The first time I experienced Cuban food was on my first trip to Miami. I was excited to taste this food that everyone was saying I had to try or else why bother to visit Miami. I ended up finding a restaurant in the famous and busy South beach area and I was unfortunately not impressed with the flavor of the dish I ordered. Where was the color? Where was the flavor? Oh and those fried banana chips everyone was talking about? Miami’s Cuban food left me disappointed and to be honest… hungry. I thought that would be my first, last, and only encounter with Cuban food until I stumbled across a new restaurant in old town Roundrock. Yes I said old town Roundrock! Who would have ever thought that you could find authentic Cuban food right next door to Round Rock Donuts. I can say that Mambo House restored my faith in the flavors of Cuba!
To understand Cuban food you have to understand the history of Cuba and its cultural complexity. Cuba was first colonized by Spain and because of that it has strong influence on the foundation of Cuban food. More importantly, you have the influence of African roots and because Cuba is an island seafood is a major staple to their cuisine. Add a dash of French, Caribbean, and even a small influence from the Chinese and you have a palate that is full of flavor and bright with color. Mambo house stays true to that history and embodies the essence of the colorful Cuban culture.
When we first arrived at Mambo house we were greeted by the hostess with a smile and the waitstaff promptly cleared off a table for two. We were then greeted by our waitress and even the owner, Henry, who stopped by our table to suggest we order one of their special mojitos. Now as much as I love mint I have never enjoyed the taste of a mojito but I figured I might as well try one and immerse myself in the full Cuban experience. I ordered the mango flavor and Carol ordered the coconut. We were pleasantly surprised at how sweet and fresh they were. I could have had two more if I wasn’t driving home.
But wait! Where were those fried banana chips? Elise, our waitress read our minds and set down some plantains on our table accompanied with a mango habanero sauce. I was a little skeptical at first to try this combination but soon I found myself having to push the plate away to save room for dinner.
Carol and I first started off with two appetizers, the Papa Rellena and the Empanadas filled with chicken and spiced ground beef. Featured above is the Papa Rellena which is fried roasted garlic mashed potatoes stuffed with Cuban ground beef. We both looked at each other after our first bite of this dish and knew we made the right decision to try this place. The appetizers made us even more excited for the entrees we had ordered-the Sandwich Cubano and the Mambo House Paella.
When our dinner arrived we were taken by the colorful arrangement of our food and the flavor did not disappoint. We took our first bite of the Sandwich Cubano and our palettes were met with a mixture of spicy and sweet as we tasted the combination of smoked ham, roasted pork, gruyere cheese, pickles, and passion fruit mustard. It was hard to set down our sandwich to try the paella but we were glad we saved room for the burst of flavors the paella offered.
The paella here at Mambo House I can say truly rivals that of the paella I have tasted in the heart of Spain. The paella here is fresh packed with shrimp, chorizo, clams, mussels & scallops and every bite is more flavorful than the last. This will be what I order here every time from now on.
Now one thing you should know about Carol and I is that we never skip dessert and we are glad we didn’t skip it here. Featured above is the Tres Leche Cake, a homemade vanilla sponge cake soaked in 3 milks & rum topped with orange flavored whip cream. This dish really did “take the cake”. The orange flavored whip cream truly complimented the sweetness of the milk and rum and made the perfect dish to end our night with.
Mambo House is truly a gem to be experienced. When you walk in and sit down either at a table or at the bar you are greeted as a not only a friend but as family. The service is impeccable and personable, the decor is modern yet pays homage to the untouched beauty of Cuba, and the food is authentic and genuine. Mambo House captures each culture that transformed Cuba into the vibrant country that it is today and serves it with pride to the people of Austin. Mambo house has climbed its way to the top of our list and our hearts.