REVIEW: Mambo International Kitchen

Experiencing cultures around the world normally takes a hefty amount of money due to the prices of plane flights, hotels and ground transportation.

With the opening of Mambo International Kitchen (Mambo) in September of 2018, residents of the San Fernando Valley will not have to commute very far to taste ethnic dishes from around the globe.

The menu features a variety of foods corresponding to certain countries including the Philippines, India, China, Korea and more.

Raymond and Donna Magsaysay, owners of Mambo, would like to spread the word that they are more than just a Filipino restaurant.

“Despite being Filipino owned, we want to emphasize that we are an international kitchen with cuisine from around the world,” said Raymond Magsaysay.

The word Mambo was the name of a campaign slogan for former president of the Philippines, Ramon Magsaysay, who was also Raymond’s late grandfather.

Mambo is located in the bustling intersection of Tampa Avenue and Roscoe Boulevard. Despite how busy the cross streets are, the parking lot is small and shared with five other small businesses making it tough to find a spot at peak business hours.

The old Victorian-style building painted in black and white does not reflect the casual yet colorful décor on the inside of the restaurant.

The moment customers enter through the double glass doors, the photoreceptors in their eyes are overwhelmed (in a good way) with the array of colors throughout the restaurant as well as the rustic wooden tables and walls.

A major point of emphasis to the concept of Mambo is to treat everybody like they are family. The service was incredibly friendly and both the owners are very engaged with their customers walking from table to table and sparking conversation.

The head chef is named Miguel Bernal and has 13 years of experience working at steakhouses across Los Angeles county. He worked as a sous chef at the Flemings in L.A. Live next to the Staples Center and a line cook at Lawry’s Prime Rib Steakhouse in Beverly Hills.

According to Donna, a majority of their customers are of Filipino heritage. The menu is filled with Filipino comfort food dishes including Pork Adobo, pork butt marinated in ginger, soy sauce and vinegar then braised, Sisig, chopped pork belly and diced pig ears all bind together with eggs, onions and chicharron and Kare Kare, a beef cheek, long bean and eggplant stew in a savory peanut sauce.

The Hong Kong Rice Bowl is the most popular item on the menu, according to Donna. It consists of deep-fried pork spare-ribs tossed in scallions and spicy salt served with garlic rice and Umami aioli. The ribs are morsels of crispy pork goodness and pair perfectly with the savory yet sweet aioli sauce.

For first timers, the best option to choose are the “3 for $7” tacos. According to Donna, the most popular taco trio on the menu is the Filipino taco, pork adobo with salted egg salsa, Korean taco, beef bulgogi with Asian pickles, and Indian taco, chicken tikka masala with crispy onions and cilantro.

Purchasing that particular trio of tacos is great for first time customers because it gives them a sampler of some of the most popular meats Mambo has to offer. The Indian taco seemed intriguing at first until I took a bite and I wondered why this has not become a new food trend yet. The chicken tikka masala is packed with flavor and the crispy onions give the taco a crunch along with the cilantro which gives it a freshness that cuts through the curry flavors of the chicken.

The Ube S’more’s and the Banana Nutella Eggroll are both creative spinoffs of traditional Filipino desserts. Ube is a sweet cream filling made out of the taro root which gives it a bright purple color. Traditionally, Ube filling is stuffed into a sweet bread roll but at Mambo, they layer it with a graham cracker crust, lemon cream and toasted marshmallow topping. The four layers all work together in harmony to create a perfectly balanced yet delicious dessert.

The Banana Nutella Eggroll is an Americanized version of the Filipino dessert called Turon. It is a deep-fried eggroll stuffed with bananas and rolled in honey. At Mambo, they do not roll it in honey but top it with Nutella and vanilla ice cream. This dessert is to die for. Just remember to have loads of napkins because it can get quite messy.

There are a variety of drink options including Fruit puree tea, Milk tea with salted cream, Coffee, Soda and free fruit-infused water.

Mambo offers many different specials including “Ten Dollar Bowl Tuesdays” where every rice bowl on the menu is ten dollars with a free soda fountain drink. For high school and college students, the Pork adobo, Tapsilog (no fried egg) and Korean rice bowls are eight dollars if you present your school I.D. to the cashier. Also, if you check-in on Yelp, you receive a free Filipino taco.

Overall, the prices are affordable and reasonable. Three tacos for seven dollars and five dollar desserts are perfect for students which is their target audience.

“Cleveland High School and CSUN (Cal State Northridge) are both down the street from us,” Raymond said. “We had those students in mind when coming up with the menu prices.”

Mambo International Kitchen is open on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. They are located on the corner of Tampa Avenue and Roscoe Boulevard in Northridge, Calif.

8300 Tampa Ave Northridge, CA 91324

(747) 777-3511