An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
May 7, 2014
08:13 AMThe Connecticut Table
Mambo Cocina Latina: American Food With a Latin Twist in New Haven
Mara Lavitt/New Haven Register
Tuna tartare: Yellowfin tuna with wasabi caviar, avocado, crispy plantain, garnished with crispy shallots.
New Haven is bursting with Latin-themed restaurants. The latest addition is Mambo Cocina Latina on State Street, with the 2014 Elm City Iron Chef Alex Morales at the helm. It's another pearl in the Gennaro “Gerry” Iannaccone family string of restaurants (Cafe Goodfellas, Luce and Bin 100), and this time around he co-owns Mambo with his sister Elena Fusco and Morales.
Morales, originally from Guatemala City, is the classic American success story. He started as a dishwasher in Rye, N.Y.. in 1999, working his way up to through prep, salads, then line cook. It was when he was on the line that he found his passion for cooking. That took him to restaurants in Greenwich—two were Gaia and Rebecca’s—and then he connected with restaurateur and chef Rafael Palomino, performing head-chef duties at various Palomino restaurants for 12 years. In 2011 he came to New Haven to be head chef at Pacifico, also a Palomino restaurant. In late 2013 he found the opportunity to open Mambo with Fusco and Iannaccone. (Right, pan-seared Canadian salmon over quinoa salad with saffron-mojito sauce.)
Morales calls the food he is serving American food with a Latin twist. (Below, coconut flan, a traditional flan with a Caribbean twist.)