Recently, I was back in Napa, visiting my parents. To celebrate, we went out to downtown Napa for lunch. Since I have an addiction to sushi, it's not a surprise that when we walked past Mambo Sushi on First Street, that we ended up sitting down for a bite.

After seeing the name, I expected a more Latin-influenced decor. Instead, the inside appeared much like any trendy California restaurant, the sort that's either hip or trying to be. The building used to be the home of the Napa Register, the local paper, but doesn't show any signs of its history.

The sushi bar was full, which was a good sign: at least it's got a regular following. We were seated near the front of the restaurant and looked at the menus. They've got a reasonably priced menu, with offerings ranging from nigiri for $3.50 a pop all the way up to the specialty rolls for $8-10. There were also plenty of selections of non-sushi to choose from (donburi, teriyaki, tempura, etc.) but I didn't spend much time looking at those. There were a couple of lunch specials, but they didn't appear to be too much of a great value to me.

My father ordered one of the specials which came with various nigiri, and some hamachi nigiri as well. My mother ordered a rock 'n roll (contains unagi, cucumber, and avocado), as well as a california roll. I had the rainbow roll, and the nutty professor roll.

I typically don't like ebi (shrimp) too much, and the taste of macadamia nuts by themselves can get to be a bit much. However, I had decided that I wanted something from the specials menu, and almost everything else had spicy tuna (I can handle spicy, but for some reason the sauce they use in spicy tuna doesn't agree with me.) The inside of the roll had crab and avocado, surrounded by the rice, with ebi on top, with a light pink sauce drizzled over the top with chopped macadamia nuts sprinkled above. Somehow, these ingredients, when combined with soy sauce and wasabi, blended to make an incredibly great taste sensation.

One of the advantages of a rainbow roll is that you get to see the quality of a variety of different fish the restaurant serves. Mambo had pretty fresh fish, although I'm used to getting slightly fresher salmon in the city. The maguro was good, and my dad liked the hamachi. I also sampled the rock 'n roll. Unfortunately, the cucumber seemed limp rather than crispl so it didn't have quite the crunch that I was expecting.

All told, though, it was a positive experience. The specials menu is definitely worth checking out; I'm intrigued enough by the fabulousness of the nutty professor roll that I'm looking forward to going back to see what else they've got in store.

The last time I walked by that intersection, the signs were still up from the last restaurant that was there which had closed up shop. I hope it doesn't go the way of many other downtown Napa businesses, so I can enjoy it to further visits to Wine Country.


Mambo Sushi
At the intersection of First and Coombs in downtown Napa
(707) 257-7280

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