Monday, 15 February 2010

Mamasita brings awesome Mexican food to the Melbourne CBD

Level 1, 11 Collins Street, Melbourne (map)
9650 3821
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.

Mamasita menu

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.

Mamasita menuMichelada

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!

Taco de pescado

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.

Quesadilla de huitlacoche

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.

Tostaditas de maizMole poblano and ensalada verde

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!

El Yucateco


Ryan Egan said...

omg. i had no idea this was opening. gluten free! that's so fantastic. thanks for the great review and the heads up on this, totally going this week :) ryan

Tammois said...

Great post, Claire. So good to see Melbourne finally has a decent Mexican restaurant, which might shush Terry Durack and others who claim that Mexican food is just bad, when of course that is clearly not the case! Looking forward to checking it out this week. :-)

Jetsetting Joyce (MEL: HOT OR NOT) said...

Well timed! I'm going there today and have taken notes from your post.

Jetsetting Joyce

Jenks said...

Awesome news!

Let's not forget that Los Amates in Johnson St has great Mexican food also.

hannah said...

This is so exciting! Way too many people I know have recently come back from California and/or Mexico raving about how great *real* Mexican food, and I've been lamenting its absence in Melbourne (though it sounds like I'll have to check out Los Amates, as well).
Sad that Recorded Music Salon has closed though - they made a killer Junipero martini

itpleasesus said...

Wow - looks great. I was wondering what would be taking over from recorded music salon. I'm so excited for some great Mexican and the gluten free factor is perfect for me!

Great post.

Gluten Shmooten said...

sounds fantastic I will def have to check this place out, we need more good Mexican eateries in Melbourne

Katya said...

This place sounds great. I love the flavours of Mexican food but have hardly ever had anything really good. Sounds like there is probably a decent range of vego options too.

klerre said...

You've sold me on everything except the clamato juice. That stuff is pure evil.

claire said...

Thanks for the comments, lovely people!

Oh klerre, I know your hatred for clamato juice only too well. I'll double-check what the ingredients in this particular michelada are on my next visit - I pretty sure this one is clamato-free! :)

Mirella TCL said...

Que bueno, quiero a comer a Mamasita. Melbourne get ready for a taste explosion - michelada, mole, espazote - music to my ears

Jessie said...

This sounds great.
Word on the street (well, if you count a friend telling me as "thestreet") is that there is a really great, cali-style mexican joint in the middle of no where in the random Geelong outer suburbs, run by an american expat surfer dude.
I have been fighting off the carbon loaded urge to do a 2 hr round trip to check it out, so this may fix my taco craving for a while.

Gemma said...

Shame to hear about Recorded Music Salon - I'd never been there, sadly. I can't wait to get to Mamasita though. Yea for late snacks, I always get peckish when I drink late at night. Surprised Melbourne doesn't have more such places really!

p said...

Los Amantes notwtihstanding, It does plug a bit of a gap in Melbourne's food scene.

Kate said...

I was a put off by the service at Mamasita last night - yes it was crowded but at a new restaurant doing food differently I would expect the staff to explain the menu (size of dishes, suggested amount to order).

At 8:30 we found it impossible to hear and impossible to get a drink (running out of both the beer and wine by the glass as well as only taking one persons drink menu at a time).

Anonymous said...

We went last night and put our name down for a table. We were told it would be a 45 min to 1 hour wait so we settled in at the bar for drinks. For the next hour, we had our drinks and noticed that the empty tables behind us stayed that way the whole time. At the 1 hour mark we asked about our table and were rudely and offhandly told that it would be another 45 minutes to 1 hour (despite there continuing to be free tables) and offered an extremely token apology as the manager rushed off. If you can't keep a booking then don't take them. Being new is no excuse for discourtesy.

Mirella said...

Looks amazing!

Anonymous said...

I was left feeling like once again something got missed midway over the Pacific. Off the top, I would point out to the owners that Mexico is in the west, and that their comment about the westernisation of Mexican (i.e. North American) food is a confusing one. They may be meaning the South Pacific-isation of Mexican food or something like that. Then, $5 for tortilla chips and salsa ($8 for guacamole in addition) is simply $5 (or $8) too much. In North America, these are simply provided as service, and are on the table before orders are taken. Then the main dishes seem to be lacking the usual accoutrements: rice (prepared in tomato sauce (not ketchup) with onions and other vegetables), beans, guacamole. So, in that way, the offerings are somewhat stingy. Finally, the no reservation policy just makes no sense whatsoever. One can only assume it is to generate a queue down the stairs. How hard can it be to make bookings? It seems some manage doing so quite nicely.

Anonymous said...

I was so excited about this new place. I love tapas, I loved the set up of the recorded salon, I love anything with a Mexian flavour... Sadly, our Friday night dinner was very disappointing. The service was ok, but the food was very average. Our main which was meant to be a feta/corn/zucchini flower delight was blend, chalky, boring and flavourless. I could have made the burritos and tacos from a supermarket Mexican pack. The dessert (rice pudding) was in the same category as the main - it tasted like a jar of baby food. The decor was nice but not nice enough for me to go back. What a shame, I was hoping this could become one of my late night regular eateries but I think I will stick with Pellegrini's accross the road for low-key nights and with Bar Lourinah or Movida next door to satisfy my tapas craving..

Anonymous said...

Went to Mamasita tonight and OMG! It was sensational, the food was everything we had hoped for and more, the ambience was totally electrifying and the service was not only attentive and spot on but downright non pretentious and informative. Value wise we left completely satisfied, $40 each for food AND margaritas, what more can you ask for. If a quiet romantic dinner for two is what your looking for then this is not the place, but then neither is Mexico!!!

Anonymous said...

Went to Mamasita tonight and OMG! It was sensational, the food was everything we had hoped for and more, the ambience was totally electrifying and the service was not only attentive and spot on but downright non pretentious and informative. Value wise we left completely satisfied, $40 each for food AND margaritas, what more can you ask for. If a quiet romantic dinner for two is what your looking for then this is not the place, but then neither is Mexico!!!

Anonymous said...

I too was super excited to try out this restaurant. I don't know if it was an "off" night, but it all started with our over 1.5 hour wait for a table. All the while we had delicious Margarita's but then realized they were $16 each...not nearly worth that much. The food was tasty but just not enough. We ended up ordering again because we were still hungry! I will try it again though, in the hopes that this was not the norm.

Anonymous said...

Great food but shame about the no booking policy!

Jade said...

Thats a great review, we had made a gift voucher for a friend to go here, just on reputation, but had never been ourselves! Going tonight though and have taken notes of what to order from your recommendations, thanks. cannot wait.

Mirella said...

Have you tried Blucorn (St Kilda) or Los Latinos (Footscray) because both are amazing! Service is great and you can make bookings at both. Los Latinos is super cheap also.

Jess said...

I ate here, and my gosh it was amazing!!!! such fantastic service, and its obvious to see that everyone else loves it to, there are customers waiting in never ending lines out the door to get in. incredible.