In Malaysia, the term “mamak” refers to the Tamil Muslims of Malaysian nationality. Mamak stalls are popular among Malaysians as hang out spots, serving Malaysian street food and beverages. [taken from the menu at Mamak @ Chancery]
When I first heard that someone had finally been
crazy smart brave enough to open up Auckland’s very first mamak, I was surprised (at first) but this was quickly replaced by elation and excitement. About bloody time!
Simply named “Mamak“, this quaint little eatery is tucked away at a corner in the very chic Chancery courtyard just off High Street. My first thought was that this was an interesting, slightly strange location to choose to open a mamak. Definitely worlds away from where most, if not all, mamaks are located back home!
The pretty fairy lights, bright and inviting ambiance, along with the friendly beckoning staff all create a very welcoming atmosphere and definitely great first impression. The writing on the walls which bear typical “mamak speak” (in Malay, with accompanying English translation) instantly makes any Malaysian feel at home, but at the same time give non-Malaysians a glimpse into Malaysian culture, or at least the mamak culture.
The excitement and expectations were definitely mounting and considering how many various Malaysian cafes/restaurants/eateries I have eaten in in the 8 years that I have been living here, I was really curious to see how this “newbie” will stack up, and stand out.
The hosts/staff were incredibly hospitable and warm – they greeted us immediately on arrival and they seemed genuinely happy to have us; it felt more like being welcomed at a friend’s house, which I liked. Anyone who frequents Asian eating places knows that this does not happen often!
The menu boasts a good variety of tasty, well-known Malaysian delicacies – all mamak-influenced, of course. What I thought was pretty cool was the menu was divided into two – Mamak tapas and Mains. It’s interesting that tapas as we all know originates from Spain but these days every other cuisine has its own localized version of tapas. I thought having the menu worded in this “Western-friendly” format was a good move for the non-Malaysian customers.
Back to the food – there was just so much to choose from! There were the usual “goodies” on offer – nasi lemak, mee goreng, nasi goreng, beef rendang – but then there were also SEVEN types of roti available – all homemade – including roti pisang and roti tissue!! Plus murtabak (onion omelette), which I’ve never seen served anywhere else. And satay…yum! After salivating for a bit, I finally decided on sticking to the basics and went for the nasi lemak. And to wash it all down – teh tarik…again, YUM! I have an unofficial rule of thumb when it comes to ordering for the first time at a new restaurant, specifically a Malaysian one; I believe that the mark of a good Malaysian restaurant (overseas) is if they can get the “classics” right. Dad decided to try the original roti canai, and Mum picked mee goreng. So we had a good variety to taste test!
While we waited for our food to arrive, the host entertained us with talk about what they had planned for the restaurant, namely what new dishes were going to be rolled out in the coming weeks. Very ambitious and very optimistic considering it’s still early days but I say good on him! As the chatter progressed to discussing ways to generate more business/traffic to his door and then unavoidably to which part of Malaysia we were from before we came to Auckland, the wonderful aroma of our dinner came wafting through the kitchen, dining area, and to where we were sitting (we were outside). If the smells were anything to go by, this was gonna be one satisfying meal!
Food arrived in under 20 minutes which is pretty decent timing (not too long in that you’re getting impatient, and not too quick so much so that you suspect food is just being microwaved and not cooked fresh).
VERDICT: AMAZING!!! My nasi lemak was excellent – chicken curry was cooked to perfection and the rice had just the right amount of coconut in it. Sambal was a wee bit on the spicy side, but then I like spicy! Roti canai could have been crispier but considering it’s homemade – hats off to the chef! The accompanying fish curry and dahl to dip the roti in was delicious – very authentic! Loved that they served it in those silver tin trays, just like at the real mamaks back home. Mee goreng was also top notch – just the right amount of spice and ‘tomato-ey-ness’. Mee goreng is one of my all-time favorite Malaysian dishes and so I order it the most often when dining at a Malaysian restaurant. I have never had a bad mee goreng, all Malaysian restaurants seem to know how to get it right, but this one is definitely one of the better ones I’ve tasted.
All in all, it was a super tasty dinner and a great dining experience – I will definitely be returning! If you are Malaysian, or if you are not a Malaysian but love Malaysian food, then Mamak at Chancery is a must visit! They are located at Unit 21, Chancery Court – just off High Street in the courtyard where Invito and Mecca Cafe are. I truly hope this very unique Malaysian eatery – Auckland’s first mamak, no less – will have a long and prosperous life!
Whimsical Banana rates Mamak @ Chancery: 4/5 Bananas!
Excellent and authentic Malaysian mamak food, warm and efficient service, inviting and cozy ambiance. It loses 1 banana for being slightly over-priced (most mains are about $12) but that’s understandable considering the location. Another downside is there aren’t any desserts! What can I say, I’m a sucker for something sweet at the end of a meal. Bring on the cendol and ais kacang! *hint hint*