from family recipes, comfort food, small plates, full courses, and hand-crafted cocktails with “the world’s best tequilas.” The straws are made from agave plant pulp, which would pass muster in California. The homemade corn bread is touted by servers. The house-made guacamole with jalapeños, cilantro and lime juice or the ceviche Peruvian style would be unique choices.
We started with a Red Mesa Salad on romaine with roasted corn and black bean sprinkles, trying both the grape seed and cilantro basil vinaigrettes, neither of which was particularly standoutish.
The entrées stepped up with the favorite being Pescado Veracruz (market price), a whole bronzino with crushed tomatoes and olive slices over Spanish potato slices. In the running was the Tequila Orange Salmon ($25.95) over polenta cakes and asparagus. On an earlier occasion I enjoyed the Plato de Verduras, vegetable and quinoa stuffed peppers with herbed ricotta-filled eggplant rellenas. The latter was melt-in-the-mouth rich and special.
For dessert, we waited the extra 20 minutes for the chocolate lava cake preparation with Mexican chocolate gnache filling under salted caramel ice cream. It was certainly fulfilling, but did not live up to expectations. The round graham cracker-crusted Key lime pie with raspberry coulis was enough to split. There are also à la carte tacos and tamales in the $3 to $4 range, and a children’s menu. Recently Mojave added Sunday brunch with the option of bottomless mimosas.
On the Saturday night we dined, we appreciated a live combo with a lounge singer crooning “The Girl from Ipanema.” On Fridays a live Flamenco guitarist performs. Ah, the romance of it all, looking out at the fountain with a staycay atmosphere …
Miguel said, “Coming to my restaurant is like coming into my house, and I’ll be sure to make you feel that way.” Mojave is the Ayoubs’ fifth restaurant and the only Latin-American one. Rose and Crown, a few blocks away, is being rebuilt in a renovated center on the north section of Powers Ferry on the Cobb County side.
Mojave is located at 6450 Powers Ferry Road, Sandy Springs, and is open seven days a week; Thursday to Sunday until midnight.