I had not heard of Mamak until I saw Bill Addison’s article before Christmas about where he refers folks to go to when they ask him where to eat in Atlanta. So last week, when Grant asked if we’d like to meet them and Leslie there on Sunday night, I queried she-who-keeps-the-calendar and then said “sure”. We arrived around 6:30 (okay – we were supposed to be there at 6:30, but were really about ten minutes late). We had to wait about twenty minutes for a table for six, so we perused the menu. Leslie said that depending on when you go, the wait can vary from none to half an hour, with virtually no rhyme or reason as to when you have to wait.
The interior is small, with seating for about thirty. Like Chai Pani, in Decatur, the focus is on street food, but this serves the street food of Malaysia. We started with chicken satays, a dish we recognized by name, and these were quite tasty, although they weren’t different than those that you’d find in most Thai restaurants .
We also ordered Roti Canai – a crispy Indian flatbread, served with a curry dipping sauce, with potatoes and chicken.
We actually ordered three of these for the table and they went quickly. The flatbread reminded me of Indian fry bread – light and flaky – and the curry sauce was the perfect touch of savory to offset the slightly sweet bread.
Then came the time for experimentation – apparently the two “exotic” dishes of Malaysian cuisine are pork belly and chicken feet. If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’m all about the pork belly. Basically, when I read the words “pork belly” (or hear them) in the description of a dish, I tune the rest of the description out. Let me tell you, I’ve ended up with some really odd pork belly dishes, over the years. So I asked the young lady that was taking our order about the two options and she declared the chicken feet “better”. “Better” than pork belly would, literally, be the equivalent of mannah. So I ordered the fried chicken feet and shitake mushrooms.
When they arrived, they:
a) really looked like chicken feet; and
b) were huge.
I guess that I never really thought about how big chicken’s feet are. How were they? Fairly awful. They were rubbery and chewy, but they didn’t taste terrible. I just couldn’t get over the idea that I was eating “chicken feet” – that was probably the main problem. The fact that the server kept telling me that they were “better than glucosamine” didn’t help the situation either.
Jo ordered assam shrimp, in which the sauce was very good – assam is another word for tamarind. Sadly, the whole shrimp had been tossed in the sauce. To peel the shrimp and remove the head and tails (and feet) you’d need a whole roll of paper towels to keep your hands clean while you ate.
I ordered the fish head soup. Yep – you read that right. Here’s the thing – fish heads don’t generally refer to fish heads, but rather to the soft meat behind the gills (it’s called trout collars in many places). The soup, which was curry based, was excellent – poured over rice, it would have made an excellent meal, particularly with some meat thrown on top. I did have a problem finding the fish in the bowl, between the cartilage, bone and tofu.
If we venture back, I’ll stifle my sense of adventure and go with one of the noodle dishes (there were two of those at the table that appeared to be very good). And more of that roti.