Three of us visited Mamak House this weekend – serving the new to us and I think NYC Penang halal (Mamak) cuisine, with its significant Indian contributions. We have had mixed experiences with cooking of these region in NY over the years and have been often disapponted.
At Mamak, we had a most interesting, delicious and enjoyable meal. We started with pasembur, a composed salad with jicama, cucumber potato, fried bean curd, hard boiled eggs fritters and other components, mixed with a sweetish thick sauce (much like gado gado) mad e with sweet potato, nuts and other components, seemed fairly canonical, pleasant and refreshing. The main dishes were sambal ikan, sotong nasi kandar and daging nasi kandar. The first two, a dish of mackerel chunks fried in a sharp sambal, and squid sautéed in an an outstanding and fascinating sambal and spice mixture, including according to the owner fennel and cumin and visually plenty of curry leaves were great, the spices totally distinct in the two dishes, and very well matched to the tasty seafood they contained. We loved these two dishes. The third fell down on the cooking of the meat. It was a lean cut that had lost all its juiciness while not absorbing the flavor of the wonderful dark and deeply spicy sauce. This dish deserves a lower, slower preparation and in my opinion. a fattier cut of meat – the potential is there for something great, but the actual execution needs improvement. We finished with a great big bowl of cendol, fewer squiggly cendol pieces maybe than we would have liked, an an eccentric presentation but refreshing and very nice flavor from the coconut milk, candied red beans palm sugar, etc.
Looking forward to a return visit for additional fish and seafood dishes (owner recommended the Asam Pedas, and the fish head curry sounds really good, as well as some of the vegetables and to try other meat dishes to see if they are more successfully executed, and to get another taste of that wonderful squid!
. The restaurant also offers set meal combos, Penang hawker specialties, and with prior notice nasi ulam, an elaborately spiced rice dish. There is great cooking going on here and its an attractive place with a responsive owner but its serving an obscure cuisine in a bit off the track location– GO!