Good Food in Saint Louis
Nothing is easy, everything is an adventure.
The plan tonight was to eat at Mango, a Peruvian restaurant not that far from our hotel, but farther than Gail cares to walk.
No problem, this is a big city, we’re in a luxury hotel, get a cab. Hah.
The cabs don’t line up outside the Embassy Suites, so I asked the bellman to get us one for 5:55. He said no problem, and when we got down from the room a cab did indeed appear in a 2 or 3 minutes.
We gave him the name and address of the restaurant, and I wasn’t thrilled to see him instantly call his dispatcher to get directions, in Farsi.
Mango is at 1101 Lucas street, and our driver, talking all the way in Farsi, drove us straight to 1101 Locust street, and the restaurant Rooster. Yes, he had a GPS in his car, no he wasn’t using it. I used the one in my phone and directed him the 4 blocks to the right place–this whole trip, wrong address and all was less than 10 blocks. Competency is not a requirement to be a cabbie in Saint Loo. Big tips aren’t required, either.
Now we’re at Mango. I go in, introduce myself, tell them I have a reservation. They say the table isn’t quite ready, and show us to the bar. 20 minutes later we get to the table. I think that’s the first time that’s happened in the dozens and dozens of times I’ve made Opentable reservations.
The good news is that Gail asked the bartender for a South American white that wasn’t sweet, and got some kind of wine she really liked. Of course, she’ll never have it again because we don’t have the name, but there are a lot of wines in the world and she won’t go thirsty. I ordered a caipirinha, a Brazilian rum drink you usually cannot find because it takes a special kind of Brazilian rum. Another winner for the bar at Mango. (I wanted to try to find the wine Gail had online, but for some reason most restaurants put their menus on their website but not their wine lists. I wonder why? Wouldn’t that be a selling point to the wine snobs?)
After about 20 minutes, a table appeared. This is the only time in the dozens and dozens of occasions I’ve used Opentable that they have made me wait–we almost always go right in to our seats.
Mango is a lovely facility, lots of woodwork, brick walls, tablecloths, linen napkins and good, heavy silverware. We got a seat by the window and enjoyed the evening light.
They brought chips and salsa to the table, but not like any chips and salsa you’ve ever had:
The little chips don’t really taste of banana but they have a richness and creaminess that corn chips don’t. The salsa verde was incredibly good–Gail ended up using it all on her stew later on.
We started with a tamalita, a small tamale. It was completely spectacular. The pickled onions it came with were a perfect accompaniment for the rich spicy masa.
The salad was just so-so. We ordered the avocado and tomatoes: liked the avocado, liked the cheese, liked the tomatoes. Had little use for the chopped up bits of lettuce.
My entree was the Lomo Saltado, described as:
Sirloin steak strips stir-fried with sweet onions, tomatoes, garlic & Peruvian peppers; served with white rice & garnished with steak fries.
which turns out to be the Peruvian version of Mongolian Beef, but a damn sight better than Yan’s China Garden makes. Big chunks of tender beef, onions and some magical Peruvian spicing brought this dish to a new world of flavor.
Gail had the Seco de Carne, which is more of a beef stew.
Cilantro infused flank steak strips, garlic & onions, simmered in its own juices; served with rice and beans.
What she didn’t finish, I did. Another excellent dish.
No dessert, we didn’t have time after the long wait for a table and didn’t need it anyway.
Overall, the service wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. Just a couple of little things–the waiter asked if I wanted lemon in my iced tea, I said I preferred lime, he brought it with lemon. The bus boy promised more chips, never delivered. And of course, the wait for the table, whether that was really a lack of tables or the old ploy to get us to spend time/money at the bar you never know.
We really like Mango, would clearly be willing to go back and easily recommend it. Try not to overeat on the chips, but it will be hard.