Last Sunday, I tried Malayan food for the first time, and planned to do it in style. The venue of choice was highly praised Mamak restaurant. I am not saying they are highly praised because I dig through news articles about restaurants: they make a point of letting you know that by filling their front door and windows with good reviews they’ve gotten. And, if reviews are not something you hold dear, having a line at the door might mean something. They do, and here it is:
So, the first thing I can tell you about Mamak is: if you can’t choose the time of your meal as to avoid peak movement, go prepared to stand in line for a bit. My friends were already in line when I arrived, but once I was there, it didn’t take too long. I couldn’t tell you if we were just lucky. Anyway, we were called to our table, and one more thing I can say is that the tables are packed together as much as possible, and there isn’t much room to walk around. We were left with the menus and set out to decide what to order, and the menus are a big help here; although it requires a bit of actual reading, there are vivid descriptions. We ordered roti telur bawang, nasi lemak, kari ayam, ayam goreng and ayam berempah.
Roti filled with eggs and onions, the entree itself is relatively subtle in flavour. You add the kick yourself with the two curry dips and the spicy sauce, if you want. The dips and the sauce are spicy, but not umbearable. Overall, a fine dish.
Described by the menu as “arguably Malaysia’s national dish”, this rice based serving may have been my favourite discovery from Mamak. The combination of the ingredients works very well – I suggest you try to grab a bite with a little bit of everything at the same time. You can make it spicy with the sambal sauce, but seeing as most of the dishes are naturally spicy, I found this to be perfect for cleansing the tongue. I am not the biggest fan of very spicy food, by the way. This dish allowed me to appreciate the meal without suffering an overdose of spicy.
I didn’t get to try this chicken and potato dish, but I can tell you something about it: my friend is used to spicy foods, and she could barely stand it. Definitely not my thing, but if you really love spicy, knock yourself out.
This one was pretty good, the least spicy of the mains we ordered. You can order per piece, or a dish of four pieces, which, as you can see, is a lot of food. It is worth it though.
Originally, I was going to choose the ayam goreng, but my friend went first and ordered it, so I changed to the berempah. This chicken dish is spicy, but gracefully so, I could enjoy it quite well. Although it does taste strong, it is possible to notice the details around it, rather than just the spicy component. In fact, I can say that what mostly won me over about Mamak is how, even thought the food is expectedly spicy, the “spicy” here doesn’t mean “only flavour you taste”. On the contrary, the food has nuance, and can appeal to people with varied taste. That is probably a big factor in the general success of the restaurant. For me, the combination of ayam berempah and nasi lemak was nearly perfect. When I go again, I’ll probably want to try something new, but I’ll feel tempted to repeat the combo.
Oh, yeah, I’m definitely going again. Because not only was the food good, the price is quite affordable. The mains range from $14 to $19. The service is the efficient kind, which doesn’t mean they’re not friendly and polite. The place is quite noisy, due to the great amount of people packed together. It is not a place for a slow, calm meal. This is the venue for excitment. If that’s what you’re looking for, go for it.
Mamak Chinatown is located at 15 Goulburn Street, Haymarket, Sydney.
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