Wilmington Restaurant Review: Mona Lisa Euro Bistro Brings Western Europe to Little Italy
While some authentic Italian dishes remain from its original incarnation, the restaurant’s overhaul includes exotic ingredients and European classics.
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More outré fare? Sure. Hook presents a daily tartare preparation, and among the best was his stripped down assemblage of cubed tuna. Refreshing and piquant, the melt-apart tender fish found perfect accompaniment in a simply dressed arugula salad. I enjoyed the same swath of simplicity in his potato pancakes—nicely thick, tender and toothsome, topped with an artful gravlax rosebud, apple compote and sour cream.
But in Hook’s quest for Euro classics, a few bumps appeared. Plating, on occasion, looked sloppy, thanks especially to his frustrating adherence to the very-80s practice of garnishing the rim of each plate with chopped parsley and other bric-a-brac.
I can’t imagine roasting a Cornish game hen to order, and mine arrived dry and overdone. Accompanying Belgian frites, stacked high in their newspaper cone, were equally cauterized, unappealing and black, while far below, a handful of spring peas clung together in a gluey bacon-infused, well, slime. Offering a half-dozen varieties of mussel pots is very bistro indeed, but the limp and one-dimensional Provençale broth that pooled beneath mine was not. And a bland curry sauce laid siege to my otherwise tender “crispy” frog legs, effectively erasing their crisp in the process.
The youthful and attentive servers were still learning their way through the geography lessons this summer (oysters fresh from Nova-Somewhere? gave one waitress fits), but they managed their way through.
In many respects, Mona Lisa Euro Bistro reminds me of its downtown neighbor, Juliana’s Kitchen—Edwin and Juliana Jimenez’ homespun ode to Peruvian cuisine. When it opened in 2010, the idea of ceviche and picarones sharing turf with meatballs and panzarotti seemed radical. But the couple’s devotion to family and flavors made them a natural fit. The same applies to Tom Wechkul’s legendary Bangkok House. Wechkul arrives at festivals and cook-offs with a Thai twist to whatever Italian theme organizers have dreamt.
For the growing Macq family, acceptance into the Italian community begins at home. Besides, a little genetic diversity is good for an ecosystem, no matter how strong the traditions.
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