I’m on a roll! Having blogged about Jamie’s Italian in Sydney, I’m now going down southwest of Sydney to Melbourne, yet another large Australian city well known for its culture and FOOD! I have previously blogged about cakes and such in Melbourne, and today, I’ll be telling you all about this awesome Mexican restaurant in Melbourne’s CBD which is by far the BEST Mexican food I’ve eaten anywhere ever. In fact, Jon concurs, and he said (and still says) it’s the best food he has eaten in Melbourne. I think so too. In fact, it is so yummy that a gazillion other people out there agree, so be prepared to queue, that’s all I can say.
Mamasita is perhaps one of the most nondescript places I have ever come across – its entrance is but a small door with a tiny sign that says “Mamasita”. The restaurant itself is located on the second floor. If you see queues snaking out of the door, you’d better be prepared to wait at least 2 hours because this means that the queue has snaked down from the 2nd floor, along the stairs and down to the street level. Jon and I probably waited for 2 hours or more, because when we arrived, the queue had just reached the door (which was a good thing since it was cold outside). If there are only a couple of guests ahead of you, you can opt to have drinks at the bar first before being seated, but we chose not to, because we wanted our empty bellies to be able to devour all that yummy Mexicana food!
There was just two of us, but we ordered heaploads of food because well, 5900+ other people on Urbanspoon can’t be wrong right? You can also check out the menu first, or you can get the friendly waitresses to recommend dishes for you. They will also kindly stop you from over-ordering (like they did in our case).
Mamasita is what I always imagined a Mexican bar to be like – dimly lit, smoky (not really in this case since no one smoked but it was the ‘feeling’ of smokiness if you get what I mean), and full of laughter and conversation. There are a few large communal tables, big enough for 8-10 people, and we were seated at a small tall table for two, on bar-top height chairs. Thanks to the long wait, the food does not take too long after ordering to arrive.
For starters, we had the Elotes Callejeros, which is a “street style” chargrilled corn with queso, chipotle, mayo and lime. It costs A$4.40 per cob, but it’s DAMN delicious. It was so delicious that we ordered another one after wolfing one down. Best corn ever.
Next, we had the tostaditas – I think we had the tostaditas de Carnitas (A$14) , which is a slow braised pork shoulder with jalepenos. A tostadita is basically a mini fried tortilla, but boy oh boy, these were super delicious and not soggy at all. And I cannot help but repeat myself – the proportions were perfect (ie the amount of meat to sauce to tortilla) and everything was seasoned so perfectly – the amount of spice to saltiness to sweetness is seriously perfect. To say that every bite is a symphony to the senses is not an understatement people! I also wanted to try the ceviche, which is a raw fish marinated with citrus and seasoned with chili etc because it was another popular item on blogs, but I figured it would something like sashimi and since I wanted to try the other food more, so that was given a skip.
The next dish was the quesadilla de Pollo (A$14), which was a chargrilled chicken with ‘pico de gallo’, coriander and queso fresco. If you have eaten Spanish or Mexican or Latin cuisine before, you will probably know that queso fresco is this creamy white cheese which is almost like a cross between cottage cheese, cream cheese and goat’s cheese. I love it, mainly because it is slightly tangy, just like goat’s cheese. Pico de gallo is in other words, another name for salsa, which usually contains tomatoes, onions and jalapenos.
Our mains was grilled prawns with toasted garlic and green almond sauce (A$24), or camarones gigantes al ajillo. These, as well, were perfect. The garlic was toasted to perfection – brown enough to have bite, but not burnt. The prawns were large, fresh and juicy, and mind you, not the type of juiciness you get from soaking prawns in alkaline solutions, which is a common practice locally. We also had a side of frijoles baked black beans (A$4.50) to go along with all that food, which was commendable but not as delicious as the other things we had. The level of mastery of food preparation at Mamasita is just crazy. I have had the privilege to try what I term atas restaurants or fine dining which impresses the hell out of me because of the crazy but complimentary food and ingredient pairings you get sometimes, but what seriously blows my socks off is how they have transformed something so commonplace and homely to something impressive. Just like how Jamie Oliver transformed the plain humble salsa to an explosion of flavours, Mamasita has mastered how to grill and cook the meats to perfection, such that it is still juicy, and the additions such as coriander or even the jalapenos are not just mere additions but thoughtfully included to increase the flavour experience. In fact, everything felt so perfect that I didn’t even had to add any additional flavourings (cue the hot sauce you see). It’s akin to having pizza – the pizzas I ate in Naples were so beautifully balanced that there was no need for additional parmesan or chili flakes or tabasco sauce.
For dessert, I chose to have the blue corn flautas with pumpkin mousse and praline, which I see is no longer available on the menu!! The flautas are basically flour tortillas rolled up in a flute, and then fried, much like the cannoli in Italian / Sicilian cuisine. These were extraordinary, because how often do you get to eat blue corn flour tortillas? They had a strong maize-ish taste, but it went so so well with the pumpkin mousse. Although everything initially sounded ‘earthy’ to me, I felt that the praline and dulce de leche tied everything together for a sweet finale.
There were so many other things I wanted to try and which I knew would be delicious (I know this has been repeated to death but I cannot find the right words to describe how good and fantastic the experience at Mamasita was), but alas we were just two people! Till the next time Mamasita! This will definitely be a fixture (alongside Prahran Market and Burch & Purchese) whenever I go to Melbourne!
1/11 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3001, Australia
Contact: +61 3 9650 3821
Opening hours: Mondays to Thursdays, 12pm to 12am, Fridays and Saturdays 12pm to 2am, Sundays 1pm to 10pm
Note: Reservations only accepted for groups of 8-10, but you will have to order their Chef’s Selection banquet