Tamboras Grill Cafe
Tamboras Grill Cafe, a Latin styled restaurant in Ocoee, notes on its menu that its name is derived from tambor, which means drum, and “we cook to the beat of a different drummer.” I guess that would explain the shrimp fettuccine, Portobello Marsala pasta and Asian salmon salad on an otherwise South American flavored menu.
Tamboras occupies a corner spot in a newish strip mall on Maguire Road about a half-mile south of U.S. Highway 50. It’s a pleasant enough space, though there isn’t a lot of character in the decor. The entrance is in the corner’s peak; off to the right is a bar area and to the left is the dining room with booths and tables. Fairly small as full-service restaurants go.
I met a friend for lunch recently and we were warmly greeted by a young woman at the door. Service continued to be friendly and attentive throughout our meal.
I started with a bowl of chicken soup ($3.99), which the menu touted as “homemade.” The broth had a richness that indeed indicated it was probably make on the premises. But it lacked much flavor or character. The soup included diced pieces of chicken and a few oddly chopped fettuccine noodles. There was no indication that cilantro had been used, as the menu had promised.
For my entree I chose the shrimp mofongo ($16.99), which the menu claims to be “our most traditional dish! From the Dominican Republic!” It was quite good, the timbale of mashed plantains laced with yummy fat and flavored with seafood broth, topped with medium to small shrimp. It was all surrounded by a delicate gravy. Delicious, but 17 bucks for mofongo? I don’t think so.
My friend ordered Tamboras’ Island pork roast, which is $13.99 on the dinner menu. But our server pointed out that a lunch version was available for several dollars cheaper and came with a house salad to boot. Unfortunately the pulled pork was very dry, and if there was any mojo criollo mixed in I couldn’t taste it. It was, however, like my mofongo, nicely presented. The salad was more substantial than most restaurants offer and included chopped lettuce and kernels of corn. A side item of fluffy white rice and pinto beans could have been an entree all alone.
For dessert I had the arroz con leche, which fetched an astounding price of $5.99. It looked to my eye to be not much more than eight ounces of rice pudding with enough cinnamon blended in to render it treacly.
I suppose Tamboras is faced with the reality of having to charge higher prices to offset fewer seats. Sell enough rice puddings in one evening and you meet your monthly nut! But the drawback, of course, is that people will realize that the food, although presented in a style worthy of a more elegant restaurant, is fairly basic and can be found at other area Latin restaurants for less.
Tamboras Grill Cafe is at 1568 Maguire Road, Ocoee. It’s open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. Beer and wine are available and credit cards are accepted. Phone number is 407-877-7171.