Newly minted

Mambo's resurrected as Mojito in the Wyndham Midtown

I have good news and I have good news.

First of all, a correction. Last week, I reported that Midtown's Las Palmeras, my favorite home-style Cuban restaurant, had closed. In fact, it has not. I mistakenly announced the closing after I received several e-mails from my readers, who, it turns out, had gotten the information from another publication.

I apologize to the good people at Las Palmeras (368 Fifth St., 404-872-0846) for not contacting them directly, and I'm happy they are still going full-steam. A woman at the restaurant told me that she has no idea how the rumor started but that it has been repeated in the press more than once recently.

My second good news is that the gourmet Cuban restaurant Mambo, which did close a couple of months ago, has been resurrected as Mojito (125 10th St., 404-873-4800) at the Wyndham Midtown Atlanta. Don't worry about the location. Parking, including use of the valet, is free.

Mojito is actually a work in progress. When Lucy Alvarez and Hilton Joseph closed Mambo, they took over food service at the Wyndham. That includes banquet and room service as well as the restaurant. The dining room, which Joseph describes as "1970s French" is due to undergo massive remodeling into a sleek contemporary space. Somehow, they will remain open during the project.

Incidentally, the couple is also opening another restaurant, Babalu, in the Grant Park area on Glenwood Avenue. The full-service restaurant takes its name from the Yoruba deity who was incorporated by the Catholic Church as St. Lazarus, the patron saint of Cuba. It is also, of course, the name of Desi Arnaz's signature song. Look for a lot of purple. A fall opening is planned.

Meanwhile, visit Mojito. The present menu is a bit of a hybrid of Mambo's dishes and sandwiches. By the time you read this, most of the sandwiches will have been ditched and even more of Mambo's best dishes - including the paella made with squid ink - will have been added.

We sampled an update of one of my favorite starters at the old restaurant, the chorizos. Alvarez now serves slices of the sausage over lavash (flat bread, Armenian-style) with Manchego cheese and a spicy tomato sauce. We also tried a less successful "coctel" of four grilled shrimp arranged around a goblet full of chipotle sauce with sliced avocado. Our shrimp were a tad under-grilled and the volume of sauce was far greater than we could scoop up with the shrimp. Why not make it a real coctel and sink some squid in the sauce?

You'll find most of your Mambo faves on the starter menu, including the croquetas, ceviche (including one made with squid ink), mussels, crab cakes and soft-shell crabs.

For an entree I chose a special, pescado frito - a whole fried fish served over rice with black beans. The day's fish was a yellow tail snapper - flaky, juicy and crunchy. Wayne ordered a Mambo signature dish, the firecracker steak. It's a 12-ounce strip steak marinated in mojo and stuffed with hot peppers, served over fried plantains and black beans.

Home-style dishes like masitas de puerco, ropa vieja and picadillo were not yet on the menu when we visited, although Alvarez's particularly good vaca frita was listed. Desserts remain the same. The tres leches and flan are both among the city's best.

Here and thereCottage Ethiopian Restaurant (1841 Piedmont Road, 404-724-0201) has opened in the location of an abandoned Burger King near Rock Springs Road. The new restaurant is pleasantly airy and uncluttered with the usual artifacts. There's a full bar behind which a large flat-screen TV plays videos of hypnotic Ethiopian pop singers. And there's a performance space opposite the bar.

The staff is friendly, but I did encounter the usual reluctance to let non-native diners order what they want. When I stopped by alone for a quick lunch last week, I ordered lamb prepared in a super spicy way (yebeg key wot). But my waiter said, "No, you will prefer the yebeg kits," a milder preparation. I decided to relent.

I have to confess that my palate is not Ethiopian-ized enough to discern much difference in restaurants of this type around town. The menu here is quite short and, unlike the usual Ethiopian restaurant, it does not offer a sampler plate of meat dishes, although you can order the three available vegetables on one plate.

The lamb was indeed mild, although there was a dollop of intense red chili sauce on the plate. Flavor was good although some of the lamb was gristly. Give it a try and let me hear your comments. ...

My friend Jeff treated me to birthday lunch at Anis (2974 Grandview Ave., 404-233-9889) recently. It had been months since I visited this cafe where I used to lunch weekly with another friend.

We found the patio as pleasant as ever and my pasta dish of shellfish with capers was one of the best lunches I've had in weeks. Jeff, not exactly a culinary adventurer, ordered an omelet that pleased him. Our server, Bruce, was flawless. ...

The Popeye's ChroniclesCould weeks of complaining have finally paid off? The last time I went to Popeye's on Ponce de Leon at Boulevard, it was running like a Swiss watch. They had what I wanted, they filled the order quickly, and they gave me what I actually ordered. OK, they only filled the red beans container halfway, but maybe that's the price of rushed service.

Nonetheless, I continue to receive several reports a week from readers about their experience. Many report that my updates have inspired them to go for the first time, proving that there is no such thing as bad publicity - or maybe it's just another inflection of people's passion for watching train wrecks.

I'm happy to report that when Watershed executive chef Scott Peacock was asked by a local monthly publication to design a meal of takeout food, he chose Popeye's chicken as the entree. See!

Leave Cliff Bostock a voicemail at 404-688-5623, ext. 1010, or e-mail him at cliff.bostock@creativeloafing.com.??

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