Easy: you'd take 'em to Mundo.
Mundo is everything great about the 'hood in one little restaurant. The owners are from Turkey and Argentina, the staff is a mini League of Nations, and the menu features the comestibles of many lands. It's all served up in a space the size of a living room, with frequently changing artwork and a soundtrack of sexy international pop. The crowd of locals ranges from young people on first dates to middle-aged married couples to small gangs of birthday revelers.
Mundo's signature dish (it says so on the menu) is a concoction called Red Sonja. It's sort of a red lentil pâté, served at room temperature, and I've never had anything quite like it. You squeeze lemon on it, wrap it up in a lettuce leaf and eat it like a taco. It is outstanding. And it's vegan, people. Vegan.
Also free of animal products: the Peruvian Causa. I was slightly afraid to order it because it contained beets. Happily, the evil purple root did not overwhelm the other flavors in this beautiful tower of layered veggies.
When Mundo first opened, many of the menu items had embarrassing names. Thank goodness they rethought this (for the most part; there's still Red Sonja), because now I can order the carrot dip — the appetizer formerly known as Bunny's Fever — without mortification. It's one of my favorite dishes in all of Astoria: carrots grilled to the point of sweetness, mixed with garlic, olive oil and yogurt. If I have one gripe, it's that the pita always runs out before the dip.
Dr. Science and I generally order a bunch of small plates, but on a recent visit we tried one of the entrées. While I give Mundo props for offering a vegetarian version of its Ottoman dumplings, the filling was a bit too spinach-y for my taste. Dipping them in the yogurt sauce helped smooth out the flavors.
Mundo's uniqueness extends to its dessert menu. My favorite is the semolina helva, a dome of warm, nutty cake that conceals a small mound of vanilla ice cream.
|Semolina helva (with secret ice cream center)|
As if good food weren't enough, the staff at Mundo helps to create the feeling of a relaxed dinner party. Willy, the adorable Argentinian host, goes out of his way to make sure everyone is enjoying themselves.
Prices are quite reasonable; the bill for all of the dishes above, plus three glasses of wine, came to $84. So go ahead, take your evil alien overlords to dinner and span the culinary globe.