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Mambo Cafe - San Rafael

That was a tease, no I have not been there yet. Has anyone else?

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  1. Yep. Love it, especially the beans. They might have live music tonight (Friday).

    Previous post with a link to another post

    Hope you try it and report back. I want to try those ham croquettes. Technically it's Mambo's.

    1. Had dinner there last week. I really really wanted to like it, but our meal was uneven so I think I'll give them another month or so to get situated before I go back.

      Our coconut shrimp app (recommended by the waitress) was good but 2 out of the 5 shrimp were undercooked and completely gray inside, which horrified my non-sushi eating friends. The mojito was very very sweet, with a tang at the end that I didn't particularly like. I'm guessing they used sugarcane juice, instead of simple syrup? Maybe that's the authentic way to do it, but it wasn't for me. The moro rice (sp?) was dry and bland, but the side of black beans was heavenly. Great fried bananas. I had the pork in mojo sauce which, to me, exemplified the entire meal: Some pieces of the pork were very dry (the tops were totally browned out) but others were moist and tasty. I packed up the leftovers and the time did wonders for the sauce; the onions were unbelievably tasty the next day. So in sum, the meal was promising but uneven. Still, it's a nice addition to San Rafael and I'll likely go back in a few months to try other dishes.

      5 Replies
      1. re: cyleater

        >>"The mojito was very very sweet, with a tang at the end that I didn't particularly like. I'm guessing they used sugarcane juice, instead of simple syrup? Maybe that's the authentic way to do it, but it wasn't for me."

        Mambo's does not (yet?) have a hard liquor license, so they don't use real rum in their Mojitos. Their liquors are made from a wine base and stored in bottles that look like liquor bottles from afar. I saw lots of good-looking cocktails going around during my meal, but it’s pretty darn disingenuous of them to serve faux drinks without being upfront about it. I only found out because I asked a question about whether or not their bar was open yet.

        As for the meal, I thought it pretty good. My wife also had the pork and had similar comments, but noted that the sauce canceled out the dryness. My steak was fine. We also ordered the fried Yucca, which where lightly crispy on the outside and nice & tender on the outside. We also thought the staff was very friendly.

        1. re: Civil Bear

          Might be a service glitch. When I ordered the drink the first thing they said was that they only had a liquor license that allowed wine and beer, so the drink they were selling had a low alcohol content.

        2. re: cyleater

          The beans and rice dish is is usually called "Moros y Christianos" Moors and Christians (black and white) [dark beans and white rice]...I have most often seen these two married together after being served ying yang style on a plate...this usually overcomes any problem with 'dry' rice should it occur......as long as the beans were tasty (and hopefully moist!)
          Thanks for sharing your experiences....

          1. re: ChowFun_derek

            Black beans and rice is not something I'd order in a restaurant, as it is a frequently and easily made dish here at home.

            1. re: ChowFun_derek

              We're always on the search for and appreciates delicious beans and rice dishes; not always easy to achieve for the home cook, well, me anyway.

          2. I had lunch there today, the pork in mojo sauce and onions, with options of fried plantains and moro rice ($9.95). The port chunks and sauce and onions were very good and flavorful, except for some dry chunks but for those the sauce (thin and very flavorful) "fixed" them enough for me to like them anyway. Good fried plantains and moro rice, not spicy at all but good mild flavor (not sure what those are supposed to be like). Large portions; brought half of it home for eating tomorrow. I like the place and look forward to trying other things.

            1. I went Friday night, I guess the music was later. We got there around 7:00 and every table was filled but one, so I guess we were lucky. They were obviously short staffed. It is very uncomfortable to enter a restaurant and not be acknowledged by any of the staff. We waited over 5 min before anyone even said one word to us. Then we had to wait close to 10 min until they cleaned off the table for us. They told us the problem was with their cash register(?). Everyone that works there is very nice, they just do not have any training and that includes the owner. He said that he was very busy on Fri and Sat nights. We arrived at 7:00 and did not order any appetizers and did not get our food until 7:45 - we were starving. If you are hungry do not get the camarones as it is just 6 medium sized shrimp ($12.95). Thank god for the rice, beans and maduros (plantains). I agree that the beans are better here than at Sol. My husband had the steak ($16.95) and asked for it cooked not pink and it was a nice big piece of meat, but it came out pretty rare, he was too hungry to send it back. I sat facing the door and was so uncomfortable all night watching people come in and not get greeted and having to wait for a table. I saw them lose three different parties of two because of this. A couple of times people came in through the back door and were seated even though someone had been waiting at the front door longer. They really need to reconsider the layout because there is no way to tell who came in first and only enough seating for two people. They seem more concerned about a stage and having an open place for people to dance, but they really need seating for people waiting, a host or hostess and another cook and another waitperson, at least on the weekend. I wanted to like this place and I will give it another try in a few months, but maybe I will go for lunch or on a weekday. It is appearant that San Rafael can handle two Puerto Rican restaurants. The big question will be when Sol opens next door can San Rafael handle three Puerto Rican places on one block?

              1. Went there on 10/20. The service was terrible and the food o.k., but bland. The bar area had glasses hanging by the stems and saw one of the obvious owners (on a cell phone constantly) hitting the rims of lots of glasses with the top of his head while walking and talking. Sure glad I didn't order a drink! We asked one of the waitresses to turn down the music as we couldn't carry on a conversation without yelling, but it did no good.

                1. I went for lunch today and had a mixed experience. When I walked in, there was no one to seat me even though I was the only customer. A high-school age kid was sweeping the floor, but pretty much ignored me while I looked at the menu. He eventually walked over to tell me I could sit anywhere.

                  The special today was ropa vieja, which was pretty good. I've mostly eaten this in Miami's Little Havana. Mambo's version was good, but was more of a stew than I have had in the past, heavy on the red and green peppers. The moros y cristianos were on the dry side. I had green plantains which were just OK. Service was friendly, but toward the end of my meal (before 2pm) my waitress walked past me with a mop and bucket which reeked of ammonia. I think she set it down somewhere behind me and walked away.

                  The decor and seating are comfortable, but there are two large flashing palm trees (one green, one red or pink) that you must face if you sit at the lower tables in the middle of the restaurant. Very annoying.

                  I really wanted to like this restaurant. Like some other posters, I might try Mambo's again in a few months and see if they've worked the kinks out.

                  By the way, the new Sol Food next door is looking great. It's huge (especially compared to the existing location)!

                  1. Mambo's is lame and will be gone within two months of Sol Food's opening next door. Their food is mediocre at best and the decor is beyond cheesy.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Husky

                      You know, it seems from these posts that the service is not great and actually I'm a little appalled by some of the comments. However, to me the food has more authenticy and soul than Sol. Sol is great, but it caters to the local tastes. I guess that is necessary to make it in the Bay Area. I guess that women who told the owner he'd have to adjust his food to the local tastes was correct. People don't want real Cuban food here. They prefer Cal-Cuban.

                    2. I agree with rworange, although I like Sol Food, too. We ate at Mambo last Saturday. It was a bit too loud, particularly for my elderly parents and the service was fair

                      However, the roast pork was as good many Cuban places in New York, the tamales were good, the rice and beans were great.

                      I kept thinking how lucky we were to have two Cuban/Puerto Rican restautants in Marin, which is not exactly an ethnic paradise.

                      1. I can't comment on the food, because we were unable to get any. We sat at a dirty table in a half-empty restaurant for 25 minutes. The waiter walked by several times without a word or a glance. When we gave up and walked out, the hostess thanked us for for coming. I hate to think what would have happened on a busy night.

                        1. Bumping this back up to say my husband, toddler and I had a great meal at Mambo's tonight: Cuban tamales and churrasco skirt steak. The steak was requested medium and was done perfectly -- very slightly pink, with great flavor (similar to a chimichurri). The steak was large enough for the 3 of us to split (ok 2 1/2 of us). Price was $15.95 and included rice, beans and plantains. The tamales were fresh, mild and corny. For those concerned about the flashing palm trees, there is a large table in front of the window where you can face away toward the street. Since this is in a slightly elevated area with enormous speakers on each side, I think this is probably where any live entertainment would be.

                          They brought out a highchair, plus a plastic cup with a lid/straw. The very attentive staff offered to put apple juice in the kid's cup and brought extra plates without us asking. All in all, a great meal. We like Sol Food, and go there often, but Mambo's food is pretty different -- much more like the food I've eaten in PR.

                          1. My wife and I have been there six times for dinner with friends and family in the past 3 months and and have always received great service and excellent food. We are “Borinquenos” as heart because we grew up on the island and have a retirement home there - we are very particular about Puerto Rican food. One of my favorite dishes is the shrimp mofongo (made from tostones), followed by the Chuletas a la Caribena. The live music on Friday's at 7 pm is a great accompaniment to the dinner. Going to Mambos is like going home to my "Usla del Encanto"

                            1. Are they still in business? I've been trying to reach them on the phone for days. I live in Oakland so it's not like I want to just hop in the car and run over to make sure. The phone I've been trying is 415-453-1155. Perhaps one you locals can verify that they are still open.

                              1. I drove by today..there is a sign on the door that says "Closed for inventory" For over a week???? Sounds like out of business.