Thursday, 11 August 2011

Mamasita, CBD.

Even if you possess only a modicum of Melbourne restaurant knowledge, you'd be aware of the uber, crazy, insane hype surrounding Mamasita. To be honest, if you have read The Age or caught a tram/train in the past year, then chances are you've read about or overheard adoring reviews of Mamasita. Open since February 2010, Mamasita has been in the (foodie) headlines for two reasons: its authentic Mexican cuisine, and the no booking policy which sees prospective diners waiting for hours (but really!) for a table.

Skeptical is my default setting, and I couldn't understand how a year later Mamasita's scorching status was still going strong. My sister G was in town for a few days, so we figured we'd see what all the hype was about. Arriving at an almost unreasonably early hour for dinner (five), we nabbed two seats overlooking the Collins Street rush hour with little trouble.

A jug of sangria ($38) to loosen tongues...

The food at Mamasitas is largely based on the shareplate concept, so we picked a couple - I use the word 'couple' very loosely - of items which tickled our fancy. The menu is scattered with Spanish ingredients, but the staff are knowledgable and happy to share it round.

To begin, the famous Elotes callejeros - chargrilled corn, queso, chipotle mayonnaise and lime ($4.8). Hands-on food at its best: juicy kernels popping in your mouth, the finely grated queso (read: cheese) melting at a perfect rate, a pleasant mingling of spicy, tangy and sweet.

The Ceviche de at├║n - yellowfin tuna, blood orange, avocado, pickled jalapeno, lime, coriander and toasted sesame seeds ($16) followed. Ceviche is traditionally a Latin American dish containing raw fish and served in a semi salad, semi soup style. The flavours were bold, lip-pucker-inducing and addictive; the texture of the fish was firm and intriguing. Very refreshing!

G, with her aforementioned love of offal, couldn't go past the de Lengua y Mejilla taco - braised veal tongue and ox cheek, pickled vegetable and ghost chilli mayonnaise ($6). The reviews were positive, although the hit of the ghost chilli is something to be wary of...

Next up, a serving of tostaditas, crunchy morsels of fried tortillas topped with various tasties. We opted for the de Carnitas - slow braised pork shoulder, encurtidos (read: pickles) and jalapeno ($14). Braising is such an underrated technique; granted, it takes time, but the result is tender slivers of meat which just melt in your mouth.

The winner of the night were the quesadillas - fillings sandwiched between two tortillas and grilled until crisp and the queso (yes, there is and must always be cheeeeese!) is oozing out... the truffle/mushroom/queso combination (alas, I have forgotten its name and precise ingredients) is a must have. Earthy, cheesy and cut by the crunchiness of the tortilla, it's definitely worth ordering more than one!

And...dessert. For there is always dessert when you eat with me! We settled for the Frituras de manzana - apple fritters, vanilla pear sorbet ($9) and the Pastel de chocolate - flourless chocolate cake, white chocolate and tequila sauce and PX jelly ($11).

The vanilla pear sorbet was refreshing and nothing beats a well executed hot'n'cold combination. Well, nothing except for this cake, which was probably suffering from an (amazing) identity crisis: 'They call me a cake, but I have the richness, intensity and texture of an orgasmically good dark chocolate truffle/ganache. Oh woe is me!' Don't worry, we promptly put the cake/truffle/ganache out of its misery.

A brief and somewhat irrelevant aside: I used to think Pedro Ximenez (PX) referred to the name of a person and not a type of sherry. I could never understand why this 'guy' was constantly popping up all over menus and in restaurants. Luckily for me, a waiter cleared my misunderstanding through fits of laughter a year or two ago. Makes for a good in joke with the sibling, I s'pose.

We left at seven pm, and by that point, there was a fairly considerable line snaking down the stairs. (On a Wednesday night too!) The food is definitely the kind you'd be willing to travel and wait for, but I'm not sure my patience would hold out for hours in a city like this. Though, those quesadillas were damn good...

Tip: As they say, 'go early or late, or be prepared to wait!' Going early equates to around five pm, and late is probably around ten pm.

Level 1, 11 Collins Street

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