San Rafael - Sol Food Revisited – Bisteca & Tembleque
That tembleque is mighty tasty. It is coconut ‘pudding’ with mango or cinnamon sauce. It tasted like coconut-flavored whipped cream meringue with the lightness of meringue and the richness of whipped cream. The delicious tart mango sauce tasted more like passion fruit.
The thin, chewy slices of beef were topped with wonderful fried caramelized onions, but the beef wasn’t too flavorful. Part of the reason for eating here was to compare the food to the recently opened Mambo’s Café down the street. Both are excellent choices.
If vegan, vegetarian, organic is the requirement, Sol is the better choice. Mambo's has a few organic salads.
Although many dishes at both restaurants are the same, each has food the other doesn’t. But ... as much as I admire Sol, it just doesn’t give me that same Cuban/Puerto Rican food satisfaction that Mambo’s does.
The beans are a good example. Sols are good but Mambo's rustic, homey beans have more depth. As far as tostones, hot from the oil, Sol’s were a little crispier and thinner, but Mambo’s had some great chopped garlic on top. Even the salad was tastier. The organic greens with a citrusy vinaigrette at Sol is good if unexciting, but the chopped romaine, red pepper, cucumber and onion salad at Mambo was more interesting and flavorful.
Haven’t tried the coffee yet at Mambo, but wasn’t wowed by the café con leche at Sol. I was looking for a stronger brew. Laurel’s in SF does a better job at this.
Time will tell. Mambo has only been open a week today. I’ve been enthusiastic about new restaurants before that tanked. Also, it will be interesting to see what Sol has to offer when they open the restaurant next door to Mambo’s.
Logically I should like Sol more, the ingredients are a higher quality being organic and all. A block a way the delicious smells from Sol are enough to make you swoon. There is attention to detail, care in prep and nice touches like that great pique sauce at Sol. However the food at Mambo’s doesn’t need the sauce to help the flavor.
I look forward to eating at both Sol and Mambo’s in the future. It is just that Sol, for me, seems to be missing a tiny bit of soul.
BTW, the little Mexican market across the street from Sol, Azteca seems like a nice little market. They have a nice selection of cheese and some good looking meat. Their chorizo is hand-tied with corn husks. I’m a little burned out on chorizo right now after my chorizo crawl so it needs to wait for a future visit when my enthusiasm for sausage returns and my arteries clear.
Previous report with links to other Chowhound reports and website
San Rafael’s other Puerto Rican / Cuban restaurant, Mambo’s Café