A frivolous decision landed us at Mexico’s doorstep after Mr. Photographer finished his hair appointment in the city one fine Saturday. At 5pm, it was too early for dinner and too late for afternoon tea leaving us with hardly any safe options. The one easy choice would have been my current haunt Chin Chin but after dining there seven times in a span of a month was becoming quite a cause for concern. So with brief deliberations and opening hours in check, I flippantly suggested the other super hyped eatery Mamasita.
Located at the top end of Collins Street, Mamasita has been serving fancy street style Mexican food and mean Tequilas in a modern cafeteria setup for well over a year. The narrow staircase leading up to the restaurant is rather dark and easily missed if not for the ever present long queue. A confident decision from Management allows bookings only for eight to ten people. This seems to be a common policy imposed by many busy restaurants these days and it has somewhat become a forced trend to eat at odd hours for those like me who refuse to wait in line. I happily bypassed the queue to meet Mr. Photographer who was already seated at the bar as patrons are only offered tables if all parties were present. We decided to stay at the bar as it was a lot less crowded at the time.
I must admit we came with some apprehension after reading quite a few scathing reviews on the “bronco” service but it must have been our lucky day not to encounter it. Our bartender who was also our waiter was both professional and friendly. He seemed to give a damn that it was our first time and swiftly guided us through the menu and made me two smashing mocktails. One might think it isn’t a big deal to not be told they just ordered similar tasting dishes but we certainly appreciated the thoughtful gesture of our waiter to select another. With orders in, we sat in eager anticipation while staring intently at the two bottles of Chile Habanero Hot Sauces in front of us. They will not be used sparingly, we assured ourselves.
There was less than a five minute wait for the Elotes Callejeros to appear; street style chargrilled corn with queso (Mexican cheese), chipotle (smoked jalapeno pepper) mayonnaise served with a lime wedge. It was nice but nowhere near as nice as we expected it to be or how others made them out to be. The corn was juicy but it didnt have enough “char” to it. The queso tasted quite flat so we just doused it with the green Habanero Hot Sauce; an improvement no doubt.
Next were two styles of Tostaditas (fried tortillas with toppings) served on a board. We chose de Pescado (market fish, lime, guacamole, Nasturnium petals, chilli) and de Cangrejo (crabmeat, avocado, cucumber, tamarind mayonnaise and chilli). The presentation most definitely cited salivary glands to wake up but they went back to sleep after a few bites. The toppings were generous but were also mushy and watery so by the time we got through them halfway, the tortillas were a bit of a mess. The flavours were refreshing with alot of acidity but sadly not much else to balance it out so again the Habanero Hot Sauce did its job.
Then came the Ceviche de Atun (yellowfin tuna, blood orange, avocado, pickled jalapeno, lime, coriander and toasted sesame) served chilled in a glass with shards of fried tortilla chips. The first taste that hit me was the sharp tartness followed with nothing else. All my favourite ingredients had their flavours wrung out of them then drowned in highly concentrated lime juice. As much as I love my sourness, it is the type that makes your eyes squint involuntarily with each bite. We welcomed the next warm dish of de Huitlacoche (quesadilla filled with corn truffle, mushrooms, corn, epazote herbs, pico de gallo salsa topped with queso fresco). It was astounding that the flavours were still bland despite all the promising ingredients. Fortunately, we were served with more salsa to aid the flavour enhancement as did the Habanero Hot Sauces yet again.
We were now in desperate need for something sweet after the earlier taste deprivations so we went for the Helado de Maiz (sweet corn icecream served in an cone topped with popcorn and caramel). The icecream was creamy but the closest we came to corn icecream was imagining it because there was hardly any taste of corn. Furthermore, the caramel totally overtook the whole idea of it being just a topping.
We came away confused as we were underwhelmed and dissatisfied and questioned if we had read the right reviews at all. Regardless, there is no denying that Mamasita has a score of followers and fans alike who would only be too happy queue for hours. The buzzing atmosphere, friendly service, enticing presentations and fresh ingredients did get a big tick from us and the Habanero Hot Sauces got a bigger tick but it still couldnt quite save the day. The bill came up to $105 which isnt exactly a pauper’s meal from the streets of Mexico. So Mamasita unless you up your levels of flavour by the truckload, we wont be seeing you anytime soon.