Dining Review: Konoba Mondo – Motovun, Istria (Croatia)
A top the hill of Motovun sits Konoba Mondo – a truffle specialty restaurant highlighted in Bourdain’s Croatia episode as well as our Airbnb host. Konoba is the name for a dining establishment like osteria or trattoria and practically every dining establishment in Istria holds the name “Konoba”. Watching this meal in Bourdain’s Croatia episode reminded us of everything we love about our northern Italy trips. I was hoping that a Bourdain stamp of approval did not mean the place was overrun – every review I read was glowing and the Airbnb host also gave her stamp of approval – Bourdain plus a local? That’s all I needed to know to secure a reservation via email.
Today we traveled from the USA, landed in Zagreb, Croatia, drove three hours to Motovun and were now sitting down to our first meal in Croatia starting with truffles – already off to a good start.
Konoba Mondo is located at the top of the Motovun hill. Luckily our walk up was not in the direct sun as we were able to preserve our non-sweaty selves for a nice dinner. The restaurant is easy to spot with large “Konoba Mondo” letters and mint colored shutters, complete with a picture of Bourdain at the front. The dining space takes up an entire corner and a terrace. Ambiance was wonderful, complete with a saxophone player.
We were handed the menu and pretty overwhelmed by choices – we were somewhere between starving when everything looks good and the inability to pick something (have you been there before?), we asked our very friendly server for some help navigating – when in doubt, let the servers help you decide.
For wine , we were quite clueless. Our wine tasting day was tomorrow so we were set to learn all the fun facts about Croatian wine then so for now we were stuck. It was so hot out and after the long walk up we were both looking forward to some cold refreshing white wine. Lucky for us, our server educated us that Istria is known for their white wine – a grape called Malvasia (Malvazija Istarska in Croatian). He recommended Tomaz Malvazija Avangarde and we happily accepted.
Malvazija is delicious! A very light, clean, crispy, and refreshing wine perfect for the occasion. If this was an indication of the wine tasting tomorrow, we were in for a great day.
Our bread course arrived with a black truffle olive tempande and fresh olive oil. I surprisingly enjoyed the olive tempande because the black truffles really overpowered in the best way. And to have fresh and bright gold olive oil again – what a treat!
To start, we ordered the Istian Plate for two. The description had no indication of what was included in such a dish so once again asked the server for some help – what is in an Istian plate? He explained that it was meats and cheeses from the local Istrian area – sold!
Just look at this beautiful spread! Oh we were overjoyed – freshly sliced Istiran prosciutto, cheese, two types of salumi, and a cheese fondue full of herbs (you are going to laugh but this cheese herb melted dish tasted exactly… EXACTLY like Max and Manco pizza at the Jersey Shore… insane I know but completely true – some one stole something from someone). Everything was delicious and we devoured it all, while sipping our wine, listening to smooth sax sounds. We were feeling particularly happy, proud, and lucky to be here. Moments like this are why we love to travel.
After a brief intermission of eating, our entrees arrived full blast of black truffle aroma penetrating our nasal cavities – oh it is just the best!
Tagliatelle with black truffles
It was hard to pick something other than traditional tagliatelle topped with a mound of black truffles. From the first to the last bite, it was incredible. There were enough truffles to ratio throughout the entire pasta. The sauce was the perfect consistency that provided a creaminess without overpowering the truffles – it really let the truffles shine. I was in love with the dish and was so sad for it to end!
Gnocchi with shrimp and black trufles
Kevin had a tough time deciding on a dish as many of the pasta options sounded great but he stuck to the black truffle plan and went gnocchi. The gnocchi were soft and light, the shrimp were a fun addition to change the texture and make the sauce more of a seafood creaminess, and of course, lots of black truffles. He was very pleased with his entree and as someone that ate quite a few gnocchi, it was delicious.
For dessert we ordered the semifreddo to share.
Semifreddo is a frozen desserts made of egg yolks, sugar, and cream. This dish came with a traditional hazelnut slice and a fun orange creamsicle one both drizzled generously with caramel. It was a nice light dessert that we both enjoyed! We were also brought out some grappa – mine was a sweet honey one which was actually quite good despite my distaste for grappa – it was not harsh and quite pleasant.
Overall, this one is a must do if you are visiting or staying in Motovun. We felt it was reasonably priced and the service was excellent. While this was a great first meal to have on our trip, it was also over the quickest! We could have definitely ate here again if we stayed longer as there were many menu items – including non-truffle items- that sounded delicious.