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It's not my habit to go to opening nights of restaurants. I thought Mitra (818 Juniper St. 404-875-5515) had been open a week when I visited with Wayne and his mother last week. But as it turned out, Sia Moshk had to put off the opening of his new restaurant to the night we dined there. Moshk, who named his new venue after his wife, operates the very popular Sia's in Duluth.

The restaurant is located a few doors down from the defunct Cavu and across the street from Spice. It's in an old house with a cool blue fountain installed out front. The interior is festive, with orange walls, Mexican paintings, star-shaped lighting fixtures, granite tabletops and chairs that look whimsical enough to be used at the Mad Hatter's tea party. There are two dining rooms. The lower is a bit claustrophobic, so try to get a seat upstairs. I'm betting if Mitra catches on, there are going to be waits. The restaurant is not large.

The menu, prepared by Executive Chef Scott Serpas and Chef de Cuisine Geraldo Ramos, is "creative American" with Latin influences. Don't expect the Asian notes you find at Sia's. Everything we sampled was good, although you should not consider such an early experience definitive. Typically, though, things get better rather than worse after an opening night.

All of our appetizers were especially good. They included a green chile and rock shrimp chowder with coriander and Melba toast; Mediterranean mussels in a guzzling-quality habanero "V-8 broth" made on the premises; and chile-roasted shrimp over pickled chayote squash salad with a dressing laced with lemon and chile de arbol. My only suggestion is to reduce the sweetness in the salad.

Entrees were good with only one problem -- a minor one. Wayne's Gulf snapper with chile escabeche, roasted in a banana leaf, was cool when it came to the table. Flavors were nonetheless terrific. Anne, Wayne's mama, ordered roasted mahi mahi with grilled vegetables and an enchilada stuffed with mahon cheese. A spare use of tomatillos lightly flavored the dish. I should confess she asked that it be prepared "not so spicy."

My own dish was my favorite: slow-roasted, boneless short ribs with grilled asparagus. It was like very good pot roast and just right for the cold night of our visit.

I heartily recommend you visit the new restaurant. The staff is friendly and anxious to hear feedback.

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