Level 1, 11 Collins Street, Melbourne (map)
Mondays to Wednesdays 12pm to 12am
Thursdays 12pm to 12:30am
Fridays 12pm to 2am
Saturdays 6pm to 2am
When I first went to Southern California and Mexico six years ago I was introduced to proper Mexican food, which made me recognise and acknowledge just how rubbish 99% of all Mexican food in Australia really is. I love love love good Mexican food (very excited, by the way, about the upcoming MFWF Tommi Miers dinner at MoVida Aqui)!
So the recent news that the site formerly known as Recorded Music Salon was becoming an authentic Mexican restaurant/bar cheffed by Jason Jones and run by Matt Lane, ex-Cumulus Inc and former general manager at New York's La Esquina, brought a big sloppy smile to my face. I was lucky enough to visit La Esquina when I went to New York in June last year (review here) and loved it.
I managed an invite to Mamasita's opening night last Friday, and I took the lovely Jess, cupcake maestro and our resident Mexican food expert, as my dining companion.
The back of the menu depicted the Mexico City subway map. Nice.
I'd already been at Friday night work drinks around the corner at Bar Lourinhã and Jess was driving, so to drink we each just had a michelada ($6). For the uninitiated, a michelada is a brilliant Mexican drink made with beer, lime juice, spices and tabasco or clamato sauce, often served with a salt-encrusted rim. There are of course a wide range of tequilas available, and it may also interest you to know that the entire menu is gluten free.
To start with, we ordered totopos con salsa ($5, also available with guacamole if it's in season). I am pleased to report that these are REAL tortilla chips, not Doritos-style corn chips. To make real tortilla chips you hand press a thin corn tortilla, cut it into six pieces and then fry them - the thinner the chips, the better. The salsa on the side was a simple pico de gallo.
We then each had a taco. I had a taco de pescado ($6), Jess had a taco de pollo ($5). Goooood tacos! Both of us were impressed at how authentic they were - small and soft (none of that Old El Paso-esque crispy stuff here). My one had grilled fish, lime, achiote paste and red onion salsa. Jess' one had "raised-right" roast chicken, citrus, guacamole and queso fresco. The good news is, the Taqueria portion of the menu is available all day and all night - so when the main dinner menu finishes at 11pm, you can keep ordering tacos and quesadillas until midnight (or 2am on the weekend). Score!
Jess was VERY impressed to see a quesadilla de huitlacoche ($10) on the menu. Often euphemistically referred to as "Mexican truffle", huitlacoche is also known by the rather adorable name "corn smut". The internets define it as a disease of maize caused by the pathogenic plant fungus Ustilago maydis, which replaces the normal kernels of the cobs with large distorted tumors analogous to mushrooms. You can see some wonderfully disgusting photos of huitlacoche growing on cobs here and here. It's considered a pest in some parts of the world, but a delicacy in others.
I'd never had it before, and I'm so glad we ordered it: a wonderful earthy, mushroomy flavour. The quesadilla also contained mushrooms, roasted corn, epazote and queso fresco. Definitely a "must order" at Mamasita.
We had a nice chat with Matt, who is clearly wildly passionate about bringing good Mexican food to Melbourne. Some tostaditas de maiz arrived compliments of the kitchen (priced on the menu as $10 for four), made with sweet corn, blackbeans, epazote, jalapeño salsa and topped with queso fresco. Matt mentioned to us that one of his major hurdles has been getting the right sorts of cheeses here in Australia. We also ordered a very nice red mole poblano de pollo ($18) and an ensalada verde ($9), which included shredded iceberg lettuce, shredded cucumber and dill.
The crowd was eclectic and the late opening hours mean that after about 10:30 the place becomes less restauranty, more clubby, so bear in mind that it can get rather noisy later on. The dinner we had at Mamasita was definitely the best and most interesting Mexican I've ever had in Australia. I envisage I will be a very frequent visitor!