A unique and highly popular newish restaurant in Santa Fe
First visit: August 11, 2011
Jambo Cafe is Santa Fe’s newest, award winning, ethnic restaurant. Chef-owned, Jambo’s recipes come from generations of home cooking. Try something very different in the City Different. Come to Jambo Cafe!
The exotic locale of Lamu Island, off the coast of Kenya, with its Swahili fusion of European, Arabic and Indian influences, is at the heart of owner-chef Ahmed Obo’s spirited cuisine. It was there, in his mother’s aromatic kitchen, that Ahmed mastered his homeland’s unique gastronomic delights, beginning a culinary adventure that would ultimately lead him to Santa Fe, New Mexico where, in August, 2009, he fulfilled his life’s dream by opening Jambo Café.
Included among the “40 Favorites” in the Santa Fe Reporter’s 2009-2010 Restaurant Guide and receiving “3 Chiles” in the Pasatiempo, Jambo Café has created a legion of loyal fans who wax eloquent over Chef Obo’s mouth-watering fare. Whether it’s dine in, carry out or catered cuisine you crave, Jambo’s will strike, as Pasatiempo reviewer Nouf Al-Qasimi said, “ a superb balance between vibrant and subtle, making it better than most of what’s being served locally at many times the price.”
Jane and I fell into Jambo for an early dinner just after attending yet another great Santa Fe estate sale. We rarely tire of Mexican and New Mexican food, but decided that we needed a change. We first saw Jambo several months ago after having a splendid meal at Lan’s Vietnamese Cuisinee, at the south end of the same shopping center on Cerrillos, and vowed to return to try it. Good move.
Jerk Chicken Wings
Black pepper hot, these wings were luscious. Juicy and sloppy, they are a four-napkin dish. Perfectly cooked, they were falling off the bone ad quite moist. My main complaint about wings are that they often get served too dry. Not here. Best That I’ve had in Santa Fe. By far.
Ruby Red Trout (Steelhead)
On first glance, Red Ruby Trout looks a bit like salmon. And this is where the similarity ends. This fish has the texture and delicacy of rainbow trout with a red-colored flesh. It is nor oily like salmon. This steelhead is served with slightly garliced sauteed spinach, and is among the best versions of steelhead that I have had anywhere. Beautifully prepared and succulent. A winner.
Marinated Grilled Tilapia
Looks like this was fish day.
Served with red chili coconut basmati rice, sauteed spinach and dried fruit and ginger chutney.
Perfect in every way. The Basmati rice was quite spicy, and complemented the delicacy of the beautifully grilled tilapia. as with the steelhead, the wonderful garlic sauteed spinach added a finish to this entrée.
This dish will make its way onto my year-end Best Dishes of 2012 list. Watch for it.
Jamaican Rum Pecan Pie
Our server recommended two desserts: a Flan and this Jamaican Rum Pecan pie. This pie is normally too sweet for me (especially in New Orleans) and I rarely order it. But we make an exceptional flan at home, so pie it was. What a delightful surprise. Sweet, but not too sweet. Smooth and not too dense (some of these things come out with a texture akin to treacle). The crust was very flaky and short (I’m guessing lard). Even the ice cream was fabulous. This is the pie that you wish your grandmother had made for you.
In one visit, Jambo rose to my favorites list. Jane wants to come back soon. So do I. Wanna meet me here?
What others are saying…
Gil Garduño — New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite
“Since its launch in August, 2009, perhaps no restaurant in Santa Fe has garnered as much acclaim as Jambo Cafe. In its inaugural year, Jambo Cafe earned “Best of Santa Fe” honors for “Best New Restaurant” and “Best Ethnic Restaurant” from the Santa Fe Reporter. Within six months of launching, Jambo’s intoxicating elixirs earned “Best Savory Soup” and “Best Soup” overall in Santa Fe’s Souper Bowl which benefits The Food Depot, Northern New Mexico’s food bank. One year later, Jambo repeated its “Best Soup” win and added “Best Vegetarian Soup.” The traveling trophy emblematic of Jambo’s super soup has a prominent place by the front window while framed certificates for each win festoon the walls.”
Santa Fe Reporter — Best Ethnic Food
“If you’ve lived in Santa Fe for more than a year—and especially if you moved here from a bigger town—you’ve probably had at least a moment of wanderlust. Santa Fe is lovely, of course, but sometimes you just yearn for something bigger, farther, stranger (no, really!). If international traveling is your game—and even if it’s not—Jambo Café offers the perfect night of adventurous eating in a low-key, vibrant setting with the power to transport you directly to the tropics. Chef/owner Ahmed Obo fuses the exotic flavors of his native Kenya with Caribbean staples such as Jamaican jerk chicken ($9.95) and American favorites like sweet potato fries ($3.95)—and if you’ve never tasted goat stew ($10.95), it’s a must-have item on Jambo’s extensive menu. As multipurpose as the Swahili greeting itself, Jambo’s plates will expand, delight and refine your sense of ethnic eating. (AS)”