15 Goulburn Street
tel: 02 9211 1668
The Chinatown in Sydney is what you expect it to be (if you’ve ever visited Chinatowns in NYC, Boston, DC etc.) Bustling asian eateries with cheap prices and even cheaper appearance. Yes, there are fancy restaurants but the decor often borders on gaudy. However, with the myriad of exotic and fresh ingredients, along with a rich and diverse cuisine, you WILL find great food. Especially at the Malaysian restaurant Mamak which stands out not only in the food but also in every area where its Chinese neighbors fall short. The constant lines out the front door had us skeptical at first but our minds and stomachs were soon changed.
To be brief, Mamak has delicious authentic Malaysian food at a very reasonable price. You will find yourself eating with a diverse crowd of Aussie eaters in a simple and stylish dining room. Great food, service, and atmosphere that pulls everyone in. Not a simple feat in Chinatown but Mamak nails it and they will be a model to follow for the upcoming ethnic restaurants to imitate. The line out the door is there every night for a reason. Best Malaysian food I have ever had and definitely one of my top 10 eateries of all time. [Detailed review below]
The star of the show is Mamak’s roti. The skillful art of making it is proudly displayed through large glass windows on the front of the restaurant where a team of black-t-shirt-clad chefs churn out various rotis with ninja-like coolness and precision. The roti canai arrives steamy and supple; Mamak’s freshly made roti also has the added texture of crispness. Along with the 2 dipping curries, this is a must have appetizer or with a few more orders, a very satisfying entree. The 2 curries are very tasty on their own: the red curry is spicy, savory, with a hint of fishy saltiness contrasted by the yellow curry’s lentil with flavors of anise and fennel and a slow burn on the tongue.
Nasi lemak w/ curry chicken (as served)
Nasi lemak after mixing
The nasi lemak could be a slightly intimidating for the squeamish but for the more adventurous palate, it is a texture and flavor kaleidoscope. Soft egg & crunchy peanuts; mellow rice & fried whole anchovies, spicy sambal and fresh cucumber: pairings that contrast and complement each other make for a delectable dish.
Murtabak w/ lamb
The Murtabak is part roti and part egg omelette. Filled with either chicken or lamb, it is a formidable dish that is filling. I would have preferred the roti shell to be crispier but it may not be possible to achieve with the moist egg filling.
Chicken and lamb satay
How can you choose between lamb or chicken satay, it’s like asking you to choose your favorite ice cream flavor. Instead, you do the smart thing and get both. While, Australia is partly known for its lamb, the lamb satay wasn’t all that spectacular whereas the chicken was supremely delicious. Look closely at the picture to see some sort of residual plant fiber from the marinade. Is this the secret to great satay? Probably not, but the dipping certainly sauce helps. This sauce ROCKED! Resembling a loose chunky peanut butter with sambal, it is crunchy, salty, slightly fishy, oily, and sweet. You can dip anything into this sauce and it will taste good: durian, stinky tofu, even celery. Another must-order dish.
The mee goreng is a fried noodle dish and to be honest, I don’t remember much about it; I was over-stimulated from all the crazy-good food (and perhaps a brew or two). I do recall the dish being delicious like the other dishes but as far as noodles go, I am a BIG fan of handmade noodles. These weren’t it. That’s okay because handmade is difficult to do and they never called them such. Still, a worthy dish to order if you are a noodle lover.
I suspect Kari ikan means curry fish because as you can see, that is exactly what it is. The fish was a heavier fish (
mackerel?) because it has to stand up to the hearty curry soup. It was very good, although the curry seemed to resemble the roti curry. This kari with a bowl of rice and some roti would be perfect anytime.
The roti, marinades, and dipping sauces were excellent.
Filling dinner for two (guys) for less than AU$20.
One of my top 10 best meals.
Be prepared to wait, the line will be longest when you are hungriest
Mamak is located down unda’, far away from Joisey.