“Link baiting” is the practice of adding purposefully provocative materials to a blog post in order to enhance search engine results, drive people to your site and/or encourage others to link to your site. That is why, though it wouldn’t be the classiest of moves, or at all food related, this humble site would benefit greatly by titling every post MeganFoxNakedMeganFoxNaked! Why do I bring this up? Because I was genuinely wondering what kind of links I’d be baiting by including the title of one of the most sexually suggestive songs ever in my title.
You guys totally knew that, right? That the whole dang song is about sex? I only ask because, growing up in the ’70′s, I used to hear it all the time. It was just this pleasant, singable melody that was completely a part of my childhood. I was flabbergasted when I discovered part of my childhood was of an adult nature! Of course, it wasn’t as rude an awakening as when I realized was Lola, by The Kinks, was really about. “I’m not dumb but I can’t understand, why she walks like a woman but talks like a man?” (Shudder….)
What does all this have to do with anything at all? Well, after having lunch today at Mambo 64, the Spanish/Peruvian/Caribbean mash-up from chef, cookbook author and Telemundo morning show regular Arlen Gargagliano, I can state unequivocally that it is a delightful way to spend an afternoon.
The pleasantness and festivity of the restaurant seem a natural extension of Arlen herself, a vibrant, quick with a (radiant) smile woman who has wanted to open a restaurant for years. When I asked what finally got her to do so she (half) jokingly replied, “My husband finally said okay.” Wanting to wait until her children were older, she delayed her dream for years. That devotion to family could be part of what lends Mambo 64 its sense of familial warmth. As she says on her website, “Welcome to my new home. And as my parents have always said, “mi casa es su casa!“”
Though the dinner menu boasts an impressive array of tapas and large plates, the lunch menu is quite limited. Featuring only three sandwiches, four salads, three sides and a weekly soup special, what the menu lacks in quantity, I’m happy to report it makes up for in quality. Also, a $12.95 prix fixe, including a sandwich and your choice of soup, salad or side, makes it a bargain as well!
I’ll return to the food in a moment, but since you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression (much to my chagrin), I should mention the vibe at Mambo 64. Latin music, light, with a quick beat and at just the right volume, can be heard throughout the rustic, playfully decorated restaurant. Plank wood floors, wood beams and exposed brick compliment and contrast a lovely tiled and mirrored bar and a large chalkboard, featuring mambo dancers drawn by Arlen’s daughter (who also tends bar) covers one wall. (Correction: The chalk drawing was done by Arlen’s brother Shawn. Every artist deserves his due credit.)
As you enter the restaurant a wall to your right is covered with framed record covers. My kids probably don’t know what a record is, but the collection of mambo LP’s adds to the playful nature.
Lunch began with a small, addictive bowl of perfectly toasted, well salted almonds as an amuse.
Of course, this being me and all, lunch also began with a Caipirinha, Brazil’s national drink. It was quite strong and well balanced, much like myself.
I must admit that it made my delightful afternoon even….delightfuller? No! More delightful. That’s it.
There are three different iterations of Cuban sandwiches available. The Cuban is a classic sandwich, one not meant to be experimented on, so it really is about execution. As they say, the devil is in the details. The Mambo Cuban is a beautifully executed sandwich with attention paid to every detail. The bread, quite frankly, could not have been better. Somehow both crusty and yielding, it had a great chew and slight tang. It was substantial but gave way before the sandwich fell apart and was just the right size to not overpower the other ingredients.
Fall apart tender Pernil, the classic Puerto Rican roasted pork shoulder, played beautifully against fresh sliced ham and Swiss cheese. A vinegary pickle slice and Pommery mustard, a condiment that was served to French kings in the 17th century, cut through the richness of the pork and cheese, rendering the sandwich refreshing instead of heavy.
Dining with a vegetarian? I don’t get it, but no worries, you’re covered. The mushroom Cuban, a meaty portobello mushroom with roasted red pepper, shredded mozzarella and cilantro pesto was every bit as enjoyable, loathe as I am to admit it.
The side dishes I tried, Maduros (roasted plantains), and fried yuca with sofrito, were similarly well executed, so much so that I could easily have ordered a second round.
Alas, we were approaching the end of my afternoon delight, however, when the check came it arrived in a cigar box with reading glasses and candies that Arlen maternally warned were quite chewy, lest someone lose a filling on her watch.
This was, yet again, a quirky, playful sign that, in her quest to finally fulfill her dream, left no detail unexamined. I yearn to return for dinner to see the vibe at night and to try a more extensive array of Chef Arlen’s offerings. If you find yourself with some free time in the middle of the day I highly recommend lunch at Mambo 64!