Chin Chin

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Chin Chin, popular as ever, is located on Flinders Lane in the Melbourne CBD offers Thai and South East Asian flavours with a Western twist. For tables under ten, it’s walk-in only and queuing to put your name down on the list! It’s a very vibrant place and that always seems to be buzzing.

The menu offers something for everyone and what I like about it, is that while sharing is ideal because you can try a bit of everything, these dishes also are great for one. If you’re undecided on what to order, Chin Chin’s offer their Feed Me menu, where they will select various dishes from the menu on your behalf.

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The Kingfish Sashimi is amazing. I love the acidity of the limes, slightly punchy chilli with the Thai basil. The fish is lovely and fresh as well.

//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsDSC02089-1  Caramelised Sticky Pork with herb salad and chilli vinegar is very bold in flavour. The pork is ever so tender. 

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The Chin Chin Pork “Roll Ups” are another winner. I love the tender, and flavoursome pork with the very thin pancakes and the sweet and salty Peking Duck like sauce.

//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsDSC02113-1 The Pork ribs here are a stunner. It’s probably my favourite dish of the night. The meat just comes straight off the bone, so good. So tender, like butter. A must.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

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The Crispy Barramundi Salad with Green Apples, Pork, herbs and chillies, is lovely and fresh.

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The Jungle curry with braised pork shoulder is very spicy! I prefer a curry with sauce to be honest, but this isn’t too bad.

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To finish off the meal, this Coconut Sago with Sweetcorn Ice cream and puffed rice is delicious. Lovely coconut flavour and the crunchy puffed rice adds a nice texture to it.

Last words

Chin Chin makes some incredible dishes, with bold and fresh flavours. Service could be better and especially for the price, plus they added on extra dishes on top of the “Feed Me” menu last time we dined there.

Chin Chin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chin Chin
125 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000

OldTown White Coffee

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OldTown White Coffee opened its first restaurant in Melbourne earlier this year. Old Town already has a presence in Australia through its 3 in 1 White Coffee sold in quite a number of Asian grocers across Victoria. Originally from Ipoh, Malaysia, it has spread across Malaysia and into parts of Asia as well. It’s similar to PappaRich with its prominent drinks menu and wide variety of Malaysian dishes to choose from.

Oldtown’s Nasi Lemak comes with a number of sides, such as fried chicken, satay skewers and seafood sticks and of course sambal. The sambal is quite fragrant, although is sweeter than I would like. I still would say PappaRich’s sambal trumps it but it’s not far off. I found the satay to be warm, and not hot, which indicated to me that they pre-cook it. I suppose that’s to be expected as to speed up the order to serving time. The fried chicken, however, appears to be cooked to order. The coconut rice leaned towards the mushier side of things, and the fried seafood sticks were interesting things but I wasn’t a big fan of it. Overall, it’s a nice dish with many accompaniments which is a plus!

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Their Balacan Seafood Fried Rice is delicious. It has that lovely fragrance of spices and it was spicier than expected.

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I simply adored the Roti Canai, it’s fluffy and crisp. It’s my favourite Roti Canai in Melbourne. Every other Malaysian restaurant does it the typical square shape and although it’s crispy when cooked on the stove, it lacks this lightness to it that Oldtown’s has. It’s served vegetarian with a Curry, the typical Dahl curry (without the Dahl) and sambal. Mamak’s curry probably beats it in terms of flavour but its all pretty similar in my books. I’d go back just for this Roti though, it’s that good.

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Their Ice Kacang looks exceptional but leaves a lot to be desired in terms of taste. It’s overly icy, the shaved ice is too rough for my liking. It lacks the red syrup (usually like a rose syrup), but does have the brown sugar or palm sugar syrup. The cendol jelly is a nice bonus but once you get the syrup, condensed milk mixture wrong, it really lets everything else down.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

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Oldtown’s Ice Teh Tarik has a wonderful strong tea taste, though just a tad too sweet for me. One of the better ones in Melbourne.

Impressions

The reviews for Oldtown make you really question whether you would want to try it out. Maybe, I dined on a good day when service was pretty fast, although not particularly friendly but that’s pretty much expected at most Malaysian/Asian restaurants. Taste-wise it’s definitely above average and I can’t really understand the poor reviews it has received apart from the pricing which is a $1 to $2 more than most Malaysian restaurants. I’d go back.

Old Town White Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Oldtown White Coffee

303 Elizabeth Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Hakata Gensuke

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The ramen at Hakata Gensuke on Russell St, Melbourne CBD is very reminiscent of what you’d find in a ramen restaurant in Japan. Signature & Black Tonkotsu are a few of their soup bases, but they also offer a red hot spicy soup to go with your ramen. What sets Hakata Gensuke apart from other Japanese noodle restaurants, is its add-ons. Pretty much all ingredients are add-on such as the Japanese style cooked eggs, Bean Shoots, Cha-Shu, Bamboo Shoots and Seaweed. You can also select the amount of noodles and even their softness if you like noodles with a bit more bite or etc, which is a first I’ve seen appear on their order menu.

Their Signature Tonkotsu is quite pleasant, their pork soup seems creamy yet its still light. Cha-Shu and eggs are the perfect additions to the Tonkotsu, and I do feel like I’m in Tokyo.
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If you want the lot, a meal can set you back $20 plus, though it is very appetising. It has all the ingredients you’d want in a ramen, but just for a bit extra.

Impressions

You can see why Hakata Gensuke is so popular, commonly with queues at the front and it is justified. You don’t frequently find Tonkotsu on many menus, however value for money for me is still Momotaro Rahmen in Richmond.

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Hakata Gensuke
168 Russell Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Kitchen Inn

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Funnily enough, I never even knew Kitchen Inn existed until earlier this year. I’ve probably walked past the shop numerous times on Elizabeth Street and yet never has caught my eye unlike Coconut House which seems very prominent towards the Queen Victoria Market side of Elizabeth St. Kitchen Inn serves Malaysian cuisine but more with a focus on Sarawak dishes as they offer Sarawak Laksa and Kampua which you may not find in other Malaysian restaurants.

Kitchen Inn’s Kampua Special is basically noodles with a light sauce served with crispy roast pork, and char siu (Chinese BBQ pork). I must say, aside from the generous use of oil in their sauce, it’s absolutely delicious. The sauce is subtle in flavour, reminding me of a slightly sweet soy sauce and goes well with the noodles. My only other disappointment is the char siu isn’t particularly appetising with its vibrant colouring, and overall fatty cuts of pork. Still, either the Kampua Special or Kampua is one to try here. Just be warned with the smaller serving sizes here.

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The Sarawak Laksa is also something I’ve never come across before as I never have visited East Malaysia when holidaying there. Typically, what differentiates a standard curry laksa with a sarawak laksa is it doesn’t have curry as its base but instead it’s a base of sambal belacan, tamarind, galangal, lemon grass and coconut milk. It’s also an acquired taste, but that may be because I’m so used to the flavours of a Curry Laksa or Assam Laksa. It is certainly interesting taste wise with a strong spice backing, so it may not be for everyone.

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Kitchen Inn’s Bak Kuh Teh is also slightly different to the typical Bak Kuh Teh that you can buy the pocket of herbs and spices in many Asian groceries in Melbourne. It has a stronger spice to it, presumably from the star anise and cloves and it definitely tastes more herbal. Their Bak Kuh Teh is also laden with oil, possibly from the fatty pork ribs or just added extra with the soup. It would be very welcoming on a winters’ day.

Impressions
Kitchen Inn overall is pretty good, I haven’t come across Sarawak food before so it may just be me not being used to the style of cooking. However, the standout is their Kampua Special and during certain hours, a few of their dishes are ridiculously cheap. So for something a little bit different to your average Malaysian restaurant, Kitchen Inn is here to serve.

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Kitchen Inn
469 Elizabeth St
Melbourne VIC 3000

ChangGo

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Melbourne is abuzz for ChangGo, one of the many Korean BBQ restaurants that have appeared in our city in recent years. The waits can be excruciatingly long and the waiting system is basically taking a ticket and writing your name down on the list and you just wait around the venue listening for your name to be called out. I guess you must suffer a bit to be able to enjoy their food.

One of ChangGo’s specialties on their menu is their 8 ways marinated Pork Belly which consist of wine, original, ginseng, garlic, herb, curry, miso paste and hot flavoured Pork Belly. For a group of two to three, the amount of pork on offer here seems to suffice. With the Pork Belly, they provide Kim Chi, an assortment of vegetables, and a spicy Seafood soup.

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At night, the place can be packed and the staff are definitely challenged in assisting everyone with their cooking. So basically, it’s DIY BBQ.

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The Pork Belly they provide you is on the fattier side of pork that I’ve come across but nonetheless the flavours offered are varied. The Garlic, Herb and Hot marinated Pork Belly’s were probably my favourite ones because they were flavourful but let the pork shine too.

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The Spicy Seafood soup here is wonderfully tasty and best on a cold winter’s day. Not too spicy but enough to tingle your tastebuds and the soup base is exceptionally satisfying.

Impressions

ChangGo does Korean barbeque well, apart from the overly fatty Pork Belly that is. Flavours are overall tasty and for $60 (for the 8 Ways Pork Belly), I find it great value for money. Once you dine here you can see why the waits during peak times can exceed 30 mins. I’d definitely recommend dining here if you feel like some charred meats.

ChangGo on Urbanspoon

ChangGo
70 Little La Trobe St
Melbourne VIC 3000

Shophouse Kitchen

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Shophouse Kitchen in QV, Melbourne is one of the many new Hong Kong restaurants that have been popping up around Melbourne in recent times. What makes Hong Kong cuisine stand apart from either Taiwanese or Chinese dishes is their fusion of Western and Eastern such as eating a pork cutlet with rice or spaghetti but Hong Kong cuisine of course still retains the Chinese influence and has many Chinese dishes without Western influences.

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This dish is not one of those distinctly Chinese dishes, instead this dish is called a Baked Chicken Chop on Rice. This dish is basically Fried Rice topped with a cheese and tomato sauce bake with a Crumbed Chicken Chop. You can also order this with a creamy sauce, akin to that of a Alfredo sauce or creamy garlic sauce. You can instantly tell this is Hong Kong style food, and the fusion here actually works well. The Fried Rice flavour is quite muted, which allows the flavour from the tomato sauce and cheese to come through. The generous serving of chicken is crisp and moist which is the centrepiece of the dish. Overall, I liked it but I didn’t love it.

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Here we have the Grilled Chicken Chop Rice Set served with blanched bok choy, a fried egg and white rice dressed with soy sauce. I found the grilled chicken here to be overcooked, and over charred which is unfortunate. The lack of sauce also is a disappointment as with dry meat, almost dry veggies and egg lacking in any sauce as well, it makes for a poor dish as a whole with nothing to gel everything together.

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 The Fried Chicken Chop Fried Rice dish is as the name suggests, Crispy fried chicken with veggies and served with Fried Rice. Again the Fried Rice lacks flavour and here would be a downside to the dish as there is nothing that really defines the fried rice here with steamed white rice. On the plus side, the crispy chicken was moist and yet extra crispy with plenty of seasoning.

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On the dessert side of things, I was intrigued by the Signature Durian Tofu Pudding but was sorely disappointed by the end result. You can instantly tell from the first mouthful that the durian here is just flavouring and not real/pureed durian to provide the flavour. The durian extract or flavouring here was used sparingly and it’s almost just a pudding with a hint of durian.

Impressions

Although the impression you may have here is that the dishes aren’t fantastic,  I would say it’s only the Western/fusion style dishes that come up a bit short as they are not either exceptional Western dishes nor are they tasty Chinese dishes. On the other hand, the more Chinese styled dishes such as their BBQ Pork and Fried Wonton (Dry La Mian Noodles) or their Asian Roast on Rice are tasty without question and would actually come back for.

Shophouse Kitchen ??? on Urbanspoon

Shophouse Kitchen
Shop 29, 210 Lonsdale St
Melbourne VIC 03000
Inside QV Square

Mamasita

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Mamasita’s popularity never seems to die down. Almost every night, you will find a line forming down the stairs and out into Collins Street, Melbourne. What Mamasita specialise in is Mexican cuisine and catered towards a younger demographic as you will find in the restaurant it feels more like a bar or pub at night. Once you try Mamasita, you’ll understand why people keep coming back for more.

We ordered the Camarones gigantes al ajillo, which is basically their grilled prawns placed on a toasted garlic and green almond sauce with garnish. The prawns here are cooked to perfection, still soft inside and crisp outside, and not too dry. The thickened sauce adds to the complexity of the prawns. Probably my only con for the dish is the prawns size which are to be honest small for the price you pay ($28) and you only receive 5 or 6 prawns which seems more like an entree than a “Comida para la familia” (Larger sharing plates)

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The Pancita de cerdo ($25) was probably my favourite of the night. Basically it’s Guajillo braised pork belly with habanero cream, fried parsley & dressed with lime juice. The pork belly was amazing, succulent and tender. How it should be. Complementing the dish with the preserved onions, sauce and slightly crunchy parsley it certainly is a delight to eat. I’d also say this was much more satisfying than the prawns.

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You can’t go to a Mexican restaurant and not order either a taco or quesadilla. Here is their “de Cordero” ($16), inside the quesadilla is braised lamb with queso criollo (cheese) and with a mint & jalapeño herb sauce and served with a slice of lemon. The lamb here is tender even in its shredded form but I found the flavour from the lamb to be a bit lacking. The herb sauce which was similar to a pesto added much needed flavour to the dish.

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As a side salad, we ordered Ensalada de quinoa ($10) aka Quinoa salad was a pleasant salad. The quinoa still had bite to it, and with the addition of fresh spinach, corn, coriander made this a winner.

Impressions

Atmosphere wise, I’m not fond of restaurants where you have to shout to talk with the person next to you and this is the case here. The other downside is the dim lighting that is prevalent in many restaurants in Melbourne.

Other than that, I found the food on the balance of things to be delicious but for the price paid to be slightly over priced and especially so for the grilled prawns mentioned earlier. I can see the attraction to this place but it definitely isn’t my idea of a good evening. Would I come back? I might …but not anytime soon.

Mamasita on Urbanspoon

Mamasita

Level 1, 11 Collins St
Melbourne VIC 3000

Passionflower

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Passionflower is one of those places you come across and ask why is this place so popular. Located on Bourke Street, this little store has quite a following serving Melburnians with sugary Asian influenced delights. Most of their menu is at least $12+ but I guess that is the price you pay for in these dessert boutiques.

Pictured above is Passionflower’s Chocolate Waffles. The waffles are sweet and crunchy. The thickness of the waffles creates this airiness within the waffles and complements the outer crunchiness. With the waffles it comes with two scoops of ice cream (vanilla and chocolate) along with a warm and rich chocolate sauce. The ice cream is nothing to write home about and the chocolate sauce is almost tooth numbingly sweet but you really can’t go wrong with chocolate waffles. Well, apart from the ice cream which was oddly lacking in creaminess.

IMG_0420This dessert (the name forgets me) is one of their iced desserts with sweet red beans, black jelly, strawberries, ice cream and this ridiculously sweet red sugar syrup. I would say this dessert was a letdown, nothing out of the ordinary and for the price (which I believe was like $18) is quite frankly poor value for money. The sugar syrup is unnecessary and the shaved ice isn’t fine enough. It feels like all these separate ingredients are just thrown into this  one dessert but nothing tying them together. Disappointment

Impressions

While the waffles were nice, I really can’t say I would ever come back for them. You can easily find better waffles desserts elsewhere in Melbourne. The exorbitant prices are the killer here and without great tasting desserts to back it up, I really can’t see how it’s justified.

Passionflower on Urbanspoon

Passionflower

Shop 2, 168 Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Pepper Lunch

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I first came across Pepper Lunch when I was on holiday in Singapore. They had one of these stores in a basement food court below a shopping mall. Pretty much what attracted me was the word pepper as I love pepper on nearly everything. Pepper Lunch is originally a Japanese “fast food like” restaurant chain, that is pretty common in South East Asia. Fast Japanese food that comes on a sizzling hot plate? What else could you ask for!

I saw something on the menu that seemed kinda interesting, Japanese Curry with Rice and Hamburger. Obviously, I had to order it and it came out pretty fast as expected. The curry bubbles away as it arrives on my table and looked delicious.

The curry comes with the standard potatoes and carrots, but on top of the rice we have steamed carrots, beans, corn and boiled egg. I quite liked the flavour of the curry, a tad spicy which isn’t something I ordinarily get with a Japanese curry but the hamburger that it comes doesn’t seem to mix all that well with the curry flavour. The hamburger patty is quite nice if it was on a burger bun  but here it is from two different worlds.  I think diced beef would have worked quite well here.

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Pepper Lunch also have a small selection of rice dishes in bowls. We ordered the Salmon Teriyaki with rice. It’s a smaller serve compared with the hot plates but nonetheless tasty. The teriyaki flavour is sweet and different to the teriyaki flavours in other Japanese restaurants , it isn’t something I’ve had many times before but the interesting flavour is quite nice.  The salmon is cooked well, not overcooked in the least. A bit of chilli oil on top just makes this dish better.

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The Chicken Teriyaki is quite similar to the Salmon dish , with not much else to comment on. The chicken was cooked well and I quite liked the taste of it actually.  I find it different to Hanaichi’s Teriyaki dishes but both are great in their own ways.

Impressions

I wouldn’t say the food here is the most authentic Japanese food I’ve eaten but it’s delicious, great flavours and fast. Can’t go wrong with that in my book.

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Pepper Lunch
309-311 Elizabeth St
Melbourne VIC 3000

Mamak

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People that frequent Sydney may know of Mamak in Chinatown, and it’s popularity over there has seemingly lead to Mamak opening down in Melbourne late last year. Serving Malaysian food and leaning towards a more Indian/Malaysian style cuisine, they don’t offer a large selection of food but what they do focus on, they do it well.

Mamak’s popularity also extends to Melbourne, having walked passed there even before it opened I saw a few groups of people waiting until it was officially opened. I don’t know if it’s that honeymoon period most places have but I have a feeling it’s probably not just due to that.

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We ordered their Curry Chicken Nasi Lemak, almost a staple of Malaysian cuisine, side note, even the Air Asia’s Nasi Lemak isn’t that bad, all things considered (plain plane food) . This is their only rice dish unless you order the mains but they do also offer a few different sides with the Nasi Lemak such as curry chicken, sambal prawns or friend chicken at varying price points.

What was instantly pleasing was their sambal, it was spicy, sweet and basically just right. Their chicken wasn’t too bad either! It was cooked well, and the curry sauce didn’t have too many spices that some other restaurants seem to put. For the price though at $11.50 it definitely leans on the pricier side, Nasi Lemak tends to be under $10 due to it’s simple ingredients and easy to cook. I remember eating Nasi Lemak wrapped in banana leaves (smaller size) and with no meat in Malaysia for roughly $1 AUD. Bad comparison but now I feel like visiting Malaysian again.

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We ordered a dozen Chicken and Beef satay for $16 and this again leans on the pricier side and the portions also seemed quite small but the sauce and flavour makes up for it. I really liked the satay sauce, it was spicy, and just sweet enough but I found it to be different to satay sauces I’ve had. It was nutty but didn’t seem to have that overwhelming peanut taste to it. If you ever venture towards Dandenong Market there is this fantastic satay shop near the Fish and Meat area, it has the best tasting satay sauce and chicken/beef satays at a reasonable price. You can buy them cooked, or uncooked (refrigerated or frozen). Really good.

I found the chicken satays to be the better of the two, having a more robust grilled flavour but still being able to taste the chicken. That’s not to say the beef wasn’t good either, but it certainly seemed a bit tougher in comparison.

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I always jump at the chance to order Murtabak because it seems so rare around these parts, well, it’s certainly getting more popular so that’s a plus. I prefer the Lamb Murtabak due to the flavour of lamb oozing through the roti makes it usually a marvellous dish. What I liked about Mamak’s Murtabak is that they stuffed the roti full of cooked lamb, onions, cabbage and egg. The filling was cooked perfectly and I could have eaten it all day. The only downside of having a thicker filling is that the roti served was on the soft side. I like my Murtabak roti crispy and this was nowhere near that, sadly. Probably the best Murtabak I’ve eaten in Victoria is still Taste of Singapore.

The curry sauce provided was surprisingly good, it was spicy and just creamy enough. Only con was that it was served just warm, and after tucking into the Murtabak, it was basically cold! The spicy sambal as commented on above complemented the roti well, I only wish there was more.

The other curry accompaniment which I can never remember the name of, but is always served with Roti, is as what you’d find in any other Malaysian restaurant. I don’t tend to have too much of it, but a small amount of this is always nice to have with freshly made roti or Murtabak. The only other downside is that you have to wait 15 or so minutes. I guess it’s great that it’s made to order though.

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You can’t go to a Malaysian restaurant without trying their Teh Tarik. I though Mamak’s Teh Tarik was on the sweet side but not probably not bad enough to think of your poor teeth straight away. I would also liked if it had more “tea” taste to it but other than that, I wouldn’t mind ordering it again. It was only $3.50 so it didn’t seem so scandalous. I remember ordering a Teh Tarik at the now closed Malaysian restaurant in QV (Before PappaRich) and that was served in this puny tea cup for two or so sips.

Impressions

What I like about Mamak is they focus on Roti and Satays, some of my favourite kinds of food. It is a bit disappointing their menu doesn’t have that much variety but I guess in terms of mamak style food, this is what they usually offer.

Their sambal is a delight in both their Nasi Lemak and the Murtabak. You can see why people are coming back for more and I can’t say no to more mamak style restaurants in Melbourne. The majority of the food is tasty, and cooked with though. If you’re in the CBD and want Malaysian Mamak food, you’d be hard pressed to find a better one.

Although for more variety, ChilliPadi in Flemington I feel offers better bang-for-your-buck but YMMV.

Mamak on Urbanspoon

Mamak Melbourne
366 Lonsdale St
Melbourne VIC 3000