Genetics has made me the anti-Bourdain. A few chronic conditions, high cholesterol among them, prompted me to adopt a low fat vegetarian plus fish diet over a year ago. Hardcore stuff, no meat, no cheese (damn, do I miss Ruthie’s Texas Sausage pizza) little or no gluten and less than 15 grams of saturated fat per day.
Fast forward. I lost almost 30 pounds, feel a lot better, was able to ditch a gaggle of meds and learned how whip up a good number of tasty vegetarian meals — albeit with a lot of chopping. So when I learned about Mundo Vegan, (vegan, organic, non-GMO fare) I was intrigued.
We visited Mundo Vegan on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The space (formerly inhabited by the Stock Pot) is clean and simple. The soundtrack for meal was an interesting blend of flavors — American standards, new music and Latin influences. Chef Fanny Fuentes-Phalon also infuses her food with her Latin heritage.
There’s also a curious physical map of Pennsylvania and New Jersey on the south wall. Is Christie planning to go Putin on us and annex the Quaker State? I can hear his reasoning— “There are a large number of Springsteen fans in Pennsylvania and we must protect them,” but of course, I digress.
Eager to try the food, I started with Mundo Vegan’s red juice — a harmonious mix of kale, carrot, lemon, beet apple, celery, lettuce, zucchini and pineapple juice. The sweetness of the apple and pineapple balanced out the usually strong flavor of the beets.
My partner had Fair Trade Catskill coffee with homemade organic almond milk. How’s that for a mouthful of political correctness? The iced brew had a rich flavor, and with the almond milk, reminded me of a kinder, gentler Thai coffee.
We shared two appetizers: a vegetable soup that shimmered with quinoa, and packed oodles of veggies — carrots, celery, onions, tomato, sweet potatoes and zucchini — into a savory broth; and organic mushrooms mildly spiced with pan fried garlic slivers and served with house-made tortillas. The rustic tortillas, cut into triangles, were perfect for scooping up the earthy mushrooms.
Now we’re heading into the bare knuckled, no holds barred veganmania —the entrees. My partner opted for the lasagna, organic cashew and sprouted tofu ricotta, homemade sauce, served with a side of sauteed Lacinato kale and slices of avocado. As an Italian from Queens, I have had my share of lasagna and this cheese and meatless miracle was pretty darn good — even Matilda Cuomo might like it.
I had the Masitas, an old Cuban favorite originally with pork, but prepared here with gluten-free sautéed seasoned protein, topped with a raw organic cashew cilantro creme sauce and served with organic brown rice, red beans and kale. The sautéed protein cubes tasted much better than their name and played nicely with the cilantro creme sauce. They weren’t pork-flavored wannabees. These cubes were proud to be vegan fare. They had a garlicky flavor and slight chewy texture that made the meal hearty. The brown rice and beans, cooked to perfection, added to that heartiness and made the meal satisfying without that stuffed-to-the-gills feeling. The kale was a tasty foil.
Desserts also did not disappoint — an apple crisp was good, but the lemon quesadilla (don’t be fooled by its name — it is cake) made with homemade almond meal and topped with a warm maple berry sauce was superb — the tart and sweet flavors of the lemon and berries playing off each other perfectly. Also worth trying: the chocolate “ice cream,” made from coconut. Creamy and sinfully rich — a treat for those of us who have given up dairy.
There wasn’t a speck of food on any of our plates — everything was that good. The friendly server (the entire staff was attentive and welcoming, creating a feel good vibe that went beyond the delicious food) says the clean plates are a common occurrence.
Bottom line: If you want to live long, eat healthy. If you want to eat very healthy food that also rewards your tastebuds, give Mundo Vegan a try.