Mamasita, Melbourne, July 2013

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If there was only one place I had to visit in Melbourne, this was it. Everyone I knew who lived, worked or visited in city made me swear I would try this Mexican eatery. With the pathetic state of Mexican eateries in Singapore, few and good ones being crazily overpriced, I knew Mamasita was going to be the place to hone my South American gastronomic skills. With the knowledge of legendary queues, proper planning was needed and by 5p.m, I was delightfully ushered to a bar counter seat. I love counter seats, I get to watch my food or drink being prepared, and especially in Sydney, the place where you can get extremely close to the chefs and they throw you more food or an extra drink. At that time, the restaurant seemed empty but the bartender assured me soon it will be otherwise. Sure enough at 5.30pm, the restaurant was full and there was a queue down the stairs. The eatery was surprisingly small. And there the murals were pretty! There was a large window to the kitchen and the Bartender and I had a good chat on the action within during the weekend. But I was not there for the murals or bright yellow theme, I was there to work up an appetite!

Sitting at the counter provided me with the opportunity to chat with the Bartenders and their recommendations were so important in ensuring a lone diner like me was able to leave with the best from their extensive menu. That early evening, I had three different tacos for starters, Mole Negro Con Pollo (black mole with raised right confit chicken maryland) for my main course, and a Mezcal Margarita to accompany the food.

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For the tacos, from left, the bartender recommended the de Camarones (marinated prawns, red chilli & chipotle almond salsa), de Pescado (grilled fish, lime, achiate paste, red onion salsa & chipotle mayo), and de Lengua y Chachete (braised ox tongue & cheek, pickled veg & ghost chilli mayo). All three were encased with the softest warm shell and heaps of shredded lettuce. Of the three, the de Lengua y Chachete was most memorable. It was supposed to be braised but I was astounded by the crispy smoky beef parts with its rich beefy flavour; wagyu beef has never been my thing. If there is ever a reason to return to Melbourne, it would be that ox tongue and cheek tacos.

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I had the most hipster Bartender taking care of me that night. Up for anything, he recommended Mezcal, a smoky-like tequila. But Mezcal is not Tequila. According to the internet: “mezcal and tequila are two completely different liquors. Tequila may only be made from the blue agave in government-specified areas of Jalisco, Mexico, while mezcal may be made from any variety of agave.” (For more information on Mezcal, read here!)

Tequila is not my thing but a smoky tequila was all new and moments later, a tall glass of light green cocktail with a thick salted-vanilla rim was placed before me. The Mezcal Margarita was potently alcoholic. The Mezcal was harsher and more in-the-face than tequila. Plus it left the same strong smoky aftertaste the way aged Whisky does. The agave syrup provided subtle deep sweetness as opposed to in-your-face-white-sugar. It was wonderfully unique. My Asian redness revealed itself midway through the drink and I was all giggly and flirty. When I am drunk I also become more adventurous and greedy which led to…

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Mole Negro Con Pollo (black mole with raised right confit chicken maryland). The Bartender insisted on this even though it was a main course and I had just wolfed down three tacos but Mole sounded all so foreign and I could not resist! I was glad I ordered this because my friend Google told me the recipe calls for strange sounding chillis; ingredients that would be impossible to find in Singapore. When the plate-bowl arrived, it looked so grim and I wondered if I made a mistake. The blackness was a stark contrast with the seasame seeds and sliced red chilli. It wasn’t just black, it was pitch black and thick like stuff that I bomb out after eating bad food. And the blackness meant I could not even decipher the chicken parts; visually the most unappetizing stuff I have been served (note, not including those I make). But boy was it delicious! My tastebuds could detect deep hints of cinnamon and chilli; so exciting! And the perfectly cooked chicken pulled away easily from the bone. The meat was so moist and smooth; it just slithered and danced around my mouth. Oh yums! This dish was truly joyous.

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And now photos of the restaurant:
Pretty hot lady reclining enticing you to order more…
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The small main area of the restaurant which was probably the reason for the legendary queues.
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The window to the kitchen where great meat were being grilled.
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Mamasita was just great. Had my first Mole, my first smoky tequila (and actually enjoyed it), and the most outstanding tacos ever!

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