This may be a bias review, but Mamak is arguably one of my favourite restaurants. I've been a customer on a regular basis for the past few years, and its freshly-made roti never fails to hit the spot.
If roti is foreign to you, it's a traditional Indian flat bread that has come to be appropriated by various Asian cuisines.
Mamak brings Malaysian street food to life, but you may have to wait a while before you take your seat, because bookings are not allowed. The restaurant is often hugged by a long line spanning down Goulburn Street towards Darling Harbour. The number of your party will be taken down by one of the staff, but tables of two will surpass larger tables.
But there is nothing wrong with the wait, with plenty to keep your eyes occupied. Specifically, the display of chefs making the roti in the front window, flipping and stretching until it's paper thin, coating it with whatever the order calls for, and finally, slapping it onto the flat stove top until it's golden brown.
The service is fast to seat you, greet you, and take your order. Vegetarian dishes always come out first, with orders such as the popular satay skewers taking a bit longer.
The roti comes in various combinations, from sweet, served with vanilla ice cream, to savoury, served with three selections of mild to hot dipping sauces. My favourite order is the butter roti, served flat, and spread with a generous layer of butter prior to cooking.
The drinks list includes the likes of iced milo, hot chocolate, fresh lime on ice; but something to worthily try is the Malaysian sweetened tea, which is 'stretched' by pouring it from great heights from one glass into another, leaving it frothy and light.
As a vegetarian, my options seem limited, but the staff are always happy to adjust menu items, although this does diminish the flavour slightly as their chilli is pre-mixed with shrimp paste. I tend to skip the vegetarian curry and order Kangkung Belacan (water spinach) and Mee Goreng. The boyfriend enjoys half and half of the chicken and beef satay skewers, which are served with a delicious peanut sauce; as well as the Ayam Goreng, which are giant pieces of fried chicken, and occasionally, the fiery Sambal Udang, comprising of tiger prawns in sambal sauce.
The dessert options don't miss the mark either, with more traditional options among more Western offerings. The most visually pleasing is the Roti Tisu, a tall, paper-thin cone sprinkled with sugar and butter. Best eaten with fingers, you break off a flake, add some ice cream, and it's a fantastically sweat clash of smooth and crunchy. Other options are roti filled with bananas, or a caramelised snail of roti that is sticky and sweet. They're the best way to finish of a meal whose wait was worth it.
Where: 15 Goulburn St Street Sydney NSW
Why: The freshly-made roti
Cost: Drinks: $3-$4; Food: $5.50-$19
When: Sun-Thur: 11:30am - 2:30pm, 5:30pm - 10:00pm; Fri-Sat: 11:30am - 2:30pm, 5:30pm - 2:00am
Good for kids: To an extent - generally a long wait for larger tables, and many dishes include chilli, but it can be taken out at request.
Take away: Yes, no delivery.