Mambo have been serving sushi on the sunset strip for some time but this year they have a whole new game-plan with the launch of the renamed SushiMambo. Do not think it is a simple rebranding however—the changes go much deeper into a completely new food concept of Nikkei Cuisine—a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian styles. It makes more sense than you might at first think—but more of the twinning rationale later.
First impressions always count and it was lovely to be greeted with a raft of smiles on arrival—the first clue that it wasn’t only the food that had received a close season makeover.
Manager Ana’s welcome resulted in a jug of their Mambo Fusion Sangria – a very special blend of Chicha Morada, Pisco (the Peruvian national Spirit of which I dare you to take as a shot), Sake, Azucar Panela and Red Wine. That settled things down nicely whilst Ana ensured all her customers were tended to and I sipped away with Pete playing an appropriately chilled mix whilst the Sun ebbed away. This certainly is the life.
Ana was then back and took time to explain the menu and where the two styles intertwine on what is a fantastically inventive menu. Ana’s clear enthusiasm for what they want to achieve at Sushi Mambo is a great testament to whoever hired her, and a great asset to the restaurant.
The vast majority of the menu reflects their Nikkei speciality, but there is a small section of international food including Quinoa Burger (great for a Gluten free diet) and, seeing them come out of the kitchen, some really good looking Fish and Chips. This was acknowledged almost apologetically but I don’t think it is a bad thing at all. Not everybody likes Sushi and having alternates means you can still go along for your fill of little fishes on dishes with non-afishionados (do you see what I did there :-). Anyway, I am a firm afishionado (OK I’ll stop now) and so it was on to the real deal.
To start Chef brought a plate of Beef Tataki and a combination of three Ceviches—tuna and mango, great, salmon and strawberry, genius, and oh my days a prawn and lime that was truly food of the Gods. Do you ever save your favourite until last? After my first mouthful of the prawns I adored I set them to one side finishing everything else so as to savour the whole pot at the end. Cannot fly by without pointing out the Beef Tataki as another master-class of culinary prowess.
Talk of flying and master-class, how about the Hot Dragon above. Just how cool is that—it looked almost too good to eat—but somehow I managed it. The 10 piece of Unagi (Eel—a personal favourite even without the artistry) included mango, avocado and oyster sauce. Note the use of fruit—one of the key elements of the Peruvian influence. The Hot Dragon and my reaction to it prompted two chaps sitting adjacent who had just come along for a drink to promptly order one for themselves.
The fruit fusion was wonderfully reflected in the next plate—Red Fruit Salmon, 6 pieces of the relatively regular Salmon and Philli transformed by the topping of a berry so plump I haven’t had one like it since some memory of halcyon childhood holidays. Incredible how such an intrinsically simple change can transform a dish.
While all this fantastic food was passing my plate Sushi Mambo had also undergone a transformation in tempo as none less than Toolroom Knights had arrived and were playing a pre-party warm up (see page 10 in the at night section). Completely unexpected and what a bonus. OK I’m not doing them down but you might expect it along the drag at Savannah or Mambo, but SushiMambo is a much smaller terrace. Expressing my surprise Ana casually remarked that last week they had tini playing. You read it right, tini the Privilege packing A-lister. Impressive stuff.
So the verdict, which I had plenty of time to contemplate as I chatted with the very happy bunch of staff and sipped on a special Mambo double Daiquiri (Mango and Strawberry). I’ll be honest I don’t think the fashion for Sushi has been an entirely good thing. Everybody has jumped on the bandwagon and it has resulted in some pretty poor executions. Sushi is one of those styles where you really need an expert in the kitchen, a natural expert.
Trust me on this, SushiMambo have it and some. If you have not been impressed with your Sushi experience to date, go to SushiMambo. I have never had better.
I mentioned the Peruvian Japanese connection at the start. Look at a map—you’ll see that if you go straight from Peru across the pacific you end up in Japan, and that is why they have a very special connection. Unless Qi have since dispelled it I remember from school that the South Americans never discovered the wheel. How very fortunate they didn’t discover a rudder either.