PROVIDENCE — On the other side of the dining room, through two narrow wooden doors, Chef Michael Cordero is in his zone: with a pair of tongs in one hand, he flips a frying pan filled with hearty chunks of marinated sirloin, soy, chopped red onion, and juicy plump tomatoes. A blazing flame flourishes with each twist of his wrist when he says, “This is what my grandmother used to make three times a week. I ate this every day.”
A few minutes later, he’s plating a perfectly proportioned cup of white rice with his stir fry piled on a crunchy french fries and topped with a brightly-colored edible hibiscus flower. It’s the Lomo Saltiado ($24), a Peruvian-style stir fry at Mambo Sushi, which opened earlier this month. It’s one of Federal Hill’s newest restaurants, which has the same owners as South Beach (also on Atwells Avenue), a Latin restaurant with hookah, and Flow Night Club.
Cordero, who is half Peruvian and half Dominican, is originally from the Washington Heights section of New York City. He’s worked in several restaurants throughout Manhattan and the Bronx, mostly starting the culinary programs at new nightclubs.
But four years ago, he started touring with Mitsuhisa Nishio, or better known as “El Ninja” (who opened his first Rhode Island-based restaurant on Broad Street in Providence last year). They traveled from one New England city to the next, Los Angeles and Florida where they would serve a “fusion sushi” similar to what he is now creating for Mambo’s menu.
“Here, we combine Peruvian and Japanese flavors together. You’re going to see a lot of plantains, peppers, red onion, and lime on traditional Japanese dishes,” Cordero told the Globe in a recent interview.
Mambo has an expansive menu with nearly 60 items, such as the Jalea Mambo ($35), a Peruvian-inspired appetizer with fried shrimp, white fish, and calamari served with yuca frita and pickled red onions, or the Tokyo Tower ($12), which is sweet plantain, fried, and topped with spicy shrimp and a house sauce.
Cordero also serves the classic sushi rolls often found in other eateries, such as the Yellowtail with avocado ($16); Spider ($18) with tempura soft shell crab, cucumber, spring mix, and spicy mayo; and Rainbow ($16) with kani, cucumber, avocado, salmon, tuna, and eel sauce.
But special rolls include the the Mambo house roll ($18) with shrimp tempura, yuka, sliced avocado, and a crunch ceviche; the Samurai roll ($16) with chicken tempura, fried cheese, maduro, guacamole, and sesame chicken; and a Cibao roll ($14) with longanzia, queso frito, maduro, and salami guisado. His Atwells roll ($16), named for the street of their corner location, is eel, shrimp tempura, avocado, and drizzled with an eel sauce.
His Mambo fushion platter ($85) features four sushi rolls (including the mambo and samurai rolls) and a chicharron and beef satay while entrees range from Karaage ($18), which is a Japanese-style fried chicken, to Chilean Sea Bass ($38), and Hawaiian fried rice served on a fresh pineapple ($26).
“I was taught a long time ago, even if you’re just putting fries and chicken fingers on a plate, you make it beautiful. You plate that dish well. Make the customers excited about it,” said Cordero. “Add your own style.”
The speciality drinks and house martinis, crafted with fresh juices and garnished with seasonal fruits, are just as colorful as the plating. Their Lychee Martini ($14) is shaken, made with vodka and infused with lychee liquor and juice, and lyme. The Pink Dragon ($15) is muddled dragon fruit with berry-infused rum, triple sec, lime, and topped with lemon-lime bubbles.
Mambo has faced some challenges, particularly with staffing shortages in the front-of-the-house, which caused their opening to delay. But Cordero staffed his kitchen with some of the same people he worked alongside during his time at restaurants in New York.
And going forward, Cordero said he has plans to update the menu with seasonal specials and rotating dishes.
“In the summer, we are going to have a ceviche cart outside (on the patio) where someone’s going to be be making fresh ceviche in front of people walking up Atwells and coming to dine here,” he said. “It’s going to be like a show, every day.”
Mambo Sushi is located at 380 Atwells Ave. in Providence. The restaurant is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 4 p.m. to midnight, Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m., and Sundays from noon until midnight. Their kitchen will close an hour before closing time each day. mambosushiprovidence.com.