The last two times I was in Melbourne I really wanted to try one of the Old Town Kopitiam places in Chinatown but certain things prevented that happening. Catching an early flight from Sydney on a Friday for work on Saturday gave me most of the day to roam about town and finally eat at one of them. What was my pick? The mamak version, or course.
Nestled beneath the cluster of QV Square concrete buildings is this central business district Malaysian hot-spot that dishes up a number of Malaysian street food favourites and while the term mamak is used in its title it far-from-resembles the traditional mamak places that are peppered across the mother country. Let's just say it's mamak, Melbourne style.
Simple wooden chairs and tables, vertical bands of printed colour climb the walls and span the ceiling breaking up the overall pale shell that make up the dining room. The kitchen is split-level and provides a view of the roti-tossing action while those that are not all that interested in pastry theatrics can kick back on the outside terrace.
Lunch-time in the CBD is a frantic affair and when I took a seat inside soon after they opened their doors it didn't take long for the hordes to descend. Staffing on that particular Friday was on the slim side so grabbing someones attention proved a little challenging but once an order was placed it was in the hands of the kitchen brigade.
I kicked things off with a generous plate of char kueh kak, a tasty fry-up of daikon radish cake, dark soy, egg and bean sprouts. The salt levels made me reach for my beautiful pink drink quite a few times just to balance out the salty with the sweet. What's the pink drink all about? Bandung cincau is a cooling drink of grass jelly (cincau), evaporated milk and rose syrup (bandung) and a bit of ice. Incredibly refreshing and a great palate cooler when eating chilli.
The sotong bakar is nothing more than bbq squid with cubed cucumber, red onion and coriander. Nice and tender, charred flavour and tangy and spicy sauce to dip into. I was hoping to try the roti tisu for dessert but it wasn't available at lunch. Next option had to be the roti bom, a dense patty of roti cooked on the hotplate and served with condensed milk and sugar to drizzle and sprinkle over. The roti was a little too dense for my liking but the sugar kick it gave was just what I needed.