ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
One of the most talked-about new restaurants in 2010, when it premiered, Mondo is riding a new crest of popularity lately, and it’s easy to understand why. Owner-chef Susan Spicer initially wanted to create a neighborhood place, full of comfort food at moderate prices. But she also promised an international quality to a lot of the cooking–not surprising from a chef whose influences come from far afield. What comes of that mix is a cafe that on the low end makes great burgers and pizza, and at the high end is loaded with sophisticated bistro food.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
It’s hard to say which part of the menu is the better: the exotic or the everyday. Of this I am certain: the best beginning is a pizza, right out of the wood-burning oven. The dishes with a ring of familiarity are reliably delicious. The ones that make you stop and think may be more interesting than good. Ask detailed questions so you know what you’re getting, which is not always obvious. Good bar.
Susan Spicer is the celebrated chef and co-owner of Bayona, a first-class restaurant in the French Quarter since 1990. Before that, she was one of the leading chefs in the bistro efflorescence in the early 1980s. She lives in Lakeview, and has thought for some time about opening a neighborhood restaurant there. In 2010, she took over the original location of the Steak Knife (now across the street); it has been quite a few other restaurants since then.
The main dining room is a split-level space, with booths and tables lining up along curtained windows. A wood-burning pizza oven fronts the kitchen and is open enough to the tables that those closest to it can feel the heat. A terrazzo floor and other hard surfaces make for lively acoustics and an often uncomfortable noise level, particularly in the center of the room. (The quietest spots are on the platform in the back.) The dining room gives into a lively bar with more tables on the Harrison Avenue front, with a busy outdoor area.
FULL ONLINE MENU
House marinated olives with ciabatta
Deviled eggs (curry, basil, or traditional)
Gulf fish ceviche, guacamole
Thai shrimp and pork meatballs, lemongrass skewers, chili sauce
Butter lettuce, bacon and blue cheese salad
Roasted beet salad with skordalia and arugula
Mondo italian chopped salad
P.E.I. mussels, chorizo, grape tomatoes, sherry broth
Chicken liver pate
Brussels sprouts with bacon
Ancho black beans with queso fresco
Fresh Gulf fish, chef’s daily preparation
Vegetarian entree, chef’s daily preparation
Duck breast, creamed spinach, sweet potato, molasses mustard jus
Slow roasted pork shoulder, black beans, plantains and tomatillo salsa
Grilled Niman Ranch pork chop, green bean casserole, baby turnips, Creole sauce
Mondo burger with griddled onions and fries
Wood fired pizzas
Fried shrimp bánh mì
House cured beef pastrami on rye
Entrée salad of the day
Café au lait pôt de crème
Chocolate almond torte
Affogato (rum ice cream with espresso caramel)
FOR BEST RESULTS
Reservations are taken only for a limited number of tables, and then only for parties of five to eight. It seems that tables are easier to come by in the latter half of the evening. If you have to wait, order a pizza at the bar, and it will usually be ready as a great starting course once you sit down. Mondo suspends its Sunday brunch during football season.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Although the dishes with an exotic tinge are the most intriguing, a lot of it is still evolving. The assortment of dips and spreads needs to go back to research.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar +2
- Hipness +3
- Local Color +1
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Good for business meetings
- Open Sunday lunch
- Open Monday dinner
- Open some holidays
- Open after 10 p.m.
- Open all afternoon
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted