15 Goulburn Street
Haymarket NSW 2000
+61 2 9211 1668
Taking the train out to Allphones Arena and back on a Saturday night can often be an exhausting experience. And I’m not even including the three or so hours spent in between, singing and dancing to Prince. Naturally, by the time we were back in the city (close to midnight), we were famished. Now, because I’m not from Sydney I’m not too familiar with the late-night dining scene here. Hell, Sydney is arguably not known for its late-night dining scene, if my Melbourne friends are to be believed. However, I’m pretty sure they don’t know about Mamak, this humble Malaysian eatery that has taken Sydney by storm.
Melbourne may have Cantonese stalwart, Supper Inn, with its long queues forming up the stairs that lead to the second level dining room, but Sydney’s Mamak has even longer queues snaking out along Goulburn Street at its busiest hour. Thankfully, we saw no such queue when we rocked up but we did have to wait for a free table. Because of Mamak’s efficient service, though, we didn’t have to wait long – less than 10 minutes.
Although Mamak serves all manners of Malaysian food, most people come here if they crave a good roti. On the menu, there is one page dedicated to roti dishes while other Malaysian dishes such as mee goreng et al are shoved somewhere close to the back. There is a good selection of Malaysian cold and hot drinks, too.
We started off with two roti dishes. The savoury roti dishes here are served with two different curry dips (one that’s used for Mamak’s chicken curry and one that be dished up as dhal if this were an Indian restaurant) and a spicy sambal sauce. I ordered the roti canai, which was advertised on the menu as ‘the original roti.’ At $5.50, this was a massive steal and given how delicious it was, I would not hold back from ordering two of these next time for a cheap late-night dinner. While the curry sauces were nice enough, the star of the show was obviously the roti. Presented like a scrunched-up tissue paper, the roti was just as delicate. It was crispy on the outside, while the inner folds were soft and fluffy. I know the photo doesn’t make the roti look terribly fantastic (silly me, bringing the wrong lens to Sydney) but trust me when I say that it’s the best roti I’ve ever had.
Meanwhile, Marty had the roti planta ($6.50). The curries and the sambal sauce (which I thought was too sweet) were the same, but the roti was different. Instead of delicate, he got rich and buttery. His roti was slightly heavier than mine, but because of all the butter (or should I say, margarine) in it, each little bit melted in his mouth.
We each ordered a non-roti dish. The nasi lemak here starts off at $8.50 and comes with a neat mound of coconut rice, sambal, peanuts, fried anchovies, cucumber and a hard-boiled egg. You then have the option to add one or two extra things for a complete meal. I requested a side of sambal cuttlefish ($4) which, in hindsight, was a bad idea for they used the same ick-y sambal as they did with the roti. Ick. I knew I should have gone the fried chicken ($3) instead, d’oh! It wasn’t the best nasi lemak I’ve had, but save for the sambal cuttlefish, it wasn’t too bad.
Marty’s mee goreng ($11.50) fared a bit better. Although it wasn’t the best mee goreng I’ve ever had, it still did the job. A generous serving of Hokkien noodles was tossed in a wok along with shreds of fried egg, prawns, fish cake slices and bean sprouts. Although it lacked wok hei, the whole thing was spicy enough to render it a decent dish according to Marty.
When we were placing our order earlier on, we asked for a serving of ais kacang, one of my favourite Malaysian desserts. As our waitress was clearing our table, we told her that our ais kacang was coming. She told us that the restaurant had unfortunately ran out of ais kacang and suggested we order something else so we decided to go with one of the sweet roti options, a roti kaya.
At that point, the waitress asked me if this was my first time at Mamak (yes) and if I was from Melbourne (errr… yes?). Then she asked me if my name was Libby. At this point, I was getting a little freaked out because I had no idea who she was. Then she told me her name: Jess. Turns out she and I used to be xanga buddies (haha, remember that site?) from way back. The funny thing was that I knew she worked at Mamak but for some reason, it didn’t occur to me that this would be the xanga buddy who I first met all these years ago. How awesome is that!
So anyway, what was also awesome was that the initial waiter who took our order actually saved one portion of ais kacang so we did end up getting it after all. And that point, our roti kaya had already been made so both desserts came at the same time. Instead of sending the roti kaya back, however, we decided to share the two desserts – I mean, why not, hey? Our ais kacang ($6) was the smallest I’ve seen but at $6, who’s complaining? Instead of the lovely pick rose syrup I normally get, we got a brown palm sugar syrup – probably because they ran out of rose syrup. Regardless, the whole thing tasted lovely and refreshing. All the components – the red beans, corn kernels, grass jelly cubes, condensed milk and shaved ice – all came together with the syrup to draw a great meal to a close.
Thank goodness we kept the roti kaya ($7.50). The roti, which was filled with kaya spread, was soft and fluffy with pockets of crispiness all over. It came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which went well with the pandan and coconut-flavoured spread. The whole thing was sweet but not heavy, thus making it a perfect dessert to end the night with.
And of course, no Malaysian meal is complete without a glass of teh tarik ($3.50).
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and the hospitality very much. And to make the night even better, Jess told me that they will be opening a Mamak restaurant in Melbourne by the end of the year. How awesome is that? Now we all enjoy post-clubbing roti instead of running to McDonalds or Stalactites!