I’m going to be brief with this food review. Wasn’t a good experience and I think I would rather complain but I don’t want to turn this into a rant. It wasn’t that the service or decor ticked me off, it was the food. The place could be horrible and rude, but if the food is delicious, I won’t be too disturbed. So for me to say that the food wasn’t great, that’s a big deal. I rarely say that.
I’ve been holding off on writing this because I just didn’t want to deal with it. But it’s about 2 AM, and I’m still backlogged in posts I thought I might as well squeeze this one in. So let’s get this over with:
Mamak (35-20 Farrington St. Flushing, NY 11355)
I decided to come here after my friend suggested it. He was also interested in trying it out after reading a review of it in the New York Times. He was intrigued by the focus on the Indian roots in Malaysian cuisine, versus the many Malaysian restaurants that tend to showcase the Chinese heritage. I saw this as an opportunity to make him come to Flushing and have him endure the long commute back home, which I had to bear when leaving from Manhattan. Pay back time? O ho ho. Nope. Total backfire. This time, I did enact the revenge (I mean this all in a joking way) but I was the one who left with regret and a wallet wishing for its money back.
The decor of the restaurant had a very “hipster” vibe. The brick walls gave it a rustic and homey feel, which I appreciated. This restaurant still displayed its Korean BBQ origins, also observed by the New York Times, with the grills on the table and hoods protruding from the ceiling. However, there was a little TV at every booth to one side of the restaurant with maybe 2 large flat screen TVs. I felt that they were extremely distracting. I remember watching Gordon Ramsay’s Best Restaurant, and an undercover food critic complained that the TV was very distracting in a restaurant. The TVs in Mamak were all playing Transformers. I wasn’t interested, but I could see movements in my peripheral view since it was to the right of me. But maybe they did put it there for distraction. From what? Well, the food took a very long time to arrive but I’m getting ahead of myself…
Staring at the menu, I didn’t know what to order. Looking at the recommendations in the New York Times article, the names were foreign and didn’t give me any indication whether it was in the meat or seafood or noodle sections of the menu. I had to sift through the review like a detective and look at the description to pinpoint the dish’s location on the menu. Most of the dishes are not served with rice. The restaurants encourages family style, where sizable groups share an array of platters and sample each while enjoying engaged conversations. But it was only me and a friend. At most, we could order 2 dishes but that’s pretty much equivalent to a dish for each person. I don’t think I can eat curry without a bowl of rice. I usually don’t eat a lot of rice but seriously, you need some rice to pair with their dishes.
My friend tried to order the Mee Rebus Mamak, a noodle dish, but they said they ran out of it. He also tried to order a drink but they said they also ran out of it. I remember him saying that it was only 8:30 pm, how could they be out?
I settled with a dinner set, that included rice. I wanted to get the Ayam Rendang, which was a chicken curry and was recommended, but at almost $14 and adding a bowl of rice for $1.30, it wasn’t worth it. The dinner set I picked, Nasi Kandar, included the curry with rice and other sides, for about $15. I thought, why not? What could go wrong? Oh boy…
Nasi Kandar Combo 1 ($14.95)
“A meal of mildly flavored steam rice, served with a variety of curries and one side dishes (chicken or beef), with fried cabbage, Indian cracker, fresh green pepper and steam okra.”
First of all, this description is very deceiving. The definition of variety means that there is at least one of the object it describes. But having 2 still fails the expectation a variety creates. Maybe 3 is the minimum. You know what I got, one. As you can see in the above picture, I got one curry. Reading the description, I imagined there to be small bowls of various (another form of the word variety) curries to sample. But what I got was a small portion of curry, a mound of rice, okra, cabbage, and stale crackers. The vegetables tasted very normal, like something I could make at home. No spunk at all. And now that I’m looking at the online description, where was my “fresh” green pepper? Maybe they ran out of “fresh” ones and decided to spare me and not serve it at all. Why thank you.
I’ll say it again, but the crackers were stale. Not a little stale, but noticeably stale. Crackers should be crispy and add a crunch. These were not “fresh.” I wonder how long they have been out.
But I do have to say, the curry tasted really good. I don’t remember the exact flavors but I wished I had more. Did I mention, my “variety of curries” was just the Ayam Rendang. According to my notes, I wrote that there was a “nice amount of spice.” You can interpret that however you want. Yes, it was tasty but totally overshadowed by the disappointment from the rest of the meal. As you can see from the review, I remember all my complaints but don’t even remember the flavors of the curry that I remember tasting so good.
Mee Goreng Mamak ($7.95)
“A sweet, spicy and savoury dish of yellow noodles stir-fried in a thick mix of black soy sauce with eggs, tomatoes, chilli, potatoes, tofu and vegetable fritters.”
This was my friend’s dish and I was totally jealous. It wasn’t on the list of recommendations form the New York Times. I didn’t associate a noodle dish to Indian food because you tend to to think of curries. I thought this was surely a dish for the guests who preferred the Chinese take on Malaysian dishes, since Flushing had a large Chinese population. Why would you order that when this restaurant is known for taking an Indian approach?
This dish was sweet and I was surprised by it since I didn’t read its description. It was steaming hot, unlike mine, which arrived on the cold side. As you know by now, I love my food so hot to the point that it could hurt me. I swear I’m not a masochist. It just makes me feel all warm inside. What can I say, I have the small cold heart of the Grinch. At least for now whilst I write this review. I bet they cooked mine first and let it sit while making his afterwards. Or maybe it was just sitting in the kitchen while we waited the entire time.
So this dish tasted better than whatever I got. It was about half the price of mine. One complaint? It had a rock hard undercooked potato.
All in all, I would definitely not return. The dinner set I ordered has destroyed all possibilities of me ever returning. This was a disappointing experience and I think my friend can remember my complaints afterwards as we walked through New World Mall’s Food Court for me to take pictures for my new blog, Fast Food, Etc. While there, I saw families taking food from the buffet, which I hadn’t noticed. In the front of the restaurant, there’s a small buffet area. If I do return, I might do the buffet so I can try many dishes. Obviously it won’t be of the same quality as their other dishes but better than me trying a so-called “variety of curries,” a.k.a. one curry. Hopefully the buffet price is reasonable. I can’t seem to find it on their website. And if I do get dragged to come back, I hope it’s with a large group so we can share many different dishes. Maybe it’s unfair that I’m basing it off that one dinner set when in actuality, the Ayam Rendang portion of it was delicious, but the reality is that the entire dish as a whole outweighed that curry. As you can tell, this has been a rather aggressive review but my sarcasm displays my resentment towards coming here. So return based on your own decision. They have received rave reviews, according to their Facebook page. Maybe those food critics don’t feel as conflicted as I do when they order a dish that is over $10 and don’t have an image of their wallet in the back of their minds. I think I’ll stick with quick, affordable foods from here on out.