I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole ‘foodie’ concept lately, and I must admit, I’m really not a very good one. The portfolio of restaurants that I’ve been to can’t even compare to some of my ‘non-foodie’ friends and when people ask me whether I’ve been to so-and-so, my answer is usually “no, I’ve never even heard of that restaurant”. I’m so ashamed that I actually even call myself a foodie!
Since I wrote about High Tech Burritos last night and was desperately craving for some Mexican food, I thought to myself that it was time I actually visited one of the most popular restaurants in Melbourne – Mamasita (yes I know, can’t believe I only visited for the first time last night) – which serves delicious tapas style Mexican cuisine.
I’m sure most of you who live in Melbourne and know about this restaurant would be aware of the unbelievable queues at Mamasita during peak dining hours. As they don’t take bookings period, securing a table at this increasingly popular restaurant is sometimes next to impossible. That is, unless if you’re willing to wait up to 3 hours or so on a Friday night. I have heard that they’d take your name and call you when you’re next in line but thankfully I didn’t need to test this out last night. I was smart enough to visit on a Tuesday night and we arrived nice and early at 5:45pm, just ahead of the mad rush. Roughly 10 minutes standing on the dark and narrow stairway, we were promptly seated at a counter near the windows.
I wasn’t too happy about the lighting conditions as I had planned to arrive at 5pm but was stupid enough to have spent too long writing the previous blog post. The dark winter hours meant no natural light was present at all in this already very dimly lit restaurant. So my apologies for bad photos here.
The waitress asked me if it was my first time at the restaurant and I (shamefully) replied “yes”. She then proceeded to explain the menu to us and how the dishes are encouraged to be shared. I love the idea as I always share my food anyway – best way to maximise taste on my palate.
The first dish that we shared was the Elotes Callejeros ($4.90) which is chargrilled corn with queso, chipotle mayo and lime juice. I wanted to order 2 as I knew this was going to be a highlight of the meal and that the servings were not big by any definition, but Yuye stopped me. “We want to sample more dishes” was his explanation and that’s what we did.
It was absolutely delicious though and for a moment I really wanted to order another one. The corn was grilled to the perfection, keeping it juicy and sweet. It was also topped with plenty of cheese and packed a good chilli hit. Absolutely loved it.
The second dish that took our fancy was de Pollo Taco ($6) for one soft taco filled with chargrilled chicken, poblano & tamarind chipotle salsa. The taco by itself would not have fared as well because it was a bit too bland on its own. The chicken was cooked well but it somewhat just tasted like reasonably good BBQ chicken in a wrap.
Anyway, the salsa was the hit of the night for me. I’m so glad that Mamasita was generous with the amount of salsa provided as this added flavour to all the other dishes we ordered that night. It was just the right blend of sour, chilli and other flavours but I couldn’t quite pin down exactly what were the ingredients. A usual pico de gallo salsa recipe would include a whole heap of tomatoes which I couldn’t see, but I did taste the distinct onion, chilli, coriander and lime. Yuye said there was celery in it which led us to believe that Mamasita may have used green tomatoes instead of the usual red.
The next dish was my favourite dish of the night. It wasn’t hard to pick out because of the *ahem* crackling but overall our ‘de Carnitas Tostadas’ ($14) was the perfect mix of texture, taste and appearance. If you haven’t figured it out yet, it was slow braised pork shoulder, encurtidos (pickles), pickled jalapenos and chicharron (fried pork rind or aka P.O.R.K. C.R.A.C.K.L.I.N.G). I don’t need to say anymore.
Oh they came as mini bites of 4 on top of fried tortillas which I thought was totally not enough. I needed the whole plate to myself.
It was Yuye’s executive decision to not order any mains as they might have been too big, but he did make a mistake of ordering the de Cordero quesadilla ($16) – braised lamb, queso criollo, mint & jalapeño herb sauce. For a start, it wasn’t my favourite of the night as it lacked a little bit of flavour and kick like the rest of them. I felt it was a bit overpowered by the cheese and was a tad dry. It did go ok with the salsa from earlier though. The most important thing was the size – it was too big and made me full very quickly which prevented me from trying other foods. I think for next time, I will not order quesadillas but rather more tostaditas or tacos.
The final savoury dish of the evening was the Ceviche de Veracruz ($18) – snapper, tomato, olive, green chilli, lime & coriander, served with tortilla chips. I personally love sour things but Yuye doesn’t. This dish was VERY sour so take my word for it. However, I did like it and I ate most of it, but I did find it to be a bit too watery and there definitely wasn’t enough tortilla chips. I had to finish half of the dish with no accompaniment.
We were almost going to order more dishes but decided that we were too full. But of course, dessert was a different story. I ordered the Helado de Maiz ($6) which is sweetcorn ice cream cone with caramel and popcorn. It wasn’t the biggest ice cream I’ve ever seen, but it was definitely delicious. Not overly sweet but subtly corny, it was a perfect combination with the sweet caramel popcorn on top. My only issue was how quickly the popcorn was consumed and none was left for most of the ice cream!
Not sure if it was a good idea for Yuye to order a Margarita ($21) at this stage (as this meant I had to drive home) but I couldn’t have stopped him. It was the first time we had seen a margarita served on rocks and served in this type of glass. Mamasita boasts a wide range of imported Tequilas from Mexico and the selling point is that all the Tequilas are 100% agave. A regular margarita would have cost $17 with Mamasita’s house Tequila, but Yuye ordered a special one thus the $21. The brand is called Espolon and is apparently available from Dan Murphy’s.
We were impressed with the layer of chunky salt around the glass rim. Although we didn’t lick the whole thing, it was reassuring that it was there if we had wanted some saltiness in our mouths. The cocktail was stronger than we had expected as well which was added bonus.
I felt like our night ended rather abruptly and I had wanted to stay a bit longer to soak up the atmosphere. However, being well aware of the queue in the stairwell, we felt leaving right after the meal was the appropriate manners, so our night ended at 7pm – just as it was getting busy too.
With the bill coming to just over $80 for 2, it wasn’t expensive for such a popular restaurant, however, it also wasn’t something I could afford to eat every day. With that said, I am definitely going back to Mamasita again because I’m just so curious to try out their other dishes.
Tip: Make sure to go early if you want to avoid the long queues and go with the whole party because there’s no way you’ll be let in with people still arriving.
Question time: Do you consider yourself a foodie? Do a lot of your friends/relatives ask you for restaurant/recipe advice?
Phone: (03) 9650 3821
Level 1, 11 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000