1/F, 46 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong
Smiling down from her perch on the wall, the figurehead of Mama San is synonymous with hospitality – a madam of authority who takes care of each patron who walks through the doors of her house. In Central, this tropical food paradise is where you’ll want to linger for several hours, exploring the vibrant, colourful cuisine of Bali through a rich and plentiful menu.
The man behind the menu is Will Meyrick, whose claim to fame includes E&O in Jakarta as well as famed Balinese establishments Sarong, Hujan Locale and Mama San. With Mama San Hong Kong, Will has expanded his culinary kingdom into one of Asia’s biggest food capitals, supported by local Head Chef, Budiana, a Balinese native who’s been with Will’s Sarong group since the beginning.
Budi’s tale is one of perseverance. His career started quietly, working as an assistant in Western kitchens around Bali for close to a decade. During this time he gained more confidence in his cooking skills but felt limited by his lack of English. It wasn’t until he met Will at Sofitel Bali that he was really inspired to step out of his comfort zone and rise to the challenge of taking on a leadership role in the kitchen. After helping Will open Sarong, Budi made the decision to temporarily leave his family to head up Mama San Hong Kong, a difficult but rewarding move that’s helped him expand his global culinary knowledge day by day.
The hard work’s paid off: after three years, Mama San has undeniably become one of the top restaurants in the city serving up the rich and varied cuisine of Indonesia. At its heart, the food is approachable and fun – flavours you would find in a traditional street market that have been seamlessly carried over to an upmarket environment.
Prep your palate with the signature beef tartar served with seafood wafers, while salmon sashimi is brightened up by a tart yuzu dressing and homemade taro chips.
For mains, the salt-crusted barramundi is fragrant to the core with a stuffing of lemongrass pandan and lemon basil, while slow-braised short rib beef is simmered down to tender submission with a host of Indonesian rendang spices. The suckling pig is another fan favourite – boasting a crispy, crackling skin and enough juicy meat to feed a party of three or four. Chase the food down with one of the bar’s tropical-inspired cocktails, including the P.I.M.P. – a sweet dose of vodka, strawberry, vanilla and a peach foam topper; and the Pina Basil Smash – a refreshing mash-up of rum, citrus, pineapple and Thai basil.
While Mama San Hong Kong is smack bang in the middle of the city’s busiest commercial district, the spacious venue with its dark woods, moody lighting and industrial-style ceilings feels worlds away from the city at its doorsteps.
Vintage clocks and old photographs of Will’s own travels create an intimate, intriguing environment where your only duty is to accept Mama San’s generous offer of food and drink while the night is young.