Lots of people know about Thai and Indian cuisine, but fans of spicy food should also try Indonesian. Mama San, a restaurant based on the Indonesian island of Bali, also has a branch in Central, and junior reporters Anne Kwok and Christy Cheung got a chance to sample their dishes and chat with the chef.
On the second floor of a rather unassuming building is Mama San, its name highlighted in a warm orange hue. It is a cosy space, dimly lit yet with subtle spotlights framing various artwork representing Southeast Asia. The ambience is casual yet upmarket, however the restaurant does get overly busy at peak times (Thursday and Friday evenings) which affects the intimate vibe. A spacious balcony at one end of the restaurant overlooks the busy roads of Central.
The restaurant is a branch of award-winning chef Will Meyrick’s Mama San in Bali. To begin with, I was a bit dubious of a Southeast Asian menu crafted by a Scottish chef, but Meyrick has travelled extensively throughout the region in search of traditional local recipes. The menu consists mostly of Asian fusion cuisines with a wide range of vegetarian and raw food choices.
Fish nachos with fish ceviche, Asian chimchurri, smoked chilled avocado and lime (HK$168)
The bite-sized cubes of lime-cured fish had a clean and slightly balsamic taste, contrasting perfectly with the intense piquant flavours of Asian chimichurri (a fresh, spicy sauce) and onion. Although a bit difficult to handle, it is a creative dish bursting with pungent flavours that will confuse and delight your taste buds, although the crunchy homemade nachos did get a little soggy from the sriracha and chilled avocado.
Flame torched Black Angus beef with miso eggplant, coriander and sesame dressing (HK$168)
The steak was done just right, and was exceptionally succulent and juicy. I loved the combination of bright sauce and savoury steak.
White chocolate mousse with vanilla ice cream & berries (HK$78).
The mousse was moderately sweet, most likely tuned down to appeal to Hong Kong taste buds. I decided Christy’s creme caramel was more exotic.
After this delicious meal, we had the opportunity to have a conversation with Chef Meyrick. How did he get ideas for such vibrant and unique dishes?
“I travel a lot around Southeast Asia, from Cambodia to Vietnam to Yunnan province,” he says. “I cook with a lot of old ladies who have decades of experience perfecting their dishes. I make recipes from them, or they give me their recipes. From there, I put in new trends from Hong Kong, orSingapore, depending where my restaurants are.”
Meyrick is someone who craves structure in his life, and the kitchen gives him exactly that. The ambience was nice, and the dishes were creative. In my opinion, the Mama San experience is great for anyone who wants to sample a large variety of delectable Asian cuisines in one location. It might not meet the expectations of a sophisticated connoisseur of Asian flavours, but they will still enjoy the bold flavours.
“Spice is addictive,” says Meyrick, and I have to agree.
Before our visit to Mama San, I didn’t have much experience with Indonesian food. Being such a foodie myself, I was excited to try out some Indonesian delicacies.
Northern Hill beef tartare with miso nam prik num quail egg and seaweed wafers (HK$158)
I had never seen raw minced beef served on a dish before, as it is not really done in Chinese cuisine. When talking to celebrity chef Will Meyrick , we found out that the dish was inspired by a dish called larb from northern Thailand and Laos, which is made from minced beef. The special thing about the Mama San version, is that rather than just curing it with lime juice, the chef adds sushi vinegar and miso to enhance the flavour.
Crispy whole snapper with three-flavour sauce, wild ginger, turmeric, pineapple, chilli and tamarind (HK$228)
This is one of Mama San’s signature dish, and for good reason. I was a little leery because the menu said it was spicy, but when it arrived, the aroma of ginger and turmeric made my mouth water. It was crispy yet moist, and the flavours exploded in my mouth. The best thing was that there were no small bones which made it very easy to eat.
Vietnamese creme caramel with coffee granita(HK$78)
I’m a big fan of coffee, so I was very excited for the dessert. It cam with a little young coconut flesh, which added a touch of white. The creme caramel was soft and melt-in-your-mouth, and was offset nicely by the mild bitterness of the granita.
Aside from the food, I was very impressed with the service. They were attentive and knew the dishes very well. The soft lighting served to create a comfortable environment for dinner. I would recommend this place to couples on a romantic night out, or friends who want an intimate gathering.