Mama San, Bali- Where Colonial Britain and Asian Bites Converge

Posted by OmarTarakiNiodeFoundation
17 July 2013 | blogpost

Lunch at Mama San in Bali, prior to the fasting month, completed our voyage to all restaurants created by Chef Will Meyrick in Indonesia. Sarong, his first restaurant in Bali is a fine dining spot. E & O  (Eastern and Oriental) his latest venture in Jakarta is suited to a Metropolitan crowd, while Mama San is more casual with a friendly atmosphere.

Book early

We called on Thursday to reserve a seat for dinner on Saturday, understandably the place was already fully booked; so we were tremendously happy to have seats available for lunch at 1.30 PM.

The person who took our call was courteous and efficient and as we had experienced when calling for reservations at Will Meyrick’s other restaurants, we were informed that our table would be held for 30 minutes after which it will be released if we did not come within the time span.

Mama San Kitchen Bar Lounge elegantly stood in Jalan Raya Kerobokan, Denpasar, a busy area with heavy traffic. Once we passed the tall wooden door, however, we felt like being transported to a different world.

Vintage meets retro

Caroline Dumergue designed the interior of Mama San to seat 150 guests with an eclectic selection of vintage meets retro to create a warm ambience.

The concept, as explained in the restaurant’s website, is one floor of a colonial Britain in Shanghai during the 1920s with marble top mah-jong tables and oversized tan leather chesterīŦelds, in a purpose designed industrial high ceiling warehouse. Up one flight of stairs is a bourgeois gentlemen’s club with Raja palace lights, chandeliers and candles, leather club chairs and ottomans.

We had virgin mojito, black tea lemon & honey lime sorbet; and peach tea fresh mango & peach sorbet for drrinks. The mojito, Mama San's signature drink was the most inviting during a hot afternoon in Bali as it was placed in a metal container with crushed ice and large mint leaves on top.

The street food chef

Several bloggers classify Mama San as a Pan Asian Restaurant, but the restaurant stated its food style as Burmese, Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese. The large variety of food options is possible through Chef Will Meyrick’s famous touch.

The street food chef, whose career spanned through Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia, was at the Jakarta Culinary Festival 2012 organized by Ismaya Group. His bio for the event read:

“Will continues to explore the culinary landscape of Asia, taking inspiration from the unique food culture of each region. You’ll find him at street stalls, in kitchens with local families, at local markets, really getting off the beaten track to get to the heart of the dishes that move and shake him, tracking down the original recipes that are handed down through families. Will then experiments and loosens them up, reworking some of the flavors, ingredients and textures to transform them into the signature dishes that have gained him such a following.”

Mama San has choices of lunch menu, gluten-free lunch menu, vegetarian lunch menu, lunch drinks list, and desserts menu. Its lunch menu is sorted into set meals, Asian bites, salad, curries and soups, stir-fry, and side dishes.

Compare and contrast

After deliberating for almost 15 minutes we decided to order steamed Barramundi with ginger and shallot (Asian bites), black pepper chicken wings with som tum (salad), and cha ca Vietnamese turmeric fish with dill peanuts green & pickled shallots (salad).

Having dined at Sarong in Bali and E&O in Jakarta, we value the equally generous portion of food at Mama San including the piles of fresh vegetables and right away tried to identify the contrasts in texture, senses, colors, and tastes of each dish.

The cha ca Vietnamese turmeric fish with dill peanuts green & pickled shallots is obviously a Vietnamese cuisine and usually served with rice vermicelli, but at Mama San, the spicy fish was creatively placed on top of angle haired pasta. A bunch of dill leaves that covered half of the plate was decorative and edible at the same time.

Although there were only eight items on the desserts menu, it was really hard making the choices to order as they all read equally tempting. We settled for mung bean cake with coconut ice cream and mango lychee and pandan trifle.

Apparently we were not as adventurous as we thought we would be since we hesitated when the first dessert came. We are not used to mixing sweets and savory in the form of mung bean cake and fried shallot on top. The velvety coconut ice cream helped ease the strange taste. The secret was to not miss any element of this dessert. You just have to combine all to appreciate the course.

The layers of mango lychee and pandan trifle were our favorite for its combination of color (green and orange), texture (spongy, chewy and creamy) and taste (sweet, sour, and more sweet).

Digital mama

Along with its great food and warm ambience Mama San encourages visitors to keep up-to-the-minute tabs on what’s happening at the establishment, book a table with greater ease and contact the restaurant any time through its new web application.

Keeping up with the facebook page is a joy where a friendly madam of authority informing her protégés who live far away on interesting news in the house. One posting read: "It's Friday. You know what that means. Feasting with friends and late speakeasy style cocktails to wash it all down. Thai Thai, meet your new friend, Crispy Baby Snapper. Mama knows you're going to love each other, just wait and see."

Granted, we will come back as one visit is not enough to appreciate the sterling effort put by the team at Mama San to spoil its patrons.

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Images: Omar Niode Foundation