If you’re shopping in Khan Market and you’re in mind of a quick, not very expensive meal that goes beyond a quick sandwich, then it would not hurt to pop into Mamagoto. It’s not quite destination dining (although it seems like that right now with all the ladies that lunch air-kissing their way through the restaurant) but if you were in the area, you would not be disappointed if you stopped by.
Mamagoto’s is a cheerful space (the name means an interactive dining system that encourages small children to play with their food). Of course the Khan Market incarnation is slightly more grown-up even though the décor is a little bit Powerpuff Girls, a little Harajuku Girls. The restaurant’s pay-off line is “fun Asian dining”, which is worrisome because when a restaurant is thus described, you kind of expect that you are to be distracted away from the food by fun fun fun routines that require the staff to dance and sing and bring colouring books to the table with big, fat crayons.
Thankfully this was not the case. The restaurant is best experienced in a group where lots of little dishes skimming Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Malaysian cuisine can be shared by the table. There is nothing spectacularly interesting on the menu but the range is very, very good.
The starters include the Nobu favourite, Rock Shrimp Tempura (Rs325), which is a moreish dish served with chilli mayo. The Basil Chicken Cups (Rs185) gives you cups of crisp lettuce with chicken which could have done with a touch more of the basil and the bird’s eye chili and the Thai Crispy Vegetables looked and tasted like vegetable tempura (also on the menu) but we were assured that we had been brought the right dish. This was served with a delicious lime based dressing.
We had heard very good things about the Prawn ball soup with coconut milk (125) so this and a Chinese hot and sour vegetable soup (Rs115) was ordered. Cannot rave about the prawn soup. It was okay. As was the veg soup, it was a bit gloopy and did not have the sinus-clearing effect we had hoped for.
Having kind of pigged out on the small bites, we tried to be judicious with mains - steering clear of all the temptations of the Robata Grill - lovely sounding sticky pork ribs and New Zealand lamb - settling instead on Teriyaki chicken wings (Rs275), which were burnt to a carcinogenic crisp on the one side; asparagus (Rs195), which would have tasted less like salad had it been allowed a little more time on the grill; and delicious eggplant (Rs195) basted with mirin. The sweet Japanese wine had turned the brinjal into a lovely dish with slight charred flavours and a soft, almost caramelized taste.
House favourites will include dishes like the Chiang Mai train station noodles (Rs375). We tried the chicken version of this khao-suey style dish and it was good. Chunkier than expected and big enough to be shared by two people who have indulged in starters. A traditional crispy lamb (Rs265) was exactly as expected (can one really do anything interesting with deep fried red meat?) and a Thai red chicken curry (Rs265) was tasty but my dining companion said it tasted like it had been assembled from store bought pastes. The steamed rice we ordered was a little too grainy and the curry would have been lovely with some sticky or Jasmine rice.
A small clutch of desserts yielded a hazelnut and chocolate mousse cake (Rs275) for our now very satiated table. It was a little heavier than a mousse is required to be but nice enough.
The service was brilliant for the first half but petered out as the place filled up and there was a sense of panic as staff scurried from one table of sharp, remonstrative brand-aware diner to another. Gosh the ladies that lunch are picky.