340 Punt Road
South Yarra VIC 3141
+61 3 9820 2707
One reason why I love living in Melbourne is being able to access an amazing variety of unusual restaurants. While I can be content with fortnightly sojourns to Footscray for pho and bun bo hue, and Sunday brunches at my local yum cha restaurant, I also love the fact that you can also find more ‘obscure’ restaurants within reasonable driving distance from my work and home. An example of this is Yeah Maan, a Jamaican restaurant that’s taken Melbourne by storm. It’s been on my ‘to eat’ list for a long time so when a scoopon arrived in my inbox earlier this year, offering a $49 three-course meal, including wines, for two, I was sold.
Yeah Maan is one of those places that are easy to miss. I’m usually good when it comes to directions but I think Adam and I drove past this joint twice before we realised where the terrace house-cum-restaurant was. It may have been windy and cold when we walked in – plus we were seated next to the door and in a room with no heater – but the vibrantly-coloured tapestries and a cheerful calypso soundtrack brightened our souls. Unfortunately, none of that could cheer up the owner of the place who remained dour throughout the evening but eh, we weren’t going to let that ruin our evening. The way the scoopon worked, we had to choose from a selection of three dishes from each of the entrée, main and dessert section of the menu. I think there may have even been five or six choices from the mains section but it’s been so long since this dinner, I can hardly remember. While I chose a local Shiraz, Adam requested to swap his glass of wine for a Hahn Light which the owner begrudgingly allowed.
My entrée: the ‘doubles,’ a spicy saffron roti dish filled with chickpeas and potatoes. Tasting very much like a bigger, denser and rounder version of a sweet Chinese donut, the dough was crunchy and slightly flaky on the outside and chewy on the inside. The curried chickpeas and potatoes not only ensured that I received more than my required daily starch requirement; it also balanced out the sweetness of the dough. I loved it.
Adam ordered a serving of aloo pie. The floured dumpling, originally from Trinidad and Tobago, was filled with mashed potatoes, sliced and then served with a sweet tamarind sauce. It was just as rich and filling as my entree, and the tamarind sauce provided a lovely tangy edge to the dumpling that was otherwise delicately seasoned with salt and carraway seeds. I liked my entree better, though. Given how carb-rich our entrees were, we were wondering whether we’d have enough room for our mains. And dessert. Help.
Before I could ponder anymore, my Jamaican jerk chicken arrived. Now, prior to this I had no idea what a Jamaican jerk chicken was. The first time I heard about it was when Marty told me that a Jamaican jerk chicken café called Jamroc had opened up near his house on the Gold Coast and that it was ‘like Nandos, but better.’ Uh yeah, real helpful, babe. Yeah Maan’s description of the dish on the menu didn’t help either – it simply said that the dish was ‘a perfect reflection of dat sweet Jamaican lifestyle.’ Yeah, that helped! Accompanied by a green salad, some cassava chips and tomato sauce, the chicken was slightly spicy, but not overly so. I was expecting fire to come out of my mouth as one of the key ingredients in a proper jerk chicken seasoning was a bit of Scotch bonnet peppers but sadly, the heat never arrived. In actual fact, it tasted a bit like tandoori but spicier. Nice, but not wow. Gimme Nandos any day. That said, the dude who runs Jamroc reckons the jerk chicken at Yeah Maan ain’t the real deal so the search for an amazing jerk chicken continues… (ed’s note: and stopped when at Jamroc on the Gold Coast, but that’s another entry for another time)
Adam ordered the Calypso stewed lamb which was “marinated in an authentic West Indian stew pot.” For some reason, I expected it to have some sort of curry flavour. While it erred on the spicy side, it was more sweet than savoury and certainly not something I’d order myself. Adam normally has a bigger sweet tooth than I do but even he admitted that his choice of main that night let him down.
It also came with a bowl of rice.
We were ready to walk out, absolutely stuffed, after our mains. We, however, had to (begrudgingly, I might add) stay for dessert. I mean, why not, we had already paid for it, right?
I had the ‘down side up’ pineapple cake which was well, just like any other upside-fecking-down pineapple cake. At this point, I was over the way Yeah Maan tried to be all creative with the naming of their dishes and menu descriptions so I couldn’t really muster up any enthusiasm for the slice of pineapple cake that was drowned in a pool of custard and cinnamon, with a strawberry for garnish. It was sweet, like ridiculously sweet. I couldn’t even taste any pineapple, or anything that was supposed to resemble pineapple. I simply ate the strawberry and that was that for me.
Adam’s ‘Diplomatic sticky date pudding’ was also sickly sweet, but I actually liked this one better. I don’t know what made this sticky date pudding diplomatic – hell, it caused a small tiff between Adam and I (‘Swap you my stupid pineapple cake for your pudding?’ ‘Nah, man.’ ‘F*ck you, then!’) – but again, I think it’s Yeah Maan’s irritating way of trying to unnecessarily creative with their menu and dish names. Stop it, farken. The pudding, wonderfully moist with the right amount of firmness, was served with a glorious butterscotch caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream, before being dusted with ground cinnamon. There was nothing really Caribbean-like about the dessert but I liked it all the same.
We stumbled onto Punt Road feeling extremely bloated and worse for wear. I hate bloating (doesn’t everyone) but if it’s due to a spectacular meal, I don’t mind. Unfortunately, I can’t say that our meal at Yeah Maan was spectacular. Apart from the doubles and the sticky date pudding (which isn’t even Jamaican to begin with), none of the dishes really blew me away. I’m not sure if it’s because we ordered the wrong dishes, whether the kitchen had an off day (and hence, the owner’s bad mood) or whether the owner of Jamroc was, in fact, correct in saying that the food here isn’t really authentic. And as much as I wanted to like this place, I can’t really see myself going back for seconds.