Mama San (Hong Kong)

Mama San (Hong Kong)

MAMA SAN by Will Meyrick
1/F, 46 Wyndham Street
Central, Hong Kong

+852 2881 8901

HKD550 a person, including drinks and an ok amount of food.  Fuck yeah, better than expected price point.

The deal:
Although the name is “Mama San by Will Meyrick”, as far as I’ve been able to tell he just designs the menu, oversees the set up and then he fucks off back to Bali.  Chef Meyrick’s Bali credentials are pretty fucking serious with Sarong and Mama San behind him in Bali.  I haven’t eaten at either but have heard good things.  FYN truth tea time, I fucking love Balinese food – fuck yeah to SE Asian influences, fresh island ingredients and dat fuck yeah spicing.  But I know that Mama San isn’t meant to be Balinese food per se, but souped up modern South East Asian taking a predictable reference to Asian street food.  Mama San HK is name dropping influences like a rapper displaying just how culturally diverse their love for beautiful women can be – yo check it Australia, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Mama San HK’s decor is what you’d expect from a new Dining Concepts restaurant – suitably on trend with its moody fucker interiors – dark wood tables, strategic red accents, and black and white photos of Asia taken by Will himself while he was predictably learning authentic street food techniques.  A large retro style portrait of what presumably is Mama San herself, keeps a submissive, demure downcast glance across the room.  Whatever they paid Will Meyrick to design the menu has paid off, because it all sounds tasty as fuck.  If I rattle off what we ordered, it’s all going to sound like fuck yeah noms – such as “tuna betel leaves with lemongrass green tomato sambal matah and bumbu pasih”, “crispy salt bush lamb with ginger, coriander, lemon segments and pomegranate sauce”, “crispy whole snapper with three-flavor sauce – wild ginger, turmeric, pineapple, chilli and tamarind” (yeah I know, I counted five fucking flavours there but let’s not dwell on semantics – their menu, very offensively, doesn’t even use commas), “slow cooked crispy pork belly with green papaya, dried shrimp, apple, eggplant, peanuts and black vinegar caramel” and the “Cambodian duck with sweet potatoes, shallots and peanuts”.  Serving sizes weren’t particularly large and the food certainly didn’t look as fucking impressive as the photos I’ve seen on the HK food blogs around the traps or the glossy press photos.  But really, shit was ok too, with enough coriander, lemongrass and chilli to adequately tick off the Asian influences card. It’s almost trendy Asian food by numbers – #1) raw fish with coriander and lime in some sort of a wrap #2) protein with ginger, coriander and lemon grass sauce #3) some sort of whole fish – baked in salt or glazed in a sweet + sour sauce #4) some sort of a beef rib with more lemongrass and #5) some sort of slightly watery curry with duck or chicken in it.  Someone asked me a few days later what was the best thing I ate at Mama San HK and I struggle to remember a dish which elicited a solid fuck yeah or a vivid memory of any description.

So, my ongoing weariness and malaise with Mama San and all the other new restaurants which follow that typical big dining group in HK model – everything is just so fucking adequate, aided by smoke and mirrors in the form of sleek, modern interiors with industrial decor.  Before you get there, you read the press releases about Mama San with some big name chef that really has minimal responsibilities past designing the menu but props, the menu sounds new and innovative with its references to riffing on Asian street food from around the region with references to nahm jim jauw dressing, pounded chilli kaffir lime leaves and pomegranate sauces. There’s the social conscience angle as Mama San HK gives local Balinese staff from its Balinese restaurant the very noble opportunity to work in HK for better wages, without being trapped on a floating hell of a cruise ship.  Then you add the economic element – the price point is either just slightly above what is comfortable or the serving sizes or just that touch smaller than what they should be.  But this is the business and this is their game – you make everything slightly different enough to get punters in the door and then you add in a couple of drinks with a few ‘modern Asian’ cocktails that have slices of chilli, kaffir lime leaves or smashed up lemongrass in it.  Add some non-confronting food which delivers what it promises (but only just) and with the trendy decors and enough punters in there to give it a bit of a buzz, everything is comfortable enough that with a big group of friends who you actually fucking like, no one is going to have a miserable night. But when the Saturday night buzz of cocktails and fuck yeah homies has dissipated, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m being fucking gamed – because while everything is perfectly fucking acceptable, it’s not anything more.

Chef Menu Designer Meyrick’s bio proudly lists working in Australia at Longrain and Jimmy Liks, and the influence is pretty fucking evident (refer the very exotic sounding tuna betel leaves with lemongrass green tomato sambal matah and bumbu pasih – which totally rips off Longrain’s signature smoked trout betel leaf).  But shit’s not a good fucking sign because while I have fuck yeah memories of Longrain, Jimmy Liks was always Longrain’s less attractive, though well intentioned sister.  So by the time we get to Mama San HK, we’re already onto the third most attractive pan-Asian influenced sister and imma gonna have to Tinder style, swipe left on what is starting to feel like a photocopy of a photocopy.

The verdict:
So. Shit wasn’t terrible and if a friend organised a dinner there, I wouldn’t cause a fucking fuss and demand a change in venue, but I’m not enthused enough to go back on my own volition. Especially if you’ve been to the superior Longrain or the less-superior-but-still-more-impressive Jimmy Liks in Sydney.  Fuck no – I don’t wanna play this just adequate though economically sensible HK dining game anymore.


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    […] ← Mama San (Hong Kong) […]

  • Beanie
    Posted at 14:29h, 07 September Reply

    Not a patch on Jimmy Liks, not even close. But perfect for a decent, share’y, fusion feed with buzz but no pretension.

    • Sgt Noms
      Posted at 15:10h, 07 September Reply

      Beanie Homes, I prefer Longrain to Jimmy’s – do you prefer Jimmy’s to Longrain? I just wanted something more from Mama San – felt like it was safe enough without doing enough. I’d rather go to Ho Lee Fook / Chachawan for modern Asian trendy times (however, at least you can book Mama San)

      • Beanie
        Posted at 21:35h, 07 September Reply

        For me Jimmy Liks is all round awesome, Longrain they expect you to be stoked & job done just by walking through their door. I second you on Ho Lee Fook/Chachawan for noms, & Mama San for trendy fitout fix/reservation joy.

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