Mamasita (noun): hot babe. But more accurately: lukewarm, though not in attendance. The cascading throngs of the masses spill out from the stairs. The overflow on to Collins is all too familiar: the sidewalk real estate permanently stained with curious diners, hipsters or gluten intolerant Mexicophiles. There is that air of desperation, disbelief and ignorant eagerness surrounding this stairwell – it is a queue rivalling the masonry of my ancestry, which apparently you can see from space? I cannot confirm or deny this as Wikipedia, my only source of information, is currently protesting SOPA/PIPA. The further you ascend the more ravenous and accusatory the eyes as you weave past would-be Mamasita-goers if only they had the foresight and commitment to dine at 3pm or like us, make a booking for 8-10.
The commotion bewilders – aren’t we lining up for something you can get out of an Old El Paso ® kit? Fortunately for Mamasita, although it’s too late to save this review from unabashed derision, the food is predominantly outstanding. While my acrid remarks are concerned with the service, hype & expense, the only thing acrid about the food is the Tabasco you will use liberally.
Service is punctual and direct but there is a dissatisfaction and deeply rehearsed rendering of movements which leaves a distaste in your mouth. The Mamasita Margarita apart from rolling off the tongue while ordering also happens to make sweet business with the tongue as well. As you scour the faces of diners you observe the unburdening and relief as they are seated. This is a meal they have been waiting for their whole lives (lives = afternoon, afternoon = feels like a lifetime). The restaurant is busy but not intolerably rowdy, though you sense a rush to get tacos quickly on and off seats.
If you have all your teeth ready and willing (dentured diners please do not apply) - the corn is a must. Chargrilled and amply dressed in chipotle and queso cheese, it is akin to a mariachi band in your mouth.
The tostaditas are also impressive but modestly sized. Sweet corn, black beans, epazote, jalapeño salsa & queso fresco trumped the chicken, chipotle mayonnaise, avocado & queso fresco.
While I encourage you to try the chicken, coriander, queso criollo, pico de gallo & queso fresco taco there are various other more adventurously themed tacos you will be more tempted by. The marinated prawns, red chilli & chipotle almond salsa attracted me but unfortunately not my company.
My gripe is with the mole poblano con pollo - black mole with raised right confit chicken Maryland. It is generic, standard and disappointing. The meat is tender but bland. The accompanying rice suggests something home cooked but without the heart. It feels cheap and tawdry, not dissimilar to how you may interpret the visual embodiment of Mamasita adorning the wall. Okay, that was unnecessarily vicious.
The sweet corn, caramel and popcorn icecream cone does delight but it is hardly befitting of a $55 per head meal that would have cost us an additional 3 hours had we not booked.
Had this been any other restaurant where expectations were conventionally lower and were it not so overexposed and hyped, I would not have left feeling so deluded and disgruntled. It is hardly Mamasita’s failing that happenchance they are the most sought after restaurant in the Melbourne CBD (apart from Chin Chin, which in contrast and contest far exceeds their reputation). It is unsurprising that it cannot live up to its own regard. It is us the public, preoccupied with the novelty and in search of the coveted, who feed this well oiled machine. And rather like oil, Mamasita is much in demand and in business, but leaves you with a begrudging feeling that you may have just defiled your carbon footprint or killed a school of penguins (Wikipedia, back online at the time of publishing thank the interweb gods, advises me it is a rookery of penguins, but I do not like how that sounds). Not my best analogy, but mediocrity appears to be the running theme of this commentary.
Level 1/11 Collins St
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9650 3821
Mon-Wed, 12pm-12am; Thurs, 12pm-12.30am; Fri, 12pm-2am