Trot out your trendy gear or turn up casual. Almost anything goes here. Having said that, this is the sort of place that evokes a feeling of casual elegance blended with exotic Asia. Understandably so. The scene is set by the name. In Japan and East Asia, Mamasan is a woman in a position of authority, especially one in charge of a geisha house or bar.
As you walk through the concrete and cherry blossom peppered doorway you're transported into an environment of relics procured from all over South East Asia, accompanied by tantalizing aromas wafting from the open kitchen. You can choose to dine at the bar and watch the continuous performance of chefs juggling woks, playing with fire and plating up delectable cuisine that is a fusion of traditional and modern.
If you're lucky enough to score the round table in the back of the restaurant, you will be seated under the watchful gaze of Mamasan in a beautiful red dress. There's a high communal table in the centre of the restaurant, also with great views into the kitchen. This is surrounded by regular lower tables, and there's a large outdoor area which is great for watching the passing parade.
With so much to observe and an interesting food and drinks menu, it's a good idea to start with a drink. The drinks menu is a geography lesson with wine, sake, beer, whisky and cocktails from all over the world.
The food menu is shorter, and sharing dishes is a great way to go. That way you can sample the variety of flavours and allow your taste buds to imagine they are in a smoky Shanghai bar. If you can't make up your mind, ask for help or if you have 4 or more in your group, "Let Mama... choose."
We started with what Mamasan calls "Small Bites". Firstly, Pork Sang Choy Bau, slow cooked Byron Bay pork with "snake bean and peanut", followed by Spanner Crab Ravioli Dumplings which were accompanied by scallops, water chestnut, and coconut sambal bisque. Both were taste sensations. So good were the dumplings, that we even cleaned up the remnants of the bisque from the serving dish!
Duck, Shallots, Cucumber, Hoisin Sauce & Pancakes, ready to be assembled
Next were Mamasan's "Medium Plates." Peking Duck Pancakes are always popular. Yes, true, many Asian restaurants serve these, and were as you would expect: delivered in a steamer, ready to assemble with hoisin sauce, cucumber & shallots. Where Mamasan differs is that the pancakes were beautifully light and delicate, yet held together beautifully, which is more than I can say for others I have tried.
Mixed Greens (L), and Miso Cod (R)
The tasty and tender Tasmanian Cape Grim eye fillet was Wok fried with garlic and black pepper, and the Miso Cod was stunning! The menu reads: "Japanese mero Patagonian toothfish with miso glaze, pak choy, shitake mushroom, dashi broth truffle oil." For me, this is a definite "order next time" dish.
We were a group of five, celebrating two birthdays, one of which was 'significant'. We'd had enough food, yet none of the aforementioned dishes are large, and we only had a small taste of each. It was almost like a degustation as we tasted our way through the night. The lovely young University student who looked after us for the evening convinced us that we had to try the "Chocolate Brownie." We all know what a chocolate brownie tastes like. Right? Wrong? This is nothing like you've had before. It's rich, chewy and gooey. You taste salty and sweet. It's accompanied by creamy sesame ice cream and fortune cookies that are filled with salted caramel.
Little did we know that the serving size was generous, especially compared with the small dishes that had arrived at our table throughout the evening. So, we ordered a second dessert, the Tapioca Pearl Sago served with seasonal tropical fruits, peanut butter ice cream, mango coulis, and vanilla coconut cream. Although totally different this dish also generated many "Mmm's" and "wow's" from the table.
We ordered seven dishes which were shared by five people, had 2 beers, one cocktail, one bottle of wine and two bottles of sparkling mineral water, and the bill worked out at around $72 per person.
I'm looking forward to returning to Mamasan and sharing my latest discovery with different friends.