Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Mamasita - This is where Frank is at

When I first relocated to Melbourne a little over three months ago, everywhere I looked in both the print and digital media I saw references to Mamasita. I read horror stories about people queueing out the door for metres in the cold and long wait times, all inconveniences sacrificed for good authentic Mexican food, a funky decor and decent service. After being disappointed by Movida's Paco's Tacos which I ruminated about in an earlier post this month, I was frothing at the mouth with anticipation to experience what punters in Melbourne considered to be good Mexican food.

As usual on a Melbourne winter night it was quite cold but fortunately it was not raining. I can tolerate queueing for a while but not standing in the rain to pay to be fed. I was concerned that there would be hungry patrons spilled out onto Collins Street and had thoughts mobs of people reminiscent of King Street on a Saturday night trying to get into a club waiting to get into Mamasita. Fortunately when I arrived I did not find roving packs of emaciated humans or even starving hounds like you would in Tijuana, Mexico, but a staircase that needed to be assailed. Upon presenting myself to the affable host and announcing that I would like to secure a table for two, he stated that we were next on the waiting list and then showed us to the bar, presented us with some menus to review and claimed that the bar staff could look after us if we fancied a drink. It was Thursday at 7:30 PM and this wait seemed very reasonable but I was overwhelmed by the professional greeting.

The bar has a good range of Mexican beer and I started off with a bottle of Pacifico which gave me ample time to review the long list of tequilas. As if on cue, two people decided to leave their stools at the bar and leave the restaurant so we took their places. The host came over and said that we were welcome to eat and drink at the bar as the full menu was available and as an advantage the bar staff would always be available to attend to us. Like with my recent experience at Chin Chin, it was an offer that I could not refuse.

I was looking forward to the Tacos al Pastor, which is pork marinated in spices and pineapple, usually overnight. Many of the reviews that I had read about this place banged on about how good this offering was but alas it was no longer on the menu. Perhaps this is why people are no longer walking around like zombies outside on Collins Street. I told the bartender that we were in for the long haul and would do a fair amount of tasting and drinking and to be patient with us. Like at The Atlantic, I needed to see if the restaurant could follow my erratic eating schedule and be patient as we tasted, drank, talked and laughed. They succeeded.

At one point I expressed my disappointment to the house that Tacos Al Carbon were not available and that I would be grateful if they could make a Carne Asada Taco for me even though that was not on the menu either. This sort of taco is a staple "street food" offering in Mexico and consists of marinated steak strips and salsa. Everything else should be judged by the quality of this single tasting morsel. I was surprised that this was not on menu to begin with but the kitchen was able to accommodate and I was rewarded with a wisely balanced taco which left me wanting more. Speaking of more, this is about the time I asked for more chips, salsa and an additional jug of margarita. When I first saw the $64 price tag for a litre of margarita my eyebrow raised but like with the carne asada, I found it to be made perfectly and well worth the money.

Over the next few hours we would devour chicken, ox tongue and goat tacos and swill the great margarita down our desperate gullets. Of all of the tacos, I was most interested in the fish ones. As street food in Mexico, and expecially Baja California on the coastline between Rosarito and Ensenada, the lowly fish taco is a staple food item for living usually costing US$0.50 to US$1.00 each. What I was given at Mamasita was good but not great. They added some mysterious sauce that distracted the flavour of the fish and nearly overwhelmed it. It just did not seem right. When I return next, and believe me I am quite anxious to as I am always on the hunt for "good" Mexican food, I will be ordering the fish taco again and asking for "no sauce" and substituting it with one of the wonderful salsas that they provide. I feel as if I need to further explore their tequila menu as it would be the Australian thing to do.

In Spanish, the word "Paco" is literally translated into English as the name Frank. When I previously blogged about Movida's Paco's Tacos I inferred that Frank is at Mamasita. After you visit, and provided that you are fortunate enough not to have to wait as I was, you will really enjoy the experience and understand why I think Frank is languishing at Mamasita, most likely on a bar stool. The place can get loud but it is meant to be a social experience. Just do yourself a favour and do not eat tacos with a knife and fork as I noticed some people doing. Pick it up, shove it in your mouth and make a mess. It is all part of the fun.

Mamasita, Collins Street Melbourne

Mamasita
Link to review
1/11 Collins Street  Melbourne VIC 3001
(03) 9650 3821
http://www.mamasita.com.au
My Rating: 13.5/20
Service: 4/5
Ambiance: 3/5
Quality: 3.5/5
Value For Money: 3/5
Comment: Great list of tequilas



As of this writing, 82% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon like this place. I agree with them and it has been a stand out find for me so far this year. (edit on 08/09/12 - I like Senoritas better)

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Mamasita on Urbanspoon