IT TAKES MANGO TO TANGO.
You've got to like the name Mango Tango; it sounds like fun.
And if you care to stay on after dinner any Thursday through Sunday and try your own version of the tango to the beat of the live band onstage, then undoubtedly it will be fun.
Just in case you might forget the name, the building of this North Hollywood restaurant has been freshly painted in a bright mango hue.
However, if, you had passed by the facility at some time previously and figured that the Mango Tango name sounded more like that of a dance club than a restaurant, your instincts were right, because that's exactly what it was.
But things have changed.
Now Mango Tango has been refurbished, reopened and new management has announced a serious commitment to food, introducing a colorfully illustrated, comprehensive Mexican menu.
Now Mango Tango offers both food fun and dance fun.
The new bill of fare features Los Molcajetes, four dishes presented in volcanic rock holders that keep the mixtures bubbling and steaming for a surprisingly long time.
Our molcajete pick one day, the combo ($14.50) of beef, chicken, shrimp, scallops, a ``seafood mix'' of oysters and baby octopuses, and nopales (cactus) in a zippy sauce proved to be an absolute joy of a dish. It provided a host of textures and flavors that could be scooped into a flour or corn tortilla and relished with gusto.
Two of us shared both this and a large campechana seafood cocktail ($9.95) made with much of the same seafood, each piece fresh and crunchily delicious, plus avocado in a cilantro-flavored, spicy, tomatoey liquid. The campechana, by the way, would, by itself, be a super-refreshing lunch item on a warm afternoon.
I tried the tango steak ($12.95) one evening and, though thinnish and a bit chewy in places, it had good flavor and arrived enhanced with shrimps, avocado, tomato, garlic and sauteed onions on a bounteous platter with rice and refried beans.
Both of the house soups, albondigas and a tortilla-vegetable recipe ($4.50 each) have been presented steaming hot and in generously deep bowls.
Of the several combination plate opportunities, one with a hard shell taco, chile relleno and cheese enchilada ($8.95) was cheerfully changed one time, replacing the hard shell to a soft-wrap taco.
This was not one of those dishes where everything runs into each other leaving indistinct textures and flavors. The diner who orders this or a similar three-way combo will be able to enjoy each of the separate item's individual characteristics, truly the mark of a skillful kitchen.
But there's a third dimension of Mango Tango fun to consider.
As with any of the local cantina favorites, the quality of the margaritas comes into play. Here at Mango Tango, the everyday, on-the-rocks margarita ($4) combines, strength, balance and taste for requisite gratification.
And for those who like the flavored type, there's always the very appropriate Mango Tango mango margarita.
Where: 11669 Sherman Way, North Hollywood.
When: Open for lunch, dinner, snacks and cocktails from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, for cocktails and live salsa band for dancing from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Sunday, for Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and for a lunch buffet weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Recommended items: Tortilla or albondigas soups, buffalo wings, campechana seafood cocktail, molcajetes combo, combo plate (taco, chile relleno, enchilada), margaritas.
Children's menu: Four plates ($4 each) with fries or rice. Choose from chicken nuggets, a cheese quesadilla, a baby burrito or the surprise enchilada.
How much: Starters from $4.50 to $7.50, entrees from $7.50 to $13, desserts $3.50 each. Full bar. All major credit cards except American Express.
Wine list: Limited to minimal house wines and sangria. Margaritas, tequilas and beers are favored beverages.
Reservations: Helpful. Call (818) 255-0964.
Our rating: three stars for food; three stars for service; three stars for margaritas.
(1) Manager Marcos Lopez offers a La Botana del Patron appetizer, left, and Combo Molcajetes at Mango Tango in North Hollywood.
(2) Combo Molcajetes is one of the appetizer specialities at Mango Tango.
(3) Also on the list of appetizers at Mango Tango is La Botana del Patron.
Phil McCarten/Staff Photographer