Tucked away near Chatswood station, throngs of people gather in the brisk night air. Almost exclusively being selected to enter the establishment, people wait eagerly as the crowd is filtered in as customers leave. With every opening of the door, the smell of hot spice imbues the air and disappears as quickly as it comes. Mamak is a Malay-Indian restaurant with the soul of Malaysian street food. A bright red sign attracts customers like a moth to a flame. With acrobatic performances by kitchen staff, tossing and twirling translucent sheets of dough in the window to keep both the customers inside and outside the restaurant entertained.
The creation of the roti is a spectacle of gymnastic proportion
Slightly ebbing closer, my stomach begins to rumble. As I linger near the doorway, I discover the multiple awards listed in the window of the restaurant. Awards from Urban spoon, Everyday Eats, Sydney Good Food Guide and Lonely Planet; among glowing reviews from the Sydney Morning Herald, Travel and Leisure, The Weekend Australian and the Telegraph. Peering into the window I noticed that every table was full. Steaming bowls of spicy curry and smiling waiters symbiotically working together to create the atmosphere of a busy market place in Malaysia.
The line into Mamak is long but worthwhile
Once let in a murmur of buzzing people fills the air, quick service and our first meal is ready to order. Without a doubt the most famous meal in the establishment takes the form of a crispy dough ball with a fluffy steaming centre. Roti Canai ($5.50) is created from a thin layer of dough twisted and twirled as seen from the kitchen into a small ball of warmth and comfort. Served with lentil curry, a tangy fish sambal and fish curry to compliment the dish. This starter will be the first and last stop for many customers. Although spicy, the dish will cater to spice fanatics to those with a more sensitive taste bud.
Moving on, and I ordered a serving of Kari Ikan ($17), Kari Ayam ($16), Rojak ($14) and Nasi Goreng ($12) in creating an elaborate and playful meal experience. Each dish finds itself to my table in a quick fashion, and made the experience not only a tasty delight, but also one with little to no waiting time.
To begin the Nasi Goreng oozed smokey flavours of grain rice, mixed together with an assortment of crunchy vegetables, and was finished with crushed peanuts and spring onions. The taste tantalised your taste buds as you dove into the Kari Ikan and Kari Ayam. The Kari Ikan is a tangy fish curry cooked with fresh tomatoes, okra and eggplant, and is the key dish within the establishment. The liquid from this curry accompanies the Roti Canai mentioned earlier. Moving on, the Kari Ayam is a chicken curry cooked with freshly ground spices and chunky potato, like deja vu. The lime infused spice aromas which perfumed the air of both the restaurant and teased my senses in the line outside made its way onto my plate; steaming hot and ready to be consumed.
Kari Ayam a spicy, tangy chicken curry
Kari Ikan, fish curry to tempt the senses
Needing refreshment from all the spice, the Rojak came as a welcome surprise. This Malaysian style salad is a volcano of prawn and coconut fritters, fried tofu and hard-boiled eggs, and topped with a sweet/spicy peanut magma over cucumber chips. The igneous styled coconut fritters add the spice to the sweeter, refreshing cucumber and peanut sauce.
Rojak, a towering volcano of refreshing cucumber and peanut magma.
Finally after a couple of glasses of fresh water, the meal comforts you into a sleepy daze, but before the end one last trip to the dessert section leaves you with a completely satisfied visit. Roti Tisu ($10) is a paper-thin pyramid of extra crispy roti served with a plump ball of ice cream. Layer by layer peeling at the monuments sides, each flake is as light and sweet as the next, so as not to overfill but satisfy as your final meal.
Roti Tisu, a pyramid of crispy, sweet roti served with a plump snowball of ice cream.
Mamak is a down to earth establishment, with all the intrigue of an exclusive club. With prices ranging in Entrees from $5 - $12, Mains from $14 - $18 and Desserts from $8 - $10 - the overall experience is worth your weight in gold, without the pressure of shelling out this weeks pay. Like home cooking in Malaysia, the food is spicy and comforting with quick, polite service coupled with a smile. The only downfall is when the whole dining experience comes to an end. Mamak is a great place for families, friends or even for a meal on the go. Take your stomach on a trip through the cavalcade of spices, and discover the mysteries which lay ahead at Mamak.
Where: Shop P9/1-5 Railway St Chatswood NSW
Why: Brilliant atmosphere. You're taken on a tantalising taste journey.
Cost: $5 - $18
When: Lunch 11:30 - 2:30. Dinner 5:30 - 9:30. Open til 10:30pm (Fri & Sat)
Good for kids: Yes
Take away: Yes. Online menu also available.