TCN’s Peter Ellis on a nice little gourmet find tucked away in Umag.
The new vogue seems to be ‘Street Food’. Street food to me is falafel in Beirut, brown shrimps in Ostende, crab cakes in Bangkok , currywurst in Berlin, samosa in Mumbai, springrolls in Hongkong or the dubious hamburgers outside British footbll grounds. (I was once downwind of the factory that makes most of those – the smell is still remembered !) Most of what I see in fashionable restaurants is not my idea of street food that you could hold in your hand.
The food that Mundoaka offers in Umag seems to differ from that in the Zagreb original branch, whose advertising emphasises ‘streetfood’, although some dishes are similar.
In fairness, the Umag one does drop the ‘streetfood’ slogan, although that is what I was expecting after seeing the Zagreb write ups.
It wasn’t easy to find, even though I knew roughly where it was, as it isn’t signposted. It is on the coastal side of the Stela Maris complex at Umag, so necessitates negotiating one’s way past the barriers and through the holiday camp, where it is just north of the lagoon by the bridge.
The setting is beautiful, right on the sea. The holiday complex is somewhat down market, so my first impression on seeing the prices on the menu was one of surprise, as it isn’t cheap. (Kns250 for a steak )Then, again, the portions were big, which is unusual for somewhere upmarket. The restaurant is very stylish, right down to the monogrammed chairs.
My waiter was excellent. I was surprised to discover that it was his first waiting job; he’d been recruited for his Russian language skills, but I’d happily give him a reference for any upmarket restaurant. Clients are mostly Russian and German.
Being a curry fan, I chose the Empanada de Mundoaka, described as chicken curry with oranges and almonds, yoghurt – lemon dip and small salad as an appetizer. The very mild chicken curry was in two deep fried pasties. The salad was very exotic looking and included toasted sunflower seeds, although I didn’t see any oranges. It was filling, but I wished I hadn’t bothered , as it spoiled my appeite for my main course and lacked the bite of a proper curry. There seems to be some resistance in Istria to offering anything truly spicy.
The main course, on the other hand, was wonderful. I’d chosen home made Tagliatelle with Shrimps and Scallops in a spicy tomato concasse with thyme and olive oil. It was wonderfully creamy, albeit not noticably spicy.
The shrimps were plentiful fresh peeled scampi and the scallops were fresh, too. The tagliatelle was al dente and I was only sorry that I couldn’t finish it. Actually, considering the wealth of fresh scampi, At Kns100, it wasn’t dear and I’d happily have it again.
The bottom line is that if you choose just a main course carefully it isn’t as dear as it first appears and you will eat well. Everything is beautifully presented and service was good. They don’t have open wine but will sell you wine by the glass from a selection of decent wines.