There’s not much room for dancing at Mango Tango, but diners might find themselves wooed by this East District establishment’s creative variations on Thai cuisine and chic lounge bar atmosphere.
The dimly lit dining area is furnished with plush sofas and easy chairs, perfect for leaning back after stuffing yourself with Mango Tango’s tapas-style entrees and stir-fry dishes.
When ordering, it’s hard to go wrong with the chef’s recommendations listed on the menu. Don’t let the awkward English names for the dishes turn you off. The Thai style pesto sauce mutton chop (泰式青醬羊排, NT$380) is more appetizing than it sounds: The “mutton” is actually tender lamb chops grilled medium rare; and the pesto is more of a vinaigrette dipping sauce spiced with finely chopped red onion, cilantro and chili peppers. The lamb is garnished with freshly chopped lemongrass, which shows up in a lot of Mango Tango’s dishes. Here it adds a sharp zest and proves to be a nice alternative to the usual rosemary seasoning.
The fried shrimps with Thai sauce (琵琶蝦, NT$350) sent me deep into a soul-food comfort zone. Medium-sized prawns are covered in a flour wrap and then a layer of stringy rice vermicelli before being deep-fried. The result is an unusual look and a nicely textured crunch. Each order comes with five pieces topped with a squiggle of wasabi mayonnaise, which made the perfect grace note.
It’s hard to pass on the lemongrass spare ribs (香茅醬燒排骨, NT$280), the restaurant’s answer to the classic Chinese dish of sweet and sour pork. The deep-fried chunks of spare rib meat are juicy and tender and garnished with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves.
The misnamed grass mushroom soup (香茅野花湯, NT$260) also uses fresh lemongrass as its main ingredient and comes with a generous serving of chopped shitake and white button mushrooms. A few sprigs of cilantro enhance the subtle fragrance of this soup, which serves two.
The menu lists plenty of Thai restaurant standards, including green papaya salad (青木瓜沙拉, NT$200), a variety of vegetable greens stir-fried with shrimp paste (NT$160 to NT$200) and a selection of green and red curries (NT$220 to NT$270). For those who like to keep it simple, the pad Thai (NT$200) is a winner.
The wait staff is comprised of mostly 20-somethings who are polite, attentive and efficient, if a little stiff in demeanor. The intimate seating arrangement suits couples on a date, but the atmosphere seems geared more toward revelers warming up for an evening of club-hopping. Ambient electronica music plays on the house speakers a little too loudly even at dinnertime, when the restaurant is just starting its day. Indeed, Mango Tango offers many reasons to stay until the wee hours. It has an extensive selection of tropical cocktails starting from NT$250, wines starting from NT$1,000 per bottle and beer, with Singha NT$150 a bottle.
But teetotalers aren’t left out of the fun. The house specialty happens to be a non-alcoholic version of the Mango Tango (NT$200) cocktail, a refreshing blend of fresh mangoes, orange juice and lemon.
Mango Tango is located near Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT Station (忠孝敦化捷運站) exit No. 4.
Address: 12, Alley 17, Ln 170, Zhongxiao E Rd, Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市忠孝東路四段170巷17弄12號)
Telephone: (02) 8773-2724 X8206 Details: English and Chinese menu, redit cards accepted
Open: Monday to Thursday 5:30pm to 2am, Friday and Saturday 5:30pm to 3am
Average meal: NT$400 to NT$500
On the Net: mangotangotaipei.blogspot.com
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