Mama San is a masterclass in how to present and run a restaurant. It excels in every area, from the attractive interior, the superb menu and the warm and efficient waiting staff. It is popular and deserves to remain so, not least as you leave feeling it was time and money well spent.
As far as the décor is concerned, think old colonial café style with marble topped tables, dark wood chairs, screens and flooring. Looking down on long leather sofas and their occupants is a striking image of a beautiful oriental lady, the madam in charge of the establishment. The reds, oranges, greens and yellows of the Mama San in her traditional cheong sam are all the more striking against the otherwise restrained palette.
The illicit sense evoked by the name of the restaurant is carried through in the presentation of the cocktails. My black stripe cocktail came in an old style bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag, suggestive of prohibition drinking dives. Recent Happy Hour cocktails have been more conventionally served but innovative nonetheless. One of the most successful ones recently was named ‘Clovy in Fashion’ a concoction made from brandy, clove jam with bitters and orange served with a flamed zest, which you might just be able to make out in the top picture. Warming and just the thing for the long cold spell Hong Kong has endured.
Miracle of miracles, without any fuss whatsoever, a g-f menu was produced, slightly smaller than its regular compatriot – but only slightly, there are relatively few dishes on it that aren’t g-f. Remarkably, they don’t even signal this on their website, making reference only to a vegetarian menu.
The menu is pan-Asian; evoking in both of us a rare experience of wanting to try everything on the menu – we will be back. As it was, given the generosity of the portions, we may well have over-ordered and would bear that in mind next time. Amongst the dishes we choose, the soft-shell crab salad and thai beef salads were stand-outs for us.
Grilled beef salad with cherry tomatoes, mint, thai basil, cucumber and hot ‘n’ sour dressing
Malaysian fish curry
Dhana Ghost lamb: slow cooked lamb shank with chana dahl, green chilli yoghurt and fresh coriander
Soft shell crab rujak with green mango, rose able, mint, peanuts, sesame seed and tamarind chilli sauce
The tender braised lamb shank cooked in dahl was exactly the spiced warming food it would be great to eat in the middle of a cold winter in Hong Kong, such as the past one that seemed to last much longer than usual. The baked red snapper looked spectacular but, for us at least, was a bit overwhelmed by its spicy accompaniments. This was remedied on our second visit: the salt baked barramundi was delicious and the simplicity of the cooking made the most of the freshness of the fish. It is worth bearing in mind when ordering that the portions are generous and as most dishes lend themselves well to sharing ordering less than one main dish per person when there are several diners is definitely an option.
Salt crusted barramundi stuffed with lemongrass panda and lemon basil served with nah Jim
The pannacotta was another star turn. First came the cool refreshing taste of the lime basil sorbet, a wonderful contrast with the smooth lemongrass pannacotta underneath and a cucumber jelly in between. Absolutely wonderful.
By all accounts the mango and black sticky rice was very good too.
Mama San is part of the dining concepts group, which includes The BellBrook. We found this interesting as both restaurants share some characteristics, an upper floor location on Wyndham Street and a similar less than glamorous entrance. This is Hong Kong though: you soon realise that gems can be found in the most unpromising places. The route to getting there really doesn’t matter when a restaurant delivers the high-class act that Mama San does.
Mama San, 1/F, 46 Wyndham Street, Central,Hong Kong: Tel: 2881 8901