When you combine some of the best street food dishes from around the globe and a shabby chic farmhouse atmosphere, you get Mambo International Restaurant in Northridge, California. The menu is a collection of Filipino, Mediterranean, Korean and Indian favorites: Deep fried Lumpia, Tapsilog, Chicken Tikka Masala, and Falafel, just to name a few.
If you aren’t familiar with the neighborhood, the restaurant can be a little hard to find. It is located on the corner of a busy intersection in an elaborate building that looks to have been transplanted from a Swedish village and stands out among the surrounding fast food joints and strip malls. But once you’ve found it, you’ll be sure not to forget it.
Upon entering Mambo, you are greeted with a warm and welcoming ambiance. The décor is colorful, without being too overbearing and has just the right amount of ‘Instagrammable’ vibes, without being obnoxious. Being first-timers, the ordering process was a bit confusing. With such a robust menu, that offers premade dishes as well as ‘build your own’ bowls, it can be tough to decide where to start. But, with a little help, we were soon able to figure it out.
Mambo’s specialty is Filipino cuisine, so we kicked off our international feast with a couple traditional Filipino favorites: Tapsilog, a popular breakfast dish which consists of thinly sliced pieces of cured, seasoned beef, garlic rice topped with a sunny side up egg; and Pork Adobo, which included braised pork with a salted egg salsa and finished off with fried garlic pieces. For the next round, we opted for an array of globally inspired tacos: beef bulgogi topped with Asian pickles (Korea); chicken tikka masala with cilantro (India); and a Vietnamese inspired taco with sweet pork, hoisin, chicharron and Asian pickles. We concluded our lunch with a couple of Mediterranean staple dishes: Falafel and what is on the menu as ‘Vito’s Pita Wrap’ which is a spiced beef kabob wrapped in a warm soft pita topped with tomato, onion, lettuce and white sauce.
Now, someone who visits Mambo for the first time may be overwhelmed, and somewhat confused, by the diverse menu selections – as I was too at first. As a lover of all of the cuisines featured on the menu, I was slightly wary about how well each dish would compare to their ‘authentic’ counterpart. After each introduction to Mambo’s interpretation of some of my favorite dishes, I was pleasantly surprised. The flavor profiles were consistent and the quality of ingredients and presentation was on point.
See, what makes Mambo unique is that the chef prepares the food that he genuinely loves, and that is obvious with every bite.
Mambo International Kitchen is located at 8300 Tampa Ave, Northridge, CA 91324. They are open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and until 3 p.m. on Sunday. For more information on the restaurant visit www.mamboresto.com or follow them on Instagram at @mamboresto.