Bright, chirpy, eccentric, cute are some of the adjectives one would immediately think of as one enters this place. This visit to Mamagoto was not really planned. My thirsty friend N had flown down from his hometown and this was his layover enroute the city he worked and lived in. Clearly, spending a ‘few days with folks’ amounts to an emotional upheaval only a good night out can solve. On our way out he got a call from his work and suddenly announced, “Ant I need to buy a certain brand of biscuits and some ‘chick stuff’ “. My obvious interpretation of ‘chick stuff’ was lingerie? dresses? shoes? chocolates? He kept vehemently shaking his head and said ‘Cheap jewellery. This is work’. Alas, at one level, but on another, I was glad because I knew just where we were going. My beloved Khan market!
Took us exactly 2 minutes to buy the jewellery, he seemed genuinely disinterested in dressing up his biscuit model and in about 5 more minutes we were done with the biscuits. “Beer, beer, beer” we chanted like thirsty Bedouin camels. After discarding a few places as “Too red for me”, “Too dark”, “Vegetarian”, we asked the doorman outside Mamagoto, “Bhaiyya yahaan ‘drinks’ milte hain?” I guess my desperation was evident though I was making my best attempt to sound decent. Guard nodded, without another word we pounced at the door and hurried upstairs.
There was a waiter who initially came and introduced himself and asked us our names and then vanished. For the rest of the evening, we were looked after by a girl who was pleasant and helpful too. The menu listed Asahi to my delight. My bubble was soon mercilessly popped when I was told they only have Kingfisher. I would only have it if I were dying, and it felt like I was. With a heavy heart, I ordered for an Ultra while N ordered a Premium. Ordering the food was a pain, because we needed crispy appetisers and N did not want to have seafood when he had to travel the next day. The chicken appetisers were neither crispy nor appealing enough to go with beer. N saw my finger move to the veg section and squealed “oh c’mon that’s like waste of money!” Eventually he agreed to picking up ‘three’ shrimps if I order for the rock shrimp tempura. When our order arrived, there was if course, much more than I had originally imagined. Thumbs up for the quantity. I loved the crispy tempura and the dash of chilly garlic powder on top of it and the dip that came with it. N said its bland and non-spicy and doesn’t have salt. I tried reasoning – tempura doesn’t have salt since it makes the crumb soggy. Didn’t work. Ordered for more beer to pacify him.
Having burnt my fingers once, I was twice shy while ordering the main course. I thought I had heard N mumbling curry, so I went straight to the curry page and ordered the only spicy curry suggested by the attendant. Chicken Panang curry with sticky rice. It came in a huge bowl – thick coconut milk based curry with tender slices of bamboo shoot and chicken, strong hint of lemon grass, with the sticky rice hidden underneath. ‘Ehnn, too sour!’ declared N and ordered another beer. Good for me, though. I loved it, pretty much my idea of comfort food. Kept saying I am full but stopped gorging only when about a third was left, just enough to be respectably asked for getting packed. Our bill came to 2500 bucks, but then blame it on the 6 beers we ordered between us. Would love to go back there, love the bright walls, although wish the customers at the tables spoke a bit low. Somehow, cacophony creates a distraction one wouldn’t want to associate with good food.
July 28, 2012
On my previous visit to Mamagoto, I was so mighty impressed that not only did I recommend it for oriental food to everyone I knew, I even looked forward for an excuse to go back in there and order the same Panang curry bowl. And so I did, this Saturday. In fact I had to get a haircut, and I revolved my entire plan around Mamagoto, went for a haircut to Khan market, hung around outside their door till they opened at 12:30 pm, went up to my table and ordered what I already had in my greedy mind since my last visit here. The curry bowl came in, I had ordered a prawn curry this time. The prawns at Mamagoto are always plump and fresher than other places. I dug in with great enthusiasm and put a piping hot morsel in my mouth. My presumably blissful ruminating experience was rudely interrupted by a chewy twig of dry lemon grass. What followed was not what I had expected based on my previous experience. Every morsel I took thereafter had either several similar dry chewy twigs about 2 inches in length, or substantially large chunks of galangal. Now truth be told, I have not been to Malaysia and have not had a real Panang curry so I am not sure if this is how they serve it there. But drawing my comparison to the same meal prepared by them at my last visit, I was sorry to say I was more than disappointed. And very honestly, I don’t care if they serve twigs and wood chips in your street food curry, when you are having it at a decent restaurant, one can expect some refinement.