Words: Monica Larrieu Photos: Monica Tindall
I originally came across Mama San in Suria KLCC through a close friend who, like me, lives within walking distance of the mall and who wanted to share with me her surprising find in the unlikeliest of places. It is hard to believe that a restaurant like this is located in a mall, albeit an upper-end one, but then again we are in Kuala Lumpur, a place where things can sometimes be down-right random.
Taking in a meal at Mama San is a virtual culinary voyage through South East Asia. It is evident that its creator, Chef Will Meyrick, a street food enthusiast, has exhaustively traveled the region and researched traditional recipes. Looking at its menu is akin to flipping through the pages of a passport and seeing the stamps from Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and even India. Much like its sister restaurants in Bali and Hong Kong, it successfully brings together some of the best dishes in the region, but sadly, omits the famous suckling pig offered at the other sister outlets. Despite this, partaking in a meal here is a pan-regional treat, unrivaled by any other restaurant in the vast mall, and, perhaps, maybe even in the KLCC area.
Once you enter its threshold, Mama San evokes another era, combining the nostalgia of a long-gone, colonial-era Asia, replete with black and white photographs, with modern-day industrial touches, like the hanging hurricane lamps scattered throughout the establishment. The most stirring feature in the restaurant seems to be one of the few colorful elements in the restaurant – the stunning mural of an elegant Mama San, looking downwards and demurely overseeing all of her patrons.
We started with a generous helping of Crispy Sotong (fried calamari) served with a chilli jam, ginger flower (aka torch ginger), fried kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass, doused in a honey sauce (RM 32). Its flavors tantalized the palate with its citrusy zing and ended up being a delightful departure from the archetypal fried calamari.
This was followed by a succulent Dengdeng Balado, a caramelized short rib beef, marinated with some magical manna, and topped with kaffir lime leaves, chilis and lemon basil (RM 55). This dish is an innovative take on the traditional Sumatran dish which is usually prepared with thin slices of beef and less toppings.
We were then treated to the Kari Udang Nenas (RM 38), a Mama San rendition of a traditional Baba Nyonya dish. This blissful seafood red curry is doused in coconut milk and simmered in the incomparable aroma of lemongrass and kaffir lime. Floating in the gorgeous stew are generously-sized prawns and pineapple chunks. This dish is my favorite on the menu and, I am embarrassed to say, the one I order time and time again, despite the ample variety offered at Mama San.
As if this was not enough, our attentions (and tastebuds) then turned to the Tandoori Paneer topped with red onions, red peppers, kashori methi (fenugreek), cumin leaves, black salt, ginger and garlic, and served with a kachumber (cucumber) masala (RM 35). This dish came off their dedicated Vegetarian Menu, a truly unique and refreshing find in a non-vegetarian restaurant.
Topping off the dining experience, the desserts we sampled were playful and indulgent. By far our favorite, the steamed Nutella Pak Boi Buns (RM 18) took our breath away. Served in a rustic bamboo steamer basket, the buns are to be pulled apart and dipped into an affogato of vanilla ice cream and Kintamani espresso concoction, mixed on the spot. Following this was the sweet condensed milk ice cream with shredded young coconut, crushed peanuts, sesame seeds, toasted coconut, and sweet corn, a very surprising ingredient in a dessert (RM 18).
To accompany our tasting, we were served three very different cocktails from Mama San’s Signature Cocktail menu that specializes in twisting international classics with Asian infusions. The Lychee Tiffin Punch (RM 28) was quaintly presented to us in a rustic metal tiffin-for-two box, from which to drink the delicious potion made up of vodka, lychee, strawberry, mint, vanilla, orange, lemon and lime. We also tried the Coconut Mojito, which was a tropical twist on the classic, consisting of rum, coconut water, syrup, mint, and citric essences (RM 32). Equally refreshing was the Coconut Passion Fruit Pineapple Daiquiri, a heavily tropicalized version of the classic and surprisingly light despite the many fruit juices involved (RM 28).
Reasons to visit: Crispy Sotong; Kari Udang; Tandoori Paneer; Nutella Pak Boi Buns; Lychee Tiffin Punch; and the convenience of a popular mall setting if you also need to get some shopping done or want to watch a movie afterwards.
Mama San Kuala Lumpur
Suria KLCC, Park and Fountain entrance
+6019 787 5810