“Experiencia Religiosa”, the great hit of 1995 by Enrique Iglesias, was the song that came to mind when it came time to put the West Mambo journey into words. Why? Maybe because of one of the desserts, but you’ll have to read to the end to understand why (blatant clickbait).
An invitation from Bernardo Agrela, chef and one of the owners of a quiet restaurant located in the Saldanha/Picoas area (just put it on Google Maps and you will get there without any problems), was expected for several weeks. Tempted by the word “sandwiches” (and everything that can somehow contain this synonym for bread), we headed to West Mambo. Which when it opened in 2019 was East Mambo. Then the pandemic came, closed and reopened in April 2022. Now like the West.
East or west, that’s where, in his own words, Bernardo comes to “relax”. “This is my home,” the 32-year-old chef tells us, who, along with Camila Amaral (the chef and brains behind one of the most amazing sandwiches we’ve ever tasted…), owns the West Mambo restaurant.
It is this quiet corner of the long tables that the consultant of the Cultural Trend Lisbon group (Povo, Music Box and the Casa do Capitão restaurant, temporarily closed for work) calls “home” and from which we also made our own in a few hours.
West Mambo has everything we like in a place where the idea is to eat good, unassuming finger foods, preferably accompanied by a good drink. Several variants. Good options.
There is MUSA beer (and soon there will be taps on the wall next to the tables) and only one brand of wine. We chose the white wine Nat Cool (glass 4 euros, bottle 24 euros), a new project of the Niepoort group, whose goal is to “create light and drinkable wines.” Check.
With a glass in hand, we did not expect what was to come. A real carnival of tastes and sensations, surprises that we didn’t expect, mainly because it’s not what we were looking for when we were told “sandwiches”.
A trio of appetizers (€3.50), commonly known as appetizers, brought a well-composed basket of pita (traditional from Turkey, thin and crunchy) topped with spirulina and, as the name suggests, three options: spinach, cottage cheese and hazelnuts (creamy and smooth); butter beans, dill and dill butter (reminiscent of bagels with salmon and cream cheese); and, our favorite, lentil hummus with leeks and coriander. Sharp, aromatic and sweet.
Ordering a sandwich at West Mambo is more than just ordering a sandwich. It’s a sandwich with a whole host of good things. Let’s start with side dishes (€3.50). A thousand potato leaves perfectly fried to ridiculously crisp, a fried banana and even roasted cabbage sprinkled with sesame seeds and salt (the only downside to this dish because it was a bit salty).
With the easing of the measures imposed by COVID-19, Bernardo and Camila were able to put into practice again the sharing of a miracle bowl that circulates around the room and whose idea is to be used and shared by the guests. Inside there are not two, not three, but seven convex bubbles. Each one has a sauce. Not shop, not industrial, but made right there, in West Mambo.
Dipping a sandwich, potatoes, or just eating with your fingers, it was hard to choose which was better: truffle, spicy (was wonderful), sesame, rhubarb ketchup (sweet and unexpected), aquafaba (for vegetarians), wasabi, and finally Camila’s Special, cooked made from fresh jambu leaves, a typical herb from the northern region of Brazil. Our favorite? We haven’t come to a consensus… we may have to go back and make a decision.
And with all this, we need to talk about sandwiches. A bun that at first glance is deceptive, because it looks like a banal hamburger bun, tasty, light and just the right size to transport the contents without spilling the filling or, conversely, stuffing the diner. A shrimp sandwich came up to the table, which is essentially a nod to the egg sandwiches proudly served in tacos and pastry shops in Lisbon’s less hipster times. There is lightness, the fat content of the egg too.
We came up with a ham sandwich but decided against a vegan option. And no, we were not disappointed. The “meat,” Camila explained to us, is made from jackfruit, that giant and juicy tropical fruit cooked in mushroom juice, evaporated to the point that it looks like the sweat of carnivorous meat roasted on a Sunday. We gave up and wanted more.
Today is Thursday, May 19, and this week there will be a stomach sandwich, as Camila informed us in advance. All sandwiches on the menu cost 8.50 euros. There are those that remain, those that change, there are surprises. He arrives, looks at the chalkboard, and finds out.
We don’t even like sweets, but we liked the names of two West Mambo desserts: Bolo da Sílvia (€4.50) and John’s Parfait (€4.50), after the people who served as guinea pigs when the recipes were on sale. tests.
Bolo da Silvia is actually a small salted caramel cake, while John’s Parfait combines celery, rhubarb, favatonca and estrelitas. Yes, Stars. These stars. A hilarious wink to the kids of the 90s, the generation we include. Now we need a version with Chocapic, please.