Restaurant brings cultural flavor to tacos

A taco can undergo a reincarnation only so many times.

Not your average taco · Mondo Taco’s dishes seek inspiration from all over the world, so diners should make a point to try multiple flavors. – Eva Recinos | Daily Trojan

From tortilla varieties to wacky names, the taco looks different in every restaurant that tries to put a twist on the basic food form. Here to compete with the spread of taco innovators is the newly opened Mondo Taco. In a mid-city strip mall that also includes a donut shop and liquor store, the quaint restaurant serves up relatively inexpensive taco treats.

Mondo Taco specifically focuses on letting eaters travel the world through their meals. The menu lets your taste buds sail from Thailand to India, anchored by the common element of the corn tortilla. Twenty original recipes grace the menu along with the option of choosing a taco as a wrap or bowl.

Broken up into the categories of “crawls,” “grows” and “swims,” the menu presents enough variety for everyone from a vegetarian to a meat-lover to a seafood enthusiast. As suggested, the menu presents tacos that include something that either crawls, grows or swims and will soon be plummeting to the depths of your stomach — if you can handle some of the bold, sometimes overwhelming flavors.

The “Afrentina” will hook you on the first bite. As a culinary fact, anything slathered with the delightful, flavorful Argentinean sauce, chimichurri, cannot disappoint. The “Afrentina” doesn’t, holding on to its luscious flavor until the very last bite. Be warned: The juices might flow abundantly from your taco, so stock up on napkins. The soft Moroccan lamb perfectly absorbs the bold flavor of the sauce, making the taco one that will quickly disappear from your plate.

Continuing with the exotic food theme, Mondo also dishes up “El Greco” (“the greek” in Spanish). Chock-full of tzatziki, diced tomato and lamb, the taco proves a refreshing successor to the “Afrentina.” Though not quite as surprising in its flavor, it manages to mesh together Greek food standards into an adventurously yummy taco. The “Holy Mole” similarly plays with popular ethnic flavors, this time playing up the savory richness of the Mexican sauce. Slathered on chicken and then topped with sesame seeds, the sauce fills up your entire tortilla.

For those unfamiliar with the flavors, the taco packs just the right punch for a small dose. But for those who perhaps know the taste of homemade mole, the sauce will probably not impress. A mole chicken dish usually welcomes the addition of a tortilla. To native eaters, the taco also might seem like an easy dish. The same could be said for the “Afrentina,” but the tastes there are still undeniably satisfying.

Unfortunately, not all the tacos reach the same level of deliciousness. Among its other taco peers, the “Thailicious” and its flavors pale in comparison. On paper, the combination of grilled chicken, cilantro, onions and peanut sauce sounds heavenly, but when the taco appears, it looks more like one huge conglomeration of something indiscernible. The peanut taste abounds but stands as the only star of the taco, so after three bites, the taco gets dull. Though opinions might differ on the sauce flavor, the sauce undeniably feels heavy upon the first bite. Tacos, with their various ingredients or with one bomb sauce, should never feel repetitive. Sadly, the “Thailicious” does not keep the bites coming.

Fortunately, other risks on the menu work perfectly. The “Tokyo Shrimp,” with tempura shrimp, avocado and spicy mayo, feels light but filling and smooth yet spicy. The avocado complements the shrimp and the spicy mayo doesn’t overwhelm. The creation serves as evidence that Mondo can cover quite a few bases and really offer the best tastes from different worlds.

You can down your chosen taco with a variety of bottled and canned sodas as well as fresh juices that come in pineapple and watermelon flavors. The interior feels welcoming and homey, and the friendly workers make sure you get everything you might need.

The Mid-City gem might need to make a few slight changes to its menu, but overall, it proves a worthy addition to Los Angeles’ fixation with reinventing the taco. Instead of fighting over exactly what kinds of tacos you want to eat, bring a group of friends to this locale and give everyone a taste of impressively different flavors from around the world. You can even brag that you ate at the “Taj Mahal.”

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