After Two-Year Hiatus, Beloved Queens Restaurant Mundo Returns to Grander Digs
Astorians have been lamenting the loss of Mundo (37-06 36th Street, Queens; 718-70-MUNDO) since 2012 -- before then, the globally influenced restaurant had been a local favorite, unique to the neighborhood for its seamless blend of eclectic influences. This weekend, it reopened in grander digs, co-opting space in the Paper Factory Hotel, which, with its reclaimed wood and vintage paper machine, hits all the rustic-chic notes beloved these days by New Yorkers. Mundo's space is situated on two floors, with an upstairs lounge and downstairs event space linked by a spiral staircase and an eye-catching tower of books. We stopped by to get a taste of its cocktails and tapas, which reflect a philosophy of healthy, borderless cuisine.
The opening night party featured entertainment that revealed owners Guillermo "Willy" Lucerofabbi and Canalp "Jon" Caner's international interests, including performances from Uruguayan pianist Gustavo Casenave and a duo of flamenco dancers, but guests seemed most excited for the trays of "Red Sonjas" going around. This vegan dish, a signature of Mundo in both its present and former incarnations, doesn't sound like much -- red lentils and bulgur in lettuce wraps -- but it's surprisingly flavorful: The pureed lentils are well seasoned, brightened with a squirt of lemon; they contrast texturally with the crisp lettuce.
Cheese rolls also present clever complementary flavors: They come filled with Bulgarian feta, and are dipped in sweet black and red raspberry melba to cut the pungency. Argentinian baked empanadas have a flaky, non-greasy crust and tender braised short ribs inside. A Peruvian causa stacks fresh crab atop intensely garlicky potatoes, and is satisfying despite its lightness.
The drink list is also globe-trotting without feeling scattered: the "Zen" livens up gin with the citrus kick of yuzu, and a pisco sour, topped off with egg whites, is perfectly frothy.
This manifestation of Mundo feels poised to serve both local fans and the visitors increasingly drawn to Astoria's newly designated arts district.
Mundo is open nightly for dinner.
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