I am a Carnivore and I love eating meat, all kinds of meat. I firmly state this to say simply that in order for me to go to an establishment only to eat vegetarian fare on a cold Ottawa night I'd really hope not to be left wondering at the end if I made the right decision?
Mambo Restaurant, located at 77 Clarence Street (613) 562-2500 in the historic Byward Market of Ottawa is celebrating 5 years of service and is now offering a menu titled "Mystical Garden Wednesdays", a South American/Mediterranean inspired vegetarian and vegan menu made up of 23 items ranging from $6-$8 for salads and app's up to $16 for mains.
The restaurant itself is attractive, almost sexy in a Latin lover sort of way. The staff wear tidy crimson and black uniforms reminiscent of a well groomed matador. Mambo is not an over the top decked out "Tex-Mex" joint with child like fresco's and cliche mariachi music, but has an interior of subtle refinement. It's clean, simply appointed dining area does not intend to compete with the food about to come out of the kitchen from the hands of a talented, humble chef. Mambo also has a romantic basement "Grotto/wine cellar" available by reservation for private events.
Ok, now the food. I trusted the ordering to my hostess, a simply charming lady clearly passionate about food and the restaurant industry and her passion comes through in many aspects during the evening.
We started with a sampling of traditional Sangria's both red and white. The red features the nice addition of Cherry Brandy and fresh juice, enjoyable even on a cold night. It made my memory return to my younger days when my grandmother would slip me a Cherry Brandy and Cola, but only at Christmas. The white sangria, which was a bit sweet for my pallet also containing fresh juice and a splash of sweet sparkling water would be perfect on a hot summer patio.
As the portions arrived I am pleased to see they are not Tapas sized, usually a disappointment unless of course you're bar hopping around the streets of Barcelona at 2am. The four items artistically plated focused on each dish as a whole, not on an individual component of the dish. That said, there were some standout ingredients that must be addressed. We sampled the Tostada, Carpaccio de Tomate y Queso, Los Zetas de Veracruz and Gringos Tacos. The multiple ingredient layers of each serving played wonderfully together without any of the dishes being "muddied" by excessive guacamole, sour cream or over seasoning often found in this style of food.
The Tomato Carpaccio was elegantly light with a bold balsamic reduction and capers, a great start. The Tostada layered like a Mille-feuille featured soy cheese (a first for me) that danced nicely with the house made salsa verde. There were the wild mushrooms with pear and parmesan in a creamy sauce on flat bread that melted in my mouth and finally the grilled pineapple in the Gringos Taco which worked wonderfully as a sweet unintentional desert. I was assured the ingredients were locally sourced, when available and all were of the utmost freshness.
Indulge me a metaphor if you would please, if I could summarize the overall experience I would have to describe it as an elegant, gastronomical Tango, rather than a fiery Flamenco.
You won't be disappointed with a visit to Mambo, I surely wasn't.
MAMBO Restaurant, www.mambonuevolatino.com
Mystic & Manicure Tuesdays* Featuring complimentary Manicures, Crystal Readings & Cocktail-Tapas specials
Mystic Garden Wednesdays*Featuring our delectable Latin inspired Veggie & Vegan menu
El Barrio Thursdays *Featuring complimentary Tango lessons from 8-10pm & Cocktail-Tapas specials
Zona Viva Fridays*Featuring DJ Frederico on deck to serenade & entertain
Suave Saturdays *Featuring DJ Jim Reilly on deck to mix & mingle