Address: Level 1, 11 Collins Street, Melbourne
Ph: (03) 9650 3821
Owners/Chefs: Matt Lane and Jason Jones
Hours: Mon-Wed, noon-midnight; Thurs, noon-12.30am; Fri, noon-2am; Sat, 6pm-2am
Here in Canberra, there are a few experiences that just won’t happen in this city. Standing on a stairwell for a half an hour wait before eating is one of those things. But down in Melbourne, at the much-hyped booking-free Mexican bar Mamasita, I would have happily waited for a lot longer.
Mamasita sells Mexican food, but not the false cuisine of masses of melted cheese and crispy shells that many have been raised on in this country, me included. They pride themselves on having “No hard shell tacos, nachos or cheesy burritos”, and judging by the buzz of enjoyment exuding from everyone in this upper floor room, no one was missing any of those.
This style of food was a revelation. Designed to share, every bite was fresh, clean, and packed full of a myriad of flavours. Nowhere was this better demonstrated than in the Tostaditas, small rounds of tortilla chip piled with a mound of meat and chili. We tried two versions. The crab and coriander was an explosion of freshness, tempered with a late touch of chili at the back of the mouth. In the other one, a jalapeno was able to cut through the pork that smacked you in the face with pigginess. Both outstanding.
The famed elotes callejeros is also not to be missed. This is a char-grilled cob of corn, covered in chipotle mayonnaise, then rolled in grated cheese. It is finished off with a squeeze of lime and a tiny line of paprika. If this is what they’re eating on the streets of Mexico, then I need to take a trip.
A quesadilla of mushroom and ‘Mexican truffle’ was a rich and meaty sandwich good enough to turn you vegetarian.
The only dish that didn’t fully deliver was some slow cooked, wonderfully tender goat, smothered in a very hot chili sauce. The issue here was less the dish than my own deficit in ordering, as this desperately needed something to cut through the spiciness. Next time a side of rice, or even of guacamole, will I think be essential.
Despite the exceptional food, Mamasita is still primarily a bar, and it more than delivers on this point too. My classic margarita was sharp and delivered the requisite slap, while a top shelf tequila, to be sipped in tandem with a shot of chili, went a step further and pummeled me into submission. In a happy way, of course.
The place was packed and incredibly noisy, but excitement vibrated through the air. Often in a place this busy you feel like you’re being pushed out the door, but that is far from the case here. Despite being swamped with work, the staff was all friendly and welcoming. And all of this for the ridiculously low price of $65 for two people before drinks.
Half an hour on the stairs? I’d stand there for a week.