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The Purloined Menu

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There was a sense of recklessness with which we pursued dinner at Mango, ordering more than we could consume, more than decorum would suggest we drink, and loitering later than management might have preferred. Despite the overwrought food styling and vaguely disturbing sconces, Mango's crisp decor and simple American menu inspire such easy indulgence. -Leah Eskin

SMOKED SIERRA STURGEON Breaking ranks with the strict architectural approach, this comes as a mound of grated apples draped with thin leaves of pinkish sturgeon, smokily reminiscent of bacon.

ASPARAGUS Someone in back must have spent a good 15 minutes stacking up the chilled asparagus into a little corral for the greens. Dismantling it was a treat.

ROASTED GARLIC AND CHICKEN TART Served in a miniskillet, like a dollsized chicken potpie, and graced by a naked thigh bone poking straight out the top. The same look Wilma Flintstone used for her bun. Nonetheless, the crust was flaky and the filling wholesome.

WRIGHT'S FLOUR-LESS CHOCOLATE CAKE Whoever designed the asparagus logged some time on this one too. The cake is cut into sticks and stacked, Lincoln-log style. A cross between the eggwhite fluffiness of a mousse and the chocolate density of a brownie.

BRAISED HALF MAINE LOBSTER Smart idea, this lobster released from the ordinary quick-steam-and-butter approach. Unfortunately, it was a little overdone, leaving it chewy.

FRESH WATER SHRIMP You might wonder where a freshwater shrimp spends its formative years. I did, causing some consternation in the kitchen, which eventually sent out the response: a lake in Alaska. Whatever. This big, fat lake-raised shrimp comes encased in potato shards, deep fried, and set upright, like a sloop navigating a wasabi sea. It's also very delicious.

PORTOBELLO MUSHROOM PICCATA The lopsided square of a plate provoked the interest of the potter among us, who flipped it overdripping artichoke wedges on the tablecloth--in order to check its pedigree: Limoges. We were impressed. But who would batterfry mushroom?

MEDITERRANEAN FISH SOUP Chunks of salmon, tender scallops, a few mussels, a shrimp or two swimming past hefty chunks of fennel in a thick tomato base. A case of the parts being greater than the whole.

CHIAPPETTI'S LAMB SHANK Looks like it slow for hours. Served he-man style on the bone, over some earthy roasted lentils. Good, but no match for the tender savory garlic perfection of the lamb chops.

ROASTED BANANA Like a banana only cooked.

MANGO AND APPLE TART Fantastic. Nearly melted steeped in caramel.

PECAN AND CHOCOLATE TART Deep chocolate smoothness and nut crunch united in syrup-free harmony.

Mango. at 712 N. Clark, is open from 11:30 to 2 and 5 to 11 Monday through Friday, 5 to 12 Saturday, and to 9 Sunday. Phone: 337-5440.

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