Ever since Mundoaka opened its doors in 2014 it has been receiving huge attention both by the local clientele and travellers alike. If you’ve done your pre-travel homework and have carefully researched the Zagreb food scene (which we bet you haven’t, because who actually does that?), chances are you’ve stumbled upon Mundoaka. This place is a trendy and super busy hot spot located just a minute’s walk from the Ban Jelačić Square, in the heart of downtown Zagreb, at Petrinjska 2. If you wish to check what the fuss is all about be sure to make reservations, otherwise you’re in for a disappointment.
Even though Mundoaka markets itself as a “street food” joint, it’s not exactly a quick grab-a-bite-and-go type of eatery. The tiny interior with a central communal table, which is there to add a more relaxed and “social” (like elbow-to-elbow) feel, and their philosophy ‒ a properly cooked meal takes 35-45 minutes to prepare otherwise it’s not food with heart and soul ‒ certainly do not make Mundoaka your typical street food concept. However, we believe that they’re actually referring to the varied, creative, internationally inspired, freshly prepared food presented without affectation at reasonable prices, which is what the original chef’s (Tvrtko Šakota) basic idea was. Undeniably, Mundoaka’s significance on the modern Croatian gastronomic scene is tremendous. They showed up with their innovative ideas, clever recipes with fresh ingredients and unusual spices and marinades, and a considerable social media presence. Bind that with a fantastic location and there you go ‒ a clear-cut success formula worthy of your attention. Still, recently the situation in Mundoaka’s kitchen has been changing... Time will show whether it’s for better or worse.
When reviewing a place as hyped as this one, it’s not always easy to free yourself of some pre-set expectations and remain entirely unbiased. That’s why we decided to give it another shot after a couple of months, just to put things into perspective. When it comes to the perspective and expectations versus objectivity issue, let’s just not forget the fact that this is a blog and we have the luxury and liberty of being entirely subjective (plus our posts are not paid for or sponsored in any way).
The menu is pretty small and simple. There are usually four to five classics like boneless half chicken, pulled pork, glazed pork ribs, pizza with burrata and pata negra lardo, and a Sicilian grilled pizza, while the rest of the menu changes monthly. For example, this month under the starters section you will find a creamy pumpkin soup, gyoza stuffed with pork loin, leak and peanuts. There’s also a quinoa salad with smoked salmon as a perfect light meal option, while mains include a lamb grill fillet with a pink acidic root veggie salad, smoked and cooked boneless ham hock with homemade bread dumplings, a Granny Smith apple and horseradish cream (which sounds delish and it might make us pay another visit to Mundoaka) and red wine braised cabbage, a pumpkin risotto, glazed chicken wings...
If you’re seriously planning on eating there, you can visit their Facebook page for the latest version of the menu. As you will see, much of the cooking revolves around unpretentious simple food with rich seasoning that gives the food a refreshing twist. And we like the idea of serving food on a wooden board. It provides a rustic touch and it’s very convenient for sharing!
Our first visit to Mundoaka happened sometime in July when we had a team building lunch with a precious member of the Sinful Spoonful blog ‒ Marijana ‒ our proofreader and line editor. For starters the three of us shared two empanadas stuffed with chicken curry, almonds and oranges served with a small root veggie salad. It was a pretty small bite, nevertheless, packed with intriguing flavours and textures ‒ the crispiness of the empanada dough worked nicely with the meaty centre which was gently balanced with a hint of acidity from the root veggie ribbons salad.
The mains continued the “flavours of the world” narrative, especially in Katarina’s baked salmon with miso marinade, served with jasmine rice, homemade pickled veggies and a sweet and sour Gomashio sauce. The fusion of these rather unusual spices and aromas was declared the winner dish in our little group. Barbara wished she ordered the salmon instead of her fried crispy pork loin with cheese cream, coleslaw and toasted pumpkin seeds, but the dish satisfied her palate on the whole, even though it wasn’t as memorable as she wished it would have been. Marijana decided on the salmon patties with homemade dill mayonnaise and a small root salad and was left pretty much unimpressed. According to her, the flavours were a bit plain and unremarkable, at least when it comes to patties.
We spontaneously popped in for the second time three months later. We didn’t make reservations but were feeling pretty lucky and indeed, we did get a spot on the terrace. By the way, during the warmer months you can sit on the big outdoor terrace, but it’s always crowded so reservations are a must. Unless it’s your lucky day. In the mood for some chicken, Katarina ordered a Mundoaka classic ‒ marinated boneless half chicken, served with harissa sauce, sautéed sliced potatoes and a creamy salad with roasted seeds. The chicken was tender and tasty with exceptional seasoning. Katarina didn’t like the harissa sauce (while Barbara did), the potato side dish was tasty, as well as the creamy salad, but the chicken was outstanding thanks to whatever they put in the marinade. Pure gourmet heaven. Which is fascinating, since chicken (especially chicken breast) tends to taste pretty one-note boring and bland. Not here, nope. It was a beautiful dish, apart from the harissa sauce, which was too intense on the palate.
Barbara’s choice was a grilled tuna steak with cashews, wasabi and cucumber cream, served with couscous, green beans and chermoula sauce. The steak was light and the rich aromas elevated the dish beyond the average, making it quite bold and flavourful and putting a smile on Barbara’s face.
Although not all dishes are absolutely mind-blowing, the boldness in combining the flavours, textures, the way they play with the aromas and present the food makes Mundoaka an inspiring casual dining spot worth a visit. The prices are a bit higher compared to the real street food venues, with an average 10 euro for the mains, coming closer to Zagreb bistro’s average pricing. We hear the desserts are amazing as well, but there was no room after the hearty mains. Maybe next time... And there will definitely be a next time!