Mamasita is one of the most popular Mexican restaurants in Melbourne, frequently popping up in the Most Popular and Talk of the Town sections on Urbanspoon. It is located on Collins St just before Spring Street, and can be easily accessed by the 109 tram or Parliament Station. The prices and portions at Mamasita may not be the best; it is quite expensive and you don't get very large portions, but the food itself and the whole atmosphere definitely makes it worthwhile. This was my second time at the restaurant and it was just as good as the first, with less waiting time as we went quite early.
Mamasita doesn't take bookings unless you have a very large group of people, so it's a first in best dressed style of service. We went on a Monday before 6pm and luckily didn't have to wait for a table. I noticed that before 7pm, the whole restaurant including the waiting area at the bar was already full of people, and there were a few groups waiting on the stairs as well. Besides not having reservations, you also won't be taken to a table if only a few people in your group are here - we experienced this the first time we wanted to go; three of us had gotten there before the other two, and we were told we had to wait until everyone was present in order to then wait about an hour for a table. Definitely try and get there as soon as possible so you don't have to wait too long for a table.
The atmosphere at Mamasita is very lively, with chatter from the various tables mixed with the Mexican music playing in the background. The more people that came in however, the louder it became, and we did have to raise our voices a little in order to hear each other talk. The design of the interior is quite simple and minimalistic, with hanging lights and some decorations on the wall. Service was good, with friendly staff who came over several times to see if we were ready to order and if we wanted any extra dishes while we ate. We didn't have to wait very long for our food and drinks- it was definitely less than fifteen minutes. We sat by the long bench near the window which was nice and bright, but the rest of the restaurant is set in a much dimmer lighting. Because we were sitting on tall stools as opposed to chairs and booths, I assumed our bags would go on the ground, and was surprised to find that there were hooks underneath the table to put our bags on.
The Tostaditas de Carnitas are fried tortilla chips with slow braised pork shoulder, pickled jalapenos and crackling. It comes in a set of 4, and there are 5 different toppings you can choose to have. The tortilla chips also came on a bed of purple cabbage, and there was also slices of carrots on the chips. There was good portion of pork to the rest of the dish, and it was very flavoursome and not dry at all. The cabbage made for added crunchy texture, and the corn chip held together surprisingly well and didn't become soggy, despite how much ingredients were on top. However, the crackling was quite hard to bit into, and the jalapenos were quite spicy that we ended up taking it out. The carrot slices also added texture, but its flavour was overpowered by the stronger other flavours of the dish, and I didn't actually know there was carrot on the chip until I took mine apart.
The Quesadilla de Huitlacoche is a soft shell tortilla with a corn mushroom filling, and also included Creole cheese, Epazote (a Mexican herb) and a fresh salsa consisting of red onion, coriander and cucumber. Both my friend and I really enjoyed this dish, as the corn mushroom filling was very juicy, and you could really taste the natural sweetness of the mushroom. Like the tortilla chips, the tortilla didn't become soggy even though it was quite thin, and we didn't have a problem of the filling dribbling out everywhere. The addition of the cheese, tomato, onion and salsa gave the dish an added crunchy texture, and was quite refreshing overall, and surprisingly filling. The use of Creole cheese was quite nice, as it has a more mild, slightly tart taste compared to most other cheeses, but still had the chewy and stringy texture, and would suit people who may not like the strong flavours that are usually associated with cheese.
Despite the minor downsides I mentioned above, I would definitely recommend Mamasita to everyone. There's a reason it's so popular, as the flavours and textures are much more authentically Mexican compared to many other restaurants, and the general atmosphere of the restaurant is great for catching up and winding down after a long day. I'm already planning to go back again some time to try some of the other dishes!
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