It was like going home when we stepped into Mambu for lunch. Anita Hartel and Corey Griffith's quirky old house-restaurant was closed during the day for months while the Hutton Hotel across the street got jack-hammered into place, and we were going through lobster nori roll withdrawal.
Fortunately, things at the Hayes Street eatery were as we left them, with the seared tuna salad, mariscada and shrimp dumplings all accounted for. And the high-ceilinged rooms dressed in eccentric get-ups with garlands of colored lights and inverted lampshades were just as eccentric as we remembered--a welcome noontime respite from Cubicleland. The biggest change we noticed was the addition of a gracious awning shading the front garden patio.
Most important, though, Mambu's lobster nori roll was intact. This tempura-fried roll blending a cool center of sweet lobster with a warm deep-fried coating is enough to make a pregnant woman waddle across town and eat a full serving in the driver's seat of her car while dribbling red pepper mayo on her belly, for example.
Anita was kind enough to share at least the essence of the recipe with Bites:
We really don't have a recipe. It's more of an attitude. Basically the roll is done in a traditional way with cooked lobster meat, blanched red peppers, fresh green onions and sushi rice. Everything is put in the middle of the sushi rice, rolled in nori and then dipped in tempura batter. The sauces are a mayo with spicy hot sauce added to it and a curry oil which you steep curry spice in warmed oil to extract the flavor. The garnish is seaweed salad and fried rice noodles. Baby, that is as good as I can explain.
Located at 1806 Hayes St., Mambu serves lunch Tuesday through Friday and and dinner Monday through Saturday. Happy hour on the bar and patio from 5 to 7 p.m. includes $5 drinks and appetizers.