MAMBO LOUNGE (120 Danforth, at Broadview, 416-778-7004) Complete meals for $50 per person ($22 at brunch), including all taxes, tip and a mojito. Average main $15/$10. Open Tuesday to Thursday 5 pm to midnight, Friday and Saturday 5 pm to 1 am. Closed Monday. Licensed. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Denizens of the Danforth may remember the dingy storefront as Sub Eaters, a Mr. Submarine rip that was popular with the NOW crowd back in the day, if only because it was the closest fast food. They're in for a shock the next time they visit our old stomping grounds. This formerly unremarkable room has morphed into Mambo Lounge, a sophisticated, Latin-accented South Beach-style resto cum nightclub, co-owned by Andres Gonzales and Café Brussel's Roger Wils. Say goodbye hoagie, hello mojito.
The intimate room now sports chic red walls hung with evocative black-framed Havana street scenes, and a prominent bar area tiled in midnight-blue ceramic tiles. Tables are covered in crisp white linen, and servers are suave.
We have the joint to ourselves this Saturday and are soon tucking into a basket of warm Ace baguette. Shame the butter comes hard and in packets straight from the fridge.
Mambo has nothing to be embarrassed about in its sopa del dia, today a glorious potage thick with chicken breast, sweet corn kernels, sugary baby carrots and roasted red pepper.
In the wrong hands, yucca can be yucky. But here, the fleshy spud-like root that's also known as cassava is fresh, not frozen like most, crisply fried and grease-free, dressed with threads of onion caramelized in balsamic (both $5).
The house Cuban sandwich differs from those served at Julie's, Latitude and Bohemia Havana in that it hasn't spent time in a grill press as tradition dictates. Instead, a chewy baguette spread with both mayo and ballpark mustard holds thick slices of Spanish ham, slow-roasted pork, Swiss cheese and sweet dill pickle. An exceptional salad accompanies: designer greens, pineapple and explosively ripe tomato lightly doused in a mango-fortified balsamic vinaigrette.
In contrast, Mambos quesadilla (both $9), visually speaking, is a bit of a dud, joined solely by a sprig of parsley despite its tasty filling of ground beef n pepper picadillo, refried beans and gooey cheese. Some salad, perhaps?
Weve become such aficionados of these groovy greens that theyre the first thing we order when we return a few days later for Sunday-only brunch. Served as a stand-alone first course ($7), this morning theyre intensified with sweet ripe mango and even larger wedges of fresh pineapple.
This was the right order, as Huevos Ranchero scrambled eggs dolloped with sour cream and sided with creamy halved avocado and chunky salsa over grilled tortilla and spicy grilled chorizo with eggs scrambled with cubed potato and sweet red pepper (both $11) could use the additional vegetation.
Despite its easily rectified flaws, Mambo Lounge is a welcome addition to the boulevard of broken plates. To quote the late, great Perry Como: Papa loves Mambo.