Old favourite gets an Asian twist

Crispy pork belly in sticky ginger glaze.

Crispy pork belly in sticky ginger glaze.

Published Apr 14, 2024


Mundo Vida

Where: 1 South Beach Rd, Umdloti

Open: Tuesday to Saturday 11.30am to 9pm, Sunday 11.30am to 4pm.

Call: 031 568 2286

An old favourite in Umdloti has had a change of management. Long-time owner Joni Wilkinson has sold, and chef Mourné Fourie is the new man at the helm. Many will remember him from his days at Hemingways in Glenwood.

Trevor and I decided to try it out one Sunday lunch.

While Wilkinson certainly had dishes that flirted with Asian flavours, the new menu has pushed things strongly in that direction. It’s a style that will help differentiate Mundo Vida from the many restaurants in the area.

Mussels in a white wine, garlic and parsley sauce.

Starters may include Chinese flat bread with spring onion and a Cantonese dipping sauce, or oysters dressed with ginger and soy. Fish cakes come with an edamame bean salad and have an Asian dressing and lime mayo, while salt and pepper calamari gets a tom tum aioli. Yakitori chicken wings feature. There are Vietnamese rice balls, either beef, prawns or crunchy veg and tataki, which is Japanese milk bread topped with beef tuna or salmon or miso brinjals. Poke bowls feature too, with salmon, prawn or chilli tofu. Vegetarians can also enjoy okonomiyaki, or Japanese savoury pancakes with white cabbage. Plus the extensive sushi menu remains, including some house specialities.

Prawn tails in chilli, lemongrass and ginger.

Under burgers there is a selection of bao buns with Korean chicken, brisket, pork belly and crispy tofu (I shudder). Plus there’s a katzu curry fried chicken burger with sesame mayo and green slaw and an umami beef burger.

Mains likewise show strong Asian influences. Slow-cooked brisket is done with a Korean rub with bone marrow jus, wakame salad and fries. Fillet gets a white miso beurre blanc treatment. Lamb riblets go Sichuan with pepper and lemon and a pickled red slaw. Line fish is served with spring onion and lime leaves on stir fried bok choy. And for vegetarians a selection of Buddha bowls adds interest.

Tuna ceviche with avo, peppers and red onion.
Prawn and ginger open wontons

But don’t worry: you can get a good, simple piece of grilled linefish and their famed peri-peri chicken and lemongrass steamed langoustines are still very much a part of the menu.

They have also kept the very good value two or three course specials menu with a selection of starters, mains (including a sirloin and red Thai seafood curry) and desserts, which is a good idea. Two courses are priced at R250, three at R295.

Trevor and I decided to try three starters each so that there was more to taste. We start with Saldanha Bay mussels done in a more traditional Euro style with white wine, garlic, parsley and cream (R120) which were lovely, the sauce having good flavour. They were served with Chinese steamed milk buns which tend to be stodgy. I would have preferred crisp white bread to mop up those sauces.

Duck pancakes with hoisin sauce.

I had a special of tuna ceviche (R99), which was more of a salad chopped up with avo, red onions and mixed peppers. Enjoyable flavours, although I would have left out the green peppers and included a few more of those crispy crackers to go with it.

Next was lemongrass chilli prawn tails (R150) for Trevor. The prawn tails had been pan fried in a lovely and powerful lemongrass sauce (as opposed to lemon), with lots of ginger, and were my pick.of the offerings. I tried prawn and ginger siu mai steamed open wontons (R110) which were enjoyable. Unfortunately they had cooled somewhat by the time the chilli and mirin dipping sauce reached the table.

Rooibos panna cotta with orange preserve and honey.

Next up were duck pancakes with hoisin sauce, cucumber and spring onion (R125). I always prefer to build my own pancakes because that way I can leave out the raw carrot (which I’m not fond of ‒ and incidentally wasn’t mentioned on the menu) and double up on the spring onion. These were pleasant but needed more hoisin sauce and the duck wasn’t particularly crispy.

I went for another special, the Korean pork belly in a sticky ginger glaze with sesame seeds, spring onions, crunchy lettuce and pickled cucumber (R110). This dish was all about expectations. I was sort of aware that I was ordering another salad, but I did expect the pork belly to be hot. Lovely crispy pork belly, and fabulous ginger glaze, but it really would have been improved if it had come straight out of the pan.

For dessert the crème brûlée is famous here. In fact it was Don Wilkinson back in the early eighties in the original Razzmatazz who popularised the dish in Durban. For specials there was some sort of bizarre ice-cream flavour, something like brown bread, or buttered toast, which I was tempted to try. Instead we shared a rooibos panna cotta (R100) with preserved bitter orange and honey which was excellent. (Although you could give me anything with deep marmalady flavours and I’d love it.)

By the time we’d got onto coffees it was late afternoon, having enjoyed an interesting lunch.

Food: 3 ½

Service: 3 ½

Ambience: 4

The Bill: R1 113 excl tip

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