My eldest turned 12 recently and to celebrate we brought the family to Mambo Lounge. The Danforth is our neighbourhood and we wanted to stay close to home whole trying someplace different. We had been regular patrons of the Cuban place that closed a few years ago (after an ill-advised change of ownership killed the atmosphere of the place). Hence we were looking forward to trying the new place in the 'hood.
There was no hesitation when we arrived with a 12 year old and a 5 year old, and the waiter/maitre'd was extremely welcoming, gave us our pick of tables (we arrived at 6pm on a Sunday, shortly after it opened that evening). We chose to sit at the front near the Danforth, though the patio outback was very inviting. We ordered mojitos for the parents and the waiter was happy to make virgin pina coladas for the kids, though not on the menu. Mojitos were fantastic, best I've had (though I am not a connoisseur), and the kids were very happy with the coladas.
While perusing the menu, we started with fired plaintains, and then ordered the chef's selection of appetizers/tapas. While I thought the selection was meagre for $19, the fantastically spicy gazpaco (whimsically served in a cappucino cup), grilled shrimp on guacamole, and another salsa based dish that I cannot remember the name of, did not disappoint in taste. All very garlicky and slightly spicy, all but the 5 year old happily ate our fill. She contented herseld with the wonderful plaintains, lightly salted and lightly sweet.
The mains were equally enjoyed. Cuban is not a complex cuisine, at least not in my experience, and hence the mains we had were of the meat-starch-veg variety. But what meat-starch-veg! My wife had roasted spiced pork, which was three pork chops, roasted (I gather) and then seared with spices. Lovely! Thorugh circumstance, I ordered the chicken, not usually my first choice, but my daughter wanted to try the duck but was afraid she wouldn't like it, I told her to order a second dish, and I would trade if she didn't like her duck. So I ended up with chicken. But I was far from unhappy: it was heavily spiced, roasted, and very juicy. My daughter had a confit that was was tasty as many I've had in the past. All mains were served with beans and rice, as I remember, but for the life of me I can't recall the veg. Whatever it was, was quite tasty.
The wine list is small and inexpensive, and the adults both had a glass of spanish rioja. Terrifica value fo the $8/glass or so we payed.
We skipped dessert as the cake was at home, but the waiter nonetheless surprised us with a complementart clice of choclate torte for my daughter, with a candle. Nothign special, think a difullet or rocca, but appreciated and tasty.
So overall, friendly service, large portions, tasty basic, but spicy, food served in a welcoming environment, and great cocktails. Overall a welcome addition to the Danforth and we will definitely be back.
Nice review, bluedog, thanks. I'm curious, though -- in my experience, Cuban cuisine is not a spicy cuisine. I've been told by locals that chiles are not a common ingredient (but maybe that was just their personal experience). When you describe Mambo Lounge food as "spicy", do you mean "hot" or do you mean "flavourful"?
I work at the dance studio right across the street from Mambo Lounge and we make a point of going there every once in a while just to be social. I agree with your recommendation of the mojito and their calamari is great. I've never eaten any of their entrees though, but after reading this, I think I'll definitely have to. :-)
I figured I'd revive this thread, since I finally got around to checking out Mambo Lounge last night and was thoroughly impressed.
My friend and I decided we'd do a tapas-style meal rather than ordering mains. The price is $6 per dish, or 4 dishes for $21 - some of the portions can be small, but I found that four per person is the perfect amount of food and allows for an interesting variety of flavours. I was particularly impressed by the garlic shrimp, which consisted of three large shrimp which had been sauteed in garlic butter with chunks of mango and pineapple, and a cumin lamb dish, which turned out to be a minced lamb ragout on a grilled portobello.
The mojitos are as good as advertised, minty and fresh without being overly sweet. Even better, our server gave us each a snifter of dark rum when we asked for the bill, which I thought was a very nice closure to a lovely meal.
We had very warm and attentive service through the night from our server, who I suspect is also the owner. Bill for two of us including three drinks, dessert and coffee came to just over $100... affordable enough to splurge on from time to time, but I won't be making it a regular haunt until I get a couple more raises at work. :)
Thanks, bluedog. This one's a winner!
My one kvetch... capps turned out to be $7 each, which is surprisingly pricey (the average cost in town these days seems to be $4-$5). Combine this with a limited dessert menu, and my suggestion would be to opt for coffee and dessert somewhere else on the strip.
Just went and wanted to say that I really enjoyed the food...much better than La Carretta which is the only other Cuban spot on the Danforth. Had the four tapas for $21--layered lobster salad, the yuca frites, the cumin lamb, and the stuffed calamari. The cumin lamb was my favourite and the yuca frites were a surprising second.
Great value and enjoyed this spot more than Torito though I am sure that there will be someone who disagrees with me on that observation. Just happy to have this in the neighbourhood.
Thank you all for your comments about Mambo Lounge. Because of them, I tried this place out a couple weeks ago and I'm so glad I did. My boyfriend and I each had 4 tapas, and found that this really was the perfect amount of food for a light or medium dinner (though I guess it depends how hungry you are!).
We shared all 8 plates, and the highlight for me was the lamb dish... I love lamb, but wasn't sure if I liked cumin. Guess I'm a fan, because I loved this dish. The lamb was flavourful, warm, and spiced, but not hot-spicy or aggressive. The garlic shrimp was indeed very garlicy and delicious, though a bit milder than I expected (not really a bad thing). We had both kinds of calamari - the grilled and the stuffed - and both were excellent. I liked the stuffed one more. It was cooked to perfection, and not 1 second over.
The goat cheese & garlic dish was great to spread on the accompanying bread (so many whole roasted cloves of garlic, omg). The "meatball" tapa -- basically a beef meatball covered in mashed potatoes which is then fried crispy, all in a red sauce -- was unique, hearty, and surprisingly tasty. The only thing I didn't totally love was the yuca fries... they were fine, just nothing special for me. We also had a crab-cake, which I can't remember much about.
I'm not sure if it was just a happy accident, but the kitchen sent out the dishes in order from light to heavy (e.g., the seafood came first, the red meats last), which was a nice touch. And of course, the mojitos! Look out for the server/owner(?), as he is one heck of a salesman. We found ourselves unable to say "no" to a 2nd round of mojitos, despite the fact that we had already finished our meals. I'm just glad he wasn't selling me used cars or something.
All in all, a casually stylish little place, good food, really friendly and attentive service. I hope to be back there soon to try their mains, and I can only hope the food in Cuba (I'm visiting in a few months) will be as good, although I fear it won't be!
PS: Just FYI, on weekend nights, they have a musician who starts at around 8. We left there at about 8:30 and he hadn't started yet, so we didn't pay any cover. Otherwise, it's a $5/person cover.
Thought I'd give this thread a bump, as Mambo Lounge is having a special during the month of March.
Basically their regular tapas deal, but with a free mojito: Any 4 tapas from their menu and a mojito for $20. Monday - Thursday only, 6:00pm to 11:00pm. There is also live music at 7pm every Thursday, no cover.