Tango Mambo: Dance, eat in delightful Argentine restaurant

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As you can imagine, at Tango Mambo, there's a large, central dance floor and the atmosphere is cabaret. The red and white setting - red cloths and white slip-covered chairs with crystal chandeliers - is the sort of thing you might find in Buenos Aires hotels.

With a guest from Argentina, and another born in Argentina who now lives in Queens, we lunched there. Immediately bruschetta were brought to the table. "You know" one friend explained, "50 percent of those of us living there have an Italian heritage, 40 percent Spanish." But these bruschetta had more onion than tomato and a dash of herbs. Empanadas Argentinean style was an obvious appetizer choice. This was an ultra-sized empanada, about four inches long with a fine crust.

Mambo salad with heart of palm, slices of avocado and mango on Romaine is a Tango Mambo creation but the sauce is typical. The story we were told was this: A golf enthusiast grew tired of the salad dressing served at his club and requested "something different." Mayonnaise was offered, but rejected. "Do something," he said. A pink sauce returned. Delicious! It was a mix of mayo and ketchup named "Golf Sauce." By all means, try this salad.

And, of course, we had to try matambre con ensalada Rusa, the cold, sliced, stuffed veal roll with Russian salad, a mix of diced potato, peas and carrots in mayonnaise. The secret of a good matambre was revealed: To boil it, rather than bake it. That keeps it moist.

Grilled meats are the heart and soul of Argentine cuisine. From the grill offerings we chose Mollejas de Ternera, veal sweetbreads. If your impression of sweetbreads is soft and mushy, sample these. They are wonderfully crispy and served with rice, French fries or mashed potato.

Milanesa de carne was another must have - a breaded beef cutlet. My grandmother used to make thin steaks that way. I liked it then and I still like it now. Tango Mambo serves many versions of Milanesa - breaded beef, chicken breast or pork cutlet - served plain, Parmigiana with tomato sauce and melted cheese on top, Napolitana with tomato sauce ham and cheese or fugazzetta with onion and mozzarella cheese. Spinach is favored vegetable or a mix of cauliflower, broccoli, carrot and zucchini.

I was tempted by the simplicity of the Argentine version of arroz con pollo with merely shredded chicken and Spanish sausage in the yellow rice.

There are desserts a plenty - both Italian and Argentinean with flan and crepes starring. Our flan con dulce de leche was vanilla custard with a spoonful of viscous, caramelized sauce. If there's dulce de leche you know you're eating Argentinean. Crepes are filled with it also but manzana apple crepes, flambéed (with Grand Marnier) are said to be even more popular there. Sometimes they are filled with bananas or ice cream. All are served here.

Queso y dulce, Argentinean gouda cheese and sweet potato or quince paste, was a fine selection for our third sweet. Sweet potato paste was a first for me.

Don't forget that this is an Argentinean steak house and pasta. There's a full range of pastas including gnocchi, raviolis and cannelloni. And since it's a steakhouse, steaks are a specialty as well - either the gaucho steak, bariloche steak (both are boneless shells) or the Buenos Aires combo with filet mignon, shrimp, pork loin and chicken breast served with mixed vegetables.

The Bottom Line

Two Argentinean floor shows Friday, Saturday, Sunday plus tango lessons Monday. Unique dining concept: Argentine steak house and Italian pastas. Full range of both Italian and Argentine desserts. Excellent sangria.

Tango Mambo

111-08 Queens Blvd.

Forest Hills.

718 520-6488

Chef's Choice

Empanada (Argentinean style baked or fried turnovers--beef or chicken)... $2

Mambo Salad (heart of palm, avocado and mango with golf sauce)...$4.50

Linguine al Mar (linguine w/ scallops, shrimp, bacon in cream sauce)...$14.50

Gaucho Steak (boneless shell steak with Spanish potato, mushroom, cherry tomato)...$19.90

Bariloche (boneless shell steak, grilled with zucchini, tomato, sautéed onion, with melted mozzarella cheese)...$22.90

Buenos Aires Combo (filet mignon, pork loin, chicken breast, served with mixed vegetable)...$29.90

Panqueque de Manzana (apple crepes, flambéed/ Grand Mariner)...$6.50

Panqueque de Banana (banana crepes, flambéed/w Grand Marnier)...$6.50

Cuisine: Argentine steak house & Italian pasta

Setting: Cabaret. Red & white with chandeliers

Service: Needs polishing

Hours: L Mon to Fri. D 7 days

Reservations: Yes

Parking: Valet weekends

Location: Off 75th Ave

Dress: Casual

Credit cards: All major

Takeout: Yes

Off-premise catering: Yes

Private parties: To 100

Noise level: Fri & Sat, moderate

Handicap access: Yes

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