Review: Mango Tree offers more than just fruitWritten by Don Zellers | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Having grown up around the old Southwyck Mall area, I have driven by the Mango Tree restaurant for years. But since it didn’t have “Steakhouse,” “BBQ,” or “Italian” in its name, I never really knew what type of food it served.
Restaurants abound in this area and without the advertising exposure the big chains have, a unique place like the Mango Tree can slip through the cracks.
From the outside, the building has no flashy facade and isn’t painted in a mish-mash of shocking colors, so it’s easy to miss the unimposing building that is home to this little gem of a restaurant. The sign out front simply has a graphic of a mango tree with the restaurant’s name underneath it. Somehow, for all these years, I missed that just below the logo it reads, “Steaks and Seafood.”
It was late afternoon, before the dinner rush, when I visited, so it was hard to get a real feel as to what the energy level or wait time is like on a Friday night around dinner time, but they do take reservations, though they are not required. Light classical music floated in the background and the lighting was relaxed, creating an old-time
supper club feel, rather than that of an ostentatious “fine dining” establishment.
Owner Mel Ahmed, like many small business owners, is the chief cook and bottle washer of the Mango Tree and does the majority of the cooking and preparing of the Tree’s diverse and atypical menu. Ahmed learned to cook seafood in Boston, then perfected his skills at the old Cape House in Maumee. He also mastered the art of making a great steak at Christopher’s before joining with three friends to open the Mango Tree in 1996.
After more than seven years as a co-owner, Ahmed decided he was ready to take on sole ownership of the Mango Tree.
This gave him the freedom to make all the decisions regarding the menu and he let his creativity run wild. He chose to add tasty mango-infused treats, like shrimp mango and mango cheesecake, to the menu, which previously lacked any dishes containing the sweet, tropical fruit.
While the Mango Tree’s menu features some of the standard options you’ll find in many fine restaurants — hand-cut steaks, chicken Parmesan, veal Marsala and salmon — I was somewhat shocked to find roasted duck, turtle soup and frog legs being offered in a blue collar town like Toledo. The appetizer section boasted some out-of-the-ordinary fare as well: batter-dipped cheese (deep fried provolone), stuffed mushroom langostinos, escargot and even deep-fried alligator.
The crab cakes were among the best I’ve ever tasted. They had a light, golden breading that was crispy, but not crunchy, and a flavor that was fresh, but not too fishy. Don’t be afraid to try the deep-fried alligator. Another standout, it came lightly breaded and was not too chewy, like gator can sometimes be. Both dishes came with a mild Cajun sauce on the side that tasted similar to an onion petal sauce. Hidden in the sauce was the tiniest of kicks, which awakened my taste buds without making me feel like there was a four-alarm fire in my mouth. All of the sauces and dressings are made fresh by Ahmed and the staff, so don’t expect to find any Hidden Valley Ranch on your salad.
I decided to finish my meal with a piece of delicious crème brulee cheesecake that was so thick in consistency you could hold a piece of it on your fork and wave it around like a wand (which of course I did). The taste was rich, with a hint of vanilla flavor.
There were so many things on the menu that piqued my interest at the Mango Tree that I could not try everything I wanted, even with my renowned intestinal fortitude. Plans are already in the works for a return trip, and with most of the entrees sitting in the $15-$20 range, it won’t flatten my wallet, which is something I think we all can appreciate.
Mango Tree: 217 S. Reynolds (between South and Hill)
Open: Mon – Fri. for lunch and dinner
Sat. and Sun. – dinner only
Mango Tree provided the food for this review. Don Zellers is co-producer of “Fred Lefebvre and the Morning News” and co-host of “The Benchwarmers” on News Talk 1370 WSPD. He is also the station’s Good Swill Ambassador, which enables him to eat at and promote food-related charity events in NW Ohio. Don has enjoyed an unrelenting love affair with food for pretty much his whole life and has been known to put on “eating displays” for friends and co-workers.