Restaurants & Bars 8

Mundaka in Carmel

Melanie Wong | Jun 26, 2012 08:43 PM

Earlier this month, Mom and I headed to Carmel to check out Mundaka. We had a sunny table by the side windows. It was interesting watch the shadows change as the sun went down, don’t know if the Transit of Venus impacted that.

The menu of tapas is quite extensive. We were told that it changes two or three times a week to reflect the seasons and local availability. We held onto one at the table, ordering a couple dishes at a time to test the waters.

I asked for cider, but sadly, was informed that no one’s importing Spanish ciders now. So, a glass of Cava for attitude adjustment.

The first dish, fresh softshell crab with slaw and foie gras aioli, turned out to be my favorite of the meal. Delicate batter, juicy and sweetly fresh crab, napped with luxuriously rich aioli, and a few fried potatoes, what’s not to like? The lightly dressed, crisp shreds of cabbage, radicchio and arugula had just the right zing to refresh the palate after each over-the-top bite of the crab.

The complementary Pa amb Tomàquet (tomato bread) was better than most other places that charge too much for their inferior offering. I loved the crunch of the Maldon salt.

This year’s asparagus season peaked late, and these grilled spears seized the moment. Cooked just enough to bring out the natural sweetness, the little bit of char on the asparagus was amplified by the nutty, smoky romesco sauce.

The scallop ceviche was the one real miss of the meal, despite the generous portion. The seriously overcooked soba noodles broke apart and the sweet bay scallops deserved more acidic lift and curing power, as well as salt. We did enjoy the very fresh greens and peas swabbed in the avocado cream and shellfish vinaigrette.

Fatty liver made a second appearance that at the time I thought would be my final taste of Sonoma foie gras. Seared and accompanied with beet gastrique and banana brulee, the puddle of bright yellow fat plus the beet red squiggle of sauce and curvilinear banana provided abstract art elements to frame the composition. Visually striking from this angle,
yet quite unappetizing when viewed from this perspective, the way it was placed in front of me at the table.

To my taste, this slab of foie was over-seared, verging on burnt and bitter. And the red core was inedible, cold, and oozing bloody raw. Yet this was a large piece for the price ($19.50), big enough to make some allowances and eat around the faults. The gastrique suffered from not enough acid to balance the richness of the dish and ended up tasting muddy. The brulee’d banana was just weird, a giant piece of neutral tasting filler plopped on the plate. Best part was the golden fat, and I requested some plain bread to capture all of it.

For dessert, Ginger cake drizzled with creme fraiche, pillowy and deep with spice.

Mundaka’s event calendar indicated live music starting at 7pm. However, the musician had not appeared by the time we left at 7:30. Perhaps he was on Spanish time. We were entertained instead by flickering movie projected on dining room wall

Our bill was presented in a red-labeled repro of an old time tinned seafood can. While this meal was not without fault, we agreed that tab of $87, inclusive, was fair value. Some slips in prep, but the ingredients were all pristine. I’m sure we’ll be back.

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