Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cafe Love - Mamasita

I'm a believer that you appreciate things more if you have to wait for them. Maybe it comes from a childhood in a big family where new things came only when the other was worn out and absolutely required, or on birthdays and Christmas. Even new sneakers were cherished because the old ones were so very far from bright white and pristine by then. Not everyone agrees with this of course, and in the case of dining out, you lose some people if they have to wait too long for a table. They'd rather not go at all and I can see where they're coming from (I sometimes scream inwardly when restaurants don't take bookings).

A bustling Mamasita on a Friday night in January.

Last year I was part of the throng of Melbournians who literally couldn't wait to get into the hottest, new Mexican joint in town - Mamasita. After work one evening I led some then colleagues up Collins Street thinking we had a good chance to get in as it was just before 6pm. Wrong. The wait was 45 minutes and we were really keen to catch an early movie at the Kino so we returned down the stairs from which we came, sulking just a little. 

Mamasita doesn't take bookings except for groups of 8-10 so I waited and waited for an opportunity to go again and then seemingly suddenly I was eating there before an impromptu Friday night movie date with the Mister. The place was buzzing and my excitement at being there didn't rub off, even after standing at the bar waiting (and drinking). The staff were so pleasant that it made the experience even more of a pleasure.

I read one review that complained about the noise but that was actually a plus for me. The place sounded like it was positively humming with patrons delighted just to be there. A young and boisterous sound, much like the patrons celebrating the end of the year's first week.

Elotes callejeros - ““Street Style”” chargrilled corn with queso, chipotle mayonnaise & lime. $4.40 each.

We watched everyone gnawing on the corn (pictured above) so when we were shown to our seats this was quickly picked from the menu. Fresh, simple and tasty. Perhaps this dish sums up my Mamasita experience. It's a little different from what I usually eat (ie cheese and chili mayo on corn) but it wasn't surprising. My tastebuds weren't  screaming in pleasure, just happily enjoying the fresh, simple and tasty food.

Tostaditas de Pollo - chargrilled chicken, avocado, queso fresco & chipotle mayonnaise $14

The tostaditas de pollo were nice. Sorry for the boring sentence but they didn't inspire grand strings of glowing adjectives. Again, they were fresh and tasty. Just writing this makes me think I should have tried some of the spicy sauce on the table. Not that I've got a great tolerance for hot spice or chili, it's just that all the dishes needed a little extra 'wow' factor. The thing that got me really excited about this dish was the display board (see bottom of post).

 Tacos de Camarones - Marinated prawns with habanero chillies & chipotle almond salsa $7 each

The prawn tacos (above) were my favourite dish of the evening - the prawns were juicy fresh and the salsa flavour came through without overwhelming the prawns. I hate when you can't taste the delicate flavour of the prawn due to excessive sauces or other additives.

Cordero adobado al horno - roasted lamb with red chilli adobo sauce, preserved jalapeno & mint $28

Due to our rush (again!) to get to the movies, dessert was sadly out of the question. The granitas looked so tantalising on a hot evening. Luckily, we ended our meal on the high of this very well-cooked, tender lamb to curb my envy. And as I bounced down the stairs, happy to be able to tick Mamasita off my eating wishlist, I couldn't help but notice that the envy I felt earlier may have swung away right to the end of the line of hopefuls at the bottom of the stairwell. It didn't look too comfortable squashed so far behind the door that it was hard for it to open and close. The crazy popularity of this place says to me that Melbourne is seriously lacking in quality Mexican eateries.

Mamasita was far and away the best Mexican I've ever eaten even if the food didn't blow me away. I confess that I've eaten at very few Mexican places  because a) I've never been to Mexico or anywhere close and b) my experiences at Taco Bills have left me feeling queasy and unwilling to return. This was a very different experience, as I knew it would be.

A little aside: Mamasita is a pretty groovy place but it's the little things that always excite me. Like the wooden display/chopping boards that the tostaditas were served on. My memory went *ping* as I recalled the gorgeous picture of some boards from Target on the Happy Home blog and the 'have to have it' urge came. Next thing, I'm in Target looking for them and there's 30 per cent off chopping boards. Like a true sad case, I'm saying to myself that it was 'meant to be'!

I can't bear to chop into them yet so I'll use them for cheeses and breads at first. Last night they did a good job at serving my white chocolate and hazelnut ball, mmm. My earlier theory would suggest that I won't appreciate these the same way I did eating at Mamasita as the wait was nowhere near as long!

Mamasita on Urbanspoon

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