Mamak

366 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, VIC

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Mamak is a big, bustling no-bookings place.
Mamak is a big, bustling no-bookings place. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

Dani Valent

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of five)

Melbourne is quiet, but some restaurants don't know how to take a holiday, and those of us who are town-bound in January are glad about that. The diners' part of the deal is to hit these restaurants hard to keep the wheels spinning. For a busy Malaysian hawker restaurant like Mamak, slowing down might feel like a space-time glitch and we don't want that to happen - rotis are at risk here, people!

The Mamak crew started making rotis (flatbread) at a Sydney market; they then spun their popularity into a restaurant in Sydney's Chinatown in 2007. In September, they brought their happening hawker style to Melbourne.

Mamak Lunch 366 Lonsdale St Melbourne. Nasi lemak.
Nasi lemak served with an addictive hit of sambal. Photo: Ari Hatzis

Mamak is a big, bustling no-bookings place that often has (fast-moving) queues. While you're waiting, watch a roti master stretching dough, splashing it with more oil than you should probably witness, folding it, grilling it, and fluffing it up with savage dexterity. Or watch them make the roti tisu, a crisp clown's hat of golden roti that's served with curry or ice-cream. It's mouth-watering theatre, especially when coupled with the wafts of shrimp paste, chilli and coconut rice that whack you in the face like a glass door.

It's OK if you're starving when you finally sit down because ordering is done via telepathy. Yes, you do tell a brisk but friendly server what you've chosen from the short menu of rotis, curries, rice and noodles, but it arrives on your table faster than you can imagine them delivering the order. The flavours are big and shouty; the napkins and bills small.

I love the rojak salad, a big, satisfying pile of shredded yam bean and cucumber, tossed with spicy peanut sauce and scattered with juicy prawn and coconut fritters, fried tofu and boiled egg. It's probably big enough for two so come with a crew so you can try more dishes.

Mamak's rojak salad is big enough to share, so don't come alone.
Mamak's rojak salad is big enough to share, so don't come alone. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

The sambal udang - stir-fried tiger prawns - comes with a spicy sambal that's addictive at first hit. The mee goreng is a good rendition of a classic, with adequate wok heat and fresh bean-shoot crunch.

There's roti for dessert, but in summer, I like the cendol - green noodles, coconut milk and shaved ice. It's a race to eat it before it turns to sludge but Mamak isn't for lingering. Wait, eat, swoon, roll home.

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Gami, 100 Little Lonsdale Street, city, 9671 3232. Daily, dinner.

The tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cake) is great, but you come to Gami for the fried chicken in crunchy batter. Thirsty? Install a four-litre oak cask of beer at your table.

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366 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, VIC

  • 03 9670 3137
  • Cuisine - Malaysian
  • Prices - Roti, $5.50-$11.50; Mains, $8.50-$19; Desserts, $6-$9.50
  • Features - BYO, Cheap and cheerful
  • Cards accepted - AMEX, Cash, Diners Club, EFTPOS, Visa, Mastercard
  • Opening Hours - Daily, 11.30am-2.30pm; Sun-Thurs, 5.30-10pm; Fri-Sat, 5.30pm-2am
  • Author - Dani Valent
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3 comments so far

  • The Term "Mamak" means Muslim Indian, its actually a type of Malaysian Cusine. For similar type dishes, try;

    1) Papa Rich in QV
    2 Chilli Padi Mamak Kopitiam in Kensington.

    Commenter
    JohnKj
    Location
    Date and time
    January 09, 2013, 11:57AM
  • Im sitting here in my favourite Roti Chennai shop in suburban KL. Everyone around me is either having a Nasi Lemak (AUD$1), or Roti Chennai with curry (AUD 80cents), or Dosai Marsala (AUD$1.50) all washed down with Kopi Susu or Tea Tarik (AUD 50cents). It's great one can get Malaysian staples in Melbourne these days but for a vastly different price and atmosphere.

    Commenter
    Gordon
    Location
    Expat in Kuala Lumpur
    Date and time
    January 09, 2013, 12:14PM
  • I agree that mamak serves great food, however, they can be more generous on their dollop serve of sambal.

    Commenter
    joycee
    Location
    Date and time
    January 09, 2013, 12:23PM

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