Vacations & Travel

Review: Mama San, Bali

By Natasha Dragun
Published in the April-June 2012 issue.

Bali’s newest restaurant brings Vietnamese and Cambodian specialties to a dining room that wouldn’t look out of place in Shanghai.

Will Meyrick has me wrapped around his little finger – the ginger brûlée that he serves up at Sarong, his Seminyak restaurant applauded for its creative take on Thai, Indonesian and Indian favourites, is a dish that I would happily take with me to a deserted island. Sadly, it’s not on the menu at Meyrick’s newest Bali eatery, Mama San. But there’s plenty on the menu, not to mention the walls, to compensate.

The dining room comes courtesy of Caroline Usher, who has transformed the two-storey gudang (warehouse) into a retro China-chic restaurant-cum-bar, the ground-floor space fitted out with wood-and-steel mahjong tables and vintage railway clocks and long, tan-hued leather Chesterfields, all set under a dramatic four-metre-high mural. A brass staircase leads to the upstairs bar where vintage mirrors and banquettes sit under bi-fold terrace windows.

In the kitchen with chef Palm Almatawet, Meyrick prepares Cambodian, Vietnamese and Chinese dishes – with a twist. The dumplings, for example, are filled with beef and bamboo instead of the traditional pork and chives, and there’s no soy but instead, a dipping sauce of chilli and hot-bean paste. The Vietnamese chicken salad, meanwhile, is spruced up with slivers of pomelo, coral mushrooms and lime leaves. Save room for desert – it’s not ginger brûlée, but the mung-bean cake with coconut ice cream is one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long time; I might well have to find space for it on my island as well.

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