January 7th marked my first spontaneous interstate trip of the year. Kat and I decided to go to Sydney for the weekend. At first it was for not real reason other than accomodation being on sale but later on we booked ourselves a Sydney Harbour Bridge climb and suddenly our trip seemed more purposeful.
We were to arrive late on Saturday and I worked out that we'd have a total of 3 meals in Sydney, airport snacking not included. Being budget-conscious, we steered clear of the fine dining joints but instead wanted well-reputed cheap eats.
Mamak fit the bill perfectly. What's better (well, better for us but worst for some) is that they don't allow bookings so you literally just rock up and wait. I normally hate that in Brisbane but when I'm on holidays, I don't like to lock myself to things so not booking works out great.
We checked in at the hotel and walked the 2 blocks to Mamak in Haymarket. There was a bit of a queue, nothing horrendous. What was more worrying was the fact that the line didn't move for a long time. Luckily, we weren't famished and there was entertainment to be found in through the window - guys and girls were flipping roti like there was no tomorrow. No matter how many times I've seen this, it doesn't get old. That dough gets stretched so thin, it seems to defy the laws of flour physics!
When we got in, there was that usual feeling of awesomeness that is associated with being let into things, even though they eventually do that for everyone.
The restaurant was larger on the inside than we though. It was clean and upbeat. Nothing fancy in terms of decor. The atmosphere was buzzing with chit chat.
Once we got to our table, we started planning an attack on what to order. We asked for some roti and satay chicken, because these are their signature dishes. On top of that, we also got 2 'mains' - a Malaysian salad and some fried chicken.
Teh tarik and teh 'o' ais limau
For drinks, we tried the teh tarik and the teh 'o' ais limau. The teh tarik is described as classic sweetened Malaysian tea with a frothy topping. It had a nice flavor that reminded me of the tapioca pearls in pearl milk tea.
The teh 'o' ais limau is iced tea with a splash of lime. I found this very refreshing and it complimented the spicy Malaysian food we ordered.
Rojak - a Malaysian-style salad with prawn and coconut fritters, fried tofu, hard-boiled eggs, freshly shredded yambean and cucumber, topped with a thick spicy peanut sauce
Our rojak aka Malaysian-style salad arrived first. It was a stacked salad with layers of shredded cucumber and fried tofu plus other bits and pieces. I particularly liked the prawn and coconut fritters on top. They were like prawn crackers, but better. The dressing was a peanut sauce with lots of spices and a significant fish sauce tang.
Roti telur - served with two curry dips and spicy sambal sauce
The roti came next. We had ordered the roti telur, which is the classic egg roti. It was served with 2 curries for dipping and a sambal sauce. The roti was piping hot and nice and flaky. I liked both the dipping curries. Although the roti was very good, it didn't blow my socks off. We used to get this frozen roti at home and shallow fry in a tonne of oil - that stuff was a mix of roti and butter puff pastry. I think that's spoilt my appreciation of normal roti with less of a fat content.
Chicken satay - grilled over flaming charcoal and served with a sweet and spicy peanut sauce
The chicken satay arrived next. The individual satay sticks were smaller than I'd expected but it was alright because we were getting a bit full anyway. The chicken wasn't at all dry, which is quite an achievement considering how small they were. I loved the satay dipping sauce too.
Ayam berempah - bite-size chicken pieces stir-fried with whole spices
Finally, our ayam berempah arrived. This was different to what I had expected. I was picturing something saucy but it was more like... spicy unbattered KFC. I nibbled on a few pieces. Not bad but the chicken was a tad dry and this was too much like the satay chicken to be having it at the same time. I even used the satay sauce with these chicken pieces because it complimented so well.
Overall, Mamak was a fun experience (apart from the wait) and we tried some good food at excellent prices. I'm not convinced that it's worth all the hype though. I didn't find that it stood out more than most places in Sunnybank and none of them require a half hour wait just to get in.