Our family has been to Bali several times and I’m always hugely impressed by the fresh and flavourful cuisine we have there — and at such cheap prices too! I was therefore very excited to hear about Chef Will Meyrick’s foray into Hong Kong with one of his Bali-based restaurants Mama San, but didn’t know if eating Balinese food in the heart of LKF would really live up to the dream of a tropical paradise. After sampling Mama San with the hubby last weekend, I can say that both the food and ambience exceeded my expectations and for a few hours, I was transported to the beautiful Indonesian island with its fantastic flavours.
Mama San is nestled into a prime location on Wyndham street, with a balcony overlooking the busy street below. The dining room is decorated in soft wood tones with low lighting and an industrial warehouse ceiling and has that spacious-yet-intimate feel that’s perfect for a date night dinner. On one wall is a giant portrait of Mama San herself, who Meyrick describes as a “madam of authority in an Asian gentlemen’s club, who takes care of her girls with affection”. What does this mean in terms of the food? Well, we were about to find out!
I’m immediately drawn to the cocktail menu when it comes to more exotic cuisines — anything with lime, lemon or lemongrass is enough to put a smile on my face (or in this case, vanilla citrus!) The playfully named P.I.M.P has a vodka base with strawberry vanilla citrus topped with a thick peach foam. A very girly drink, indeed, with enough tang to offset the sweet strawberry vanilla.
We started off our appetisers with the beef tartar with sambal ulek mustard seed shallots served with homemade cassava chips and white anchovies. Usually I’m not a huge fan of consuming raw beef, but this was such a flavourful mash-up of vibrant, fresh flavours that just felt more like eating a gourmet chip dip rather than plain beef tartare. I especially loved the light pickly flavour of the white anchovies and the crispy cassava chips served on the side were a moreish combination. We consumed this in a flash and turned our attention to the next starter, a lovely sashimi dish.
The ginger and shallot sashimi with snapper and tuna was packed full of flavour but light enough to whet our appetites for the mains vs. consuming valuable stomach space! It was the perfect mix of sour, savoury, sweet and the pickled veggies provided a nice textural contrast.
The chicken and pomelo salad with lime leaf white coral mushrooms and sesame seed also hit the mark. The slightly chewy texture of the white coral mushrooms went perfectly with the tender chicken strips and juicy pomelo.
We rounded off our starters with soft shell crab rujak salad. I usually have soft shell crab in a sushi roll or with a papaya salad, so this preparation with green apple and tamarind chili sauce was an interesting spin on one of my favourite foods! While the green apple toppings was slightly too sticky sweet for me, the large chunks of soft shell crab were fantastic and packed full of flavour.
For our seafood main, we chose the crispy whole snapper with wild ginger turmeric pineapple chilli and tamarind. The fish was perfectly cooked and the sauce divine. I could have happily feasted on just this for the meal, digging away at the meaty flesh interspersed with juicy bites of fresh pineapple, but I exercised a bit of restraint as we still had the pork to come!
Our mouths tingling at this point with with the mix of pungent salty, sweet and sour flavours, we turned our attention to the beautiful “Babi guling” suckling pig with sambal matah. The fatty meat was literally falling off the bone, with the crisp skin intact for a juicy, meaty, flavourful bite — definitely one of the best dishes of the night!
For dessert we opted for the traditional black sticky rice with mango. Although I thought the mango was scarce (in my opinion, it should be an even ratio of mango to rice!), the warm, sweet sticky rice was on point and I definitely appreciated the addition of the ice cream scoop on the side!
Service was friendly and efficient, and the waiters were able to give good recommendations throughout the evening. All in all, we enjoyed a lovely meal and would definitely recommend Mama San to anyone looking for a tropical island retreat in the heart of Hong Kong.
Mama San, 1/F, 46 Wyndham Street, Central, 2881 8901; www.diningconcepts.com