We all know what a mama-san is in Hong Kong, don’t we? Just take a walk down Lockhart Road and, if you’re male and going solo, chances are you’ll get a few of these grinning older ladies trying to haul you into their seedy little nightclub dens for some overpriced drinks and, ahem, well, just use your imagination. But this new restaurant in Central is hauling in excited customers for a totally different reason. Great Southeast Asian cuisine, drinks which are worth the price and an atmosphere that screams class.
This Mama San doesn’t want you to get to know her girls. She wants you to get acquainted with her grills.
Dining Concepts, fresh off a raft of new openings like La Locanda and Toro, plus f***ing great news that British chef Gordon Ramsay is rumoured open a new eatery with the group in LKF Tower in September, has just opened Mama San on Wyndham and it’s been packed with punters since day one. Award-winning chef Will Meyrick – touted as ‘Western on the outside and Asian on the inside’ – is at the helm, creating a menu of innovative Southeast Asian dishes and an exotic atmosphere. It’s his second Mama San, with her glamorous sister in Bali becoming a smash hit.
Come inside Mama San
As soon as you get inside Mama San, you’re taken back to a colonial era – think Shanghai – with dim lighting, low wood ceilings and spacious tables in a moody-yet-classy industrial setting. And there’s Mama San herself – a huge mural gazing down on her punters. Meyrick has travelled across Asia many times, as can be seen with his collection of arty black-and-white photos plastered across the walls. And he’s enthusiastic about street food and traditional Asian recipes, so the menu is just as delightful as the décor. There’s Chinese, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Malay – hell, most Asian cuisines are present here. Just like the mama-san takes care of her dishes, Meyrick also takes care of his dishes in a pretty sexy way.
So, to start, we lay into the soft shell crab rujak salad ($108), which is a crunchy, fruity affair sporting plenty of mango, pineapple and peanut crumbs, as well as huge pieces of crab. It’s refreshing and delicately sweet, with the fried crab adding its inimitable flavour to the ensemble and a tamarind chilli sauce pepping it all up. We also plump for the beef tartar ($158, pictured above), which comes with a couple of white anchovies crisscrossed over the meat and cassava chips on the side. Man, when raw cow hits salty fish on a sturdy chip, it’s time to party. This is a great, fun way to enjoy beef tartar.
Babi guling suckling pig
The mains are the big pleasers in here. So we go all out with the ‘dhania ghost’ slow-cooked lamb shank ($228) and the ‘babi guling’ suckling pig ($288), with a side of slow-cooked beetroot ($68). The lamb is a little rubbery in places but some of the meat falls off the bone into a red, deeply rich sauce that works well with the chana dal beans and green chilli yoghurt. The pig is a huge dish which sees the meat cut into hearty chunks which make use of sambal matah Balinese flavours. The crackling is perfectly crispy and the pork full of flavour – and it all works with three Thai-inspired dips. And, frankly, the beetroot is even better – the wedges are huge, the garam masala and coriander combines expertly with the earthy root and the grated paneer on the top ties this accompaniment together with style.
To finish us off, we only have room for the lemongrass panacotta ($78) but, woah, it’s worth cramming in. It’s served in a glass, with the creamy concoction below a cucumber lime jelly and a lemon basil sorbet on top. The three layers, when mixed on the palate, are divine, bringing refreshment, cream and a wonderful citric tang together at the same time. The chilli lime margarita ($78) pairs really well with this top dessert.
So we can’t wax lyrical enough about Mama San. The fusion of flavours, the filling portions, the sexy setting and the decent prices all tick the right boxes. It’s all about satisfaction for your stomach and your senses with Mama San. Once you’ve tried her treats, we reckon you’ll be coming (back for more).
Soft shell crab rujak salad $108
Beef tartar with cassava chips $158
‘Dhania ghost’ lamb shank $228
‘Babi guling’ suckling pig $288
Slow-cooked beetroot $68
Lemongrass panacotta $78
Service charge $92
Total (for two) $1,020