By Joe Duffy
I’ve been indulging at Mambo’s Café since they premiered their preceding location in 2006. When I’ve sought to advocate outstanding Cuban restaurants in the region, I often overlook Mambo’s, not because they aren’t deserving, but because ninety percent of the time I order off the Peruvian side of the menu—forgetful that they are a great Cuban option.
Nonetheless, in one of my most recent journeys, I rejoiced in one of the greatest versions of the Cuban staple lechon asado I’ve ever had. This more than solidified it’s a marvelous option for both Cuban and Peruvian food.
Appetizers: yeah as I’ve declared previously, I do have a bit of an obsession with the uncomplicated but miraculous dish of ham croquettes. It seems to be the one dish I have to order at every Cuban restaurant. Mambo’s does not disappoint.
Speaking of fixations, my daughter reveres all things mussels. So does her dad. The mejillones al vapor—steamed mussels with white wine, garlic, thyme, white onions, and Spanish sausage—is among our top three mussels appetizers we’ve had anywhere, of any cuisine.
In fact, mussels and chorizo apparently joins curry and coconut milk as the best savory food duo of all-time. When well-executed, said twosome (when combined with suitable broth) can lead to dining paradise. Come to think of it, anyone know of a top-shelf place that makes mussels and chorizo in a coconut milk and curry broth or froth?
As an aside, chocolate and caramel is the sweet combination by the gods. But every rational person knew that.
Moving back to the mussels, we favor this to the cold mussels option of choros (mejillones) a la chalaca—New Zealand green mussels stuffed with diced red onions, tomatoes, corn, and cilantro in fresh lime juice. Mind you, we also appreciate this Peruvian dish.
Many Italians emigrated to Peru in the mid- to late 1800s. The influence on the cuisine can be spotted and savored in many pasta dishes on the Peruvian side of the menu, meshed with the seafood-heavy cuisine impacted by Peru’s massive coastline.
In the dozen-plus years of dining here, I’ve had most of the Peruvian dishes with the picante de mariscos and linguini saltado de mariscos high on my list.
The former is shrimp, calamari, octopus, and mussels sautéed with garlic, olive oil, Spanish creole sauce, white wine, and saffron rice. Though it translates to spicy stir-fry, I’ve found it humbly zestful.
The latter, AKA seafood linguini consists of shrimp, calamari, octopus, mussels, fresh tomato, white and green onions, peppers, and soy sauce sautéed in a fiery wok. This is the perfect dish for Italian seafood dish fans who want to break slowly into the not-so-daunting South American mode of cooking.
As alluded to, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a better roasted pork, and I’ve eaten at highly rated Cuban restaurants in Miami, Tampa, West Palm Beach, and environs. Yes, the Cuban sandwich holds their own amongst an impressive list.
I’ve certainly been asked about the best spots for fried rice. Not since Xian (also on Windward Parkway, shut down more than a decade ago) does my list include a Chinese restaurant. My always-subject-to-updating answer includes an Indian restaurant, two Thai, and the arroz chaufa (Peruvian-style fried rice) here. I chose steak strips, but it’s also served with chicken. A simple dish—packed with flavor.
We know my daughter’s favorite restaurant is O4W Pizza, but pretty sure Mambo’s is her second favorite. Credit her every-trip choice of langostinos a la plancha, which is jumbo shrimp marinated with garlic, olive oil, white wine, and then grilled.
Shrimp and mussels are her two most cherished proteins. Though Mambo’s Café executes everything well, shellfish distinguishes itself as a specialization.
Longtime fan Maranza Robinson agrees that they get a lot of things right—especially food from the sea. “I’ve enjoyed seafood from both sides of the menu,” she says, while putting faith in one of the experienced waiters for recommendations.
It’s high on my list of favorite Cuban restaurants and possibly my preferred Peruvian. The fact they do both so well elevates them further.
Mambo’s Café | 4915 Windward Parkway Suite 130 | Alpharetta, GA 30004 | 770-753-4354
Let’s talk about a pair of outstanding first bites. Small empanada and pastry market, suitably called Belén de la Cruz – Empanadas & Pastries recently started in Johns Creek. Beef, pollo, jamón y queso, and two-cheese empanadas were astonishing.
As I prefer red meat to poultry, perhaps the fact the pollo was probably my fave is noteworthy. Either way, quite the impressive initial voyage for me. I sampled their coconut dulce de leche, which was also very good. Go!…
Blithesome to submit another home run on a first bite. Buon Fornello is a small café of mostly takeout food. I had it on my radar when I first read about it due to the fact I promptly recognized chef/owner from opening three top-Roswell restaurants. I ordered frutti di mare. Excluding college boy son who was away, the four family members in GA all unquestionably and fully approve. Pasta is homemade. I approvingly tried the wife’s lasagna. Winner, winner, Italian dinner. Located in Sandy Springs, not far from Pill Hill, King and Queen buildings, etc. Did daughter even propose permitting me try her shrimp alfredo? Nope, but she was giddy…
Campania may be better than ever under their second ownership. They are possibly most well-known for bringing Neapolitan pizza to the area, but they’ve really raised the bar on their pasta dishes…
The spectacular Roswell Beer Festival was among the coronavirus postponements. Considered by many, “The Event of the Year” has been rescheduled for September 12. It’s the biggest fundraiser of the year for super-organization, the STAR House Foundation—a charity set up to provide at-risk kids a chance at a quality education. With your support, these kids could become doctors, scientists, and nurses someday.
When he’s not eating, which is rare, the author is CEO of Sports Handicapping website Offshore Insiders. His bride’s gift site, Duffy Gifts is the place to go for gifts for all occasions from My Thirty One Gifts.