Mangos Peruvian cuisine turns up the flavor on the Downtown dining scene.
Expanding can be a daunting undertaking for any business owner. Expanding during a recession is even riskier. Add the fact that this particular restaurant serves Peruvian cuisine, which is more of a niche and strays from the comfort food most diners seek these days, and suddenly there’s a lot on the line. Luckily, Mango owners Jorge and Nori Calvo and Paul and Sherry Sawchak aren’t easily dissuad—after five successful years in Shrewsbury, they decided it was time to open a second location of their established spot. So this September, Downtown welcomed its first Peruvian restaurant.
An Urban Space
The space, which was previously inhabited by Mosaic, is contemporary with sandalwood overtones, and is a far cry from the forced festive décor that many Latin restaurants often employ. Faux-burning candle lights hang parallel above the dining room’s center bar and create a serene feel in the open, loft-like restaurant. Paintings and artwork occupy several of the walls and owners plan to rotate collections by local and regional artists.
Peruvian cuisine is a melting pot of influences—and while known most notably for ceviche (Mango serves a well-prepared version with mussels and shrimp), its repertoire includes a variety of hearty, healthy and flavorful dishes. Mango’s menu features plenty of options—both vegetarian-friendly items, like rice and fresh vegetables and spaghetti noodles tossed in pesto spinach sauce, and heftier meat dishes like grilled beef loin and a savory empanada filled with Spanish olives, beef and raisins.
A big hit is the sweet yuca frita appetizer—the starchy root is fried and served with huancaina, a slightly spicy sauce that combines white cheese with aji amarillo, the Peruvian yellow pepper. Or the chicken or beef kabobs marinated with the yellow pepper sauce and served with corn. The ensalada de palta channels the spirit of Latin cuisine, with a colorful blend of fresh avocado, chopped vine ripened tomatoes and queso fresco, mixed with oregano, citrus and olive oil. I also enjoyed several bites of one of my fellow diners’ seco de carne; flank steak strips, infused with cilantro and simmered with onions and hot pepper—the meat was tender and well seasoned.
Spaghetti noodles make many appearances throughout the menu, most combined with pesto and creamy spinach sauce and served in a generous bowl with grilled steak or chicken. Some of my favorite dishes at Mango were also the simplest—the pollo a la parilla, two perfectly delicate chicken breasts marinated in white wine and served with slices of oregano-touched tomatoes and potato halves, and the saltado de langostinos, succulent shrimp sautéed with red and green onions in white wine and cilantro and served with rice.
The Pescado alo macho served with white rice and golden potato
Photo credit: Liz Reiff Sloan