Mundo has a chance to be very, very special. We usually do not go that far out on a limb for a place that has only been open a short while, but with the pedigrees involved in both the kitchen and in ownership, there were already high expectations, and so far they have been met.
This is the new incarnation of La Madonna, which had been a hit in their short time in business, at the new digs downtown in the World Market Center. The location, sadly, may turn out to be a hindrance – there is an ample draw at lunch time, but the area does not produce much foot traffic on weekend evenings. But the food is worth seeking out.
Robert Solano is the mastermind in the kitchen, and we see a lot of Yucatecan influences (he is from Merida), a region that does not get nearly enough play on Mexican menus in North America. But his travels have brought a balance of knowledge throughout the various regions of Mexico, and his own takes on many traditional classics show a high degree of inspiration. While they are even billing Mundo as a “Culinary Haute Spot”, our own take is that he is making some of those classics more Mexican, taking them closer to their true roots, instead of necessarily modernizing them.
Today’s lunch was a good example. The starter was a “Rose Petal Salad” that brought back memories of a long and lazy afternoon in Mexico City several few years ago (Los Girasoles, if you must have the details, right across Plaza Manuel Tolsa and the Museo National de Arte). When a lot of fresh textures and aromas are combined this way (including pomegranate seeds and pumpkin seeds) it is easy to lose the balance, but there was a deft touch that made it all work. Then a “Prime Beef Tenderloin Chile Relleno” that brought the flavors together sublimely. Not a battered and fried bastardized relleno, but a freshly roasted pasilla, filled with the tenderloin, roasted mushrooms, and goat cheese, sitting on a pool of smoked chipotle sauce. The beef was the ideal protein to let the two different chile’s play off of each other, with the cheese helping to balance it all together. On the side was “Chile Lime Corn”, which brought many of the flavors of buying a roasted ear on a street corner in Mexico City or Guadalajara – the corn had just enough char to bring a smokiness into play, and a mixture that included chile arbol, cotija cheese, lime and cilantro made it a terrific accent. If you dropped a few kernels into the smoked chipotle sauce of the relleno, it was a good clumsiness.
We have not had a miss on a visit yet, but had to temper the early impressions because of the particular fondness for this kind of cuisine (keeping biases in check requires diligence). But Mundo is filled with fresh and vibrant flavors, and if the location has the staying power there is the potential to go far beyond anything that Las Vegas has seen in terms of Mexican cuisine.