By Samantha Joseph
STUART - It's rare to come across a restaurant as special as The Green Mango, where ingredients such as ginger root and galanga leaves - which can vary in intensity with each crop - are sprinkled with such artistry by chefs who know how to use them.
The Dutch fusion restaurant isn't just unique. It's "daringly different cuisine" slogan isn't an overstatement, because the food at The Green Mango is unlike any available for miles around.
And that's what sets this new Stuart spot apart.
Its rijst tafel or rice table is a signature meal of Dutch fusion cuisine and is impressive from beginning to end, pleasing both to the eye and the palette.
The nasi or rice is delicious, fixed with onions and vegetables. Tender and juicy grilled pork skewers sit beautifully among the colorful entrées and are perfect with spiced peanut sauce.
Fresh vegetables are served in a ginger and turmeric marinade, with selections such as chili sauce, cucumber salad, roasted coconut crumbs with pan-fried peanuts, pork in sweet soy sauce, melinijo-nut crackers, beef simmered in coconut and shrimp crackers.
Its vegetarian menu offers appetizers, entrées and pizza, with a mix of spicy, light, refreshing and hearty options.
The food here is authentic or "street food," as Indonesian-born host Kim Landeweer calls it. The recipes have been handed down through generations, with chefs flown in twice for quality control to teach local staff how to recreate the cuisine.
The pastries are the same that locals buy from their favorite restaurants in the Netherlands and there's no room for error in the secret herb combinations that spice the flavorful fare.
But what makes The Green Mango truly outstanding is its introduction of shawarma to the Treasure Coast.
Seasoned with 15 spices shawarma is thinly sliced chicken or pork layered by hand and slowly roasted for about four hours on a vertical rotisserie.
A sensation in Europe for the last five years, the entrée gained U.S. acclaim, thanks to "The Avengers" movie that led to a spike in sales in metropolitan areas, according to reports in the "Huffington Post," "Esquire" and other publications.
Locally, the restaurant has seen a steady climb in business, with sales growing 15 percent in the last week and 30 percent in the week before that. Some repeat customers have returned up to seven times.
A seasoning blend from a Turkish chef hired to train staff, is a component to its success. The mixture results in meat of unparalleled flavor.
The staff has also taken the training one step further, creating gourmet pizzas, including one topped with shawarma shavings. A choice of chicken or pork with marinara sauce, mozzarella, oregano, minced peppers, basil and a drizzle of garlic sauce top a crispy flatbread crust to form this sophisticated and grown-up version of pizza with the right amount of crunch and spice.
Another unique touch is the shrimp pizza with mango, green onion, garlic-infused olive oil, mozzarella, sweet and spicy shrimp and minced red chilies.
Some of the meals, such as the chicken Bali pizza, which features a mild spice, require two days of preparation time.
"It has been a whole quest to get the right ingredients here," said Mr. Landeweer, who recently inherited a family cookbook.
"Shawarma is a combination of 15 herbs. If you leave one out, you don't get shawarma anymore. It's something different."
From its artfully presented and delicious appetizer, including tempeh, and desserts such as batter-coated fried bananas with homemade avocado ice cream and palm sugar syrup, it's hard to imagine casual dining getting better than The Green Mango.
But staff said the restaurant plans to expand its menu and continue to introduce varied foods.
Diners can soon expect raclette, the wintertime Swiss staple of melted gourmet cheese for dipping, and Dutch pancakes stuffed with bacon or fruit.
This restaurant is a favorite. Service is excellent, thanks to servers, such as Jon, who was attentive and friendly. The setting is beautiful,even down to small touches that include unique salt shakers for each table. The shakers were a gift from a customer who was a collector and donated them to the restaurant because she was so impressed with the service, the host said.
The restaurant has a large bar and lounge, and is the site of several social events, including beer dinners and themed events.
On the third Wednesday of each month, it hosts tastings. The last one, on July 18, offered a five-course meal and five beer samples.
And one weekend a month, it hosts a theme night, including Caribbean or Latino night with music, said Dalice Cavanagh, bar manager.
All told, there's a lot to appreciate at The Green Mango. At first glance it seems like a simple ethnic restaurant, but it's really an experience.
The Green Mango is located at 2500 S.E. Federal Highway, in the Regency Square Plaza, in Stuart. For more information or reservations, call (772) 600-7198 or visit www.thegreenmango.com. The restaurant also offers catering services.
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