Ok ... panic stations!! Less than 2 weeks to go before we step on that Emirates flight to Barcelona, and I still haven't quite worked out our itinerary. I think we are going to have to wing it at some stage! Anyhoo, we still had time to check up on a couple of new eateries, the first one being Small Victories, which I will blog about shortly. The second is the 6 week old Masak Masak on 230 Smith Street, Fitzroy, which I will post about now.
News about a new Malaysian restuarant opening in reasonably close proximity is always met with equal parts excitement and trepidation. Excitement because it is easily ranked as our favourite cuisine, and general consensus is you have to travel farther afield to get the genuine deal. Trepidation because by and large the end result is always slightly dissappointing, or at best, the quality is uneven.
So Masak Masak is unfortunately not likely to buck the trend.
The term Masak Masak, apart from being a rather fey children's game, also refers to the general art of cooking. But do not attempt to corelate the 2 as Malaysian cooking is far from child's play, especially when you want to get it right.
The staff at this establishment all seem frightfully young, which in itself, is not a bad thing. But I get the feeling that in terms of traditional cooking they are further away from the ancestral practices of cooking from scratch, and have grown up with store bought flavours and 21st century fusion. (oh and lard free hawker centre food - I mean really!! What's the point!)
We were extremely excited at the prospect of having Satay from a customised brazier. And Masak Masak's offering comes with cubes of ketupat, raw onion and cucumber (pieces not slices). So 2 big ticks let down by a limpid and unexiciting satay sauce. And let's face it, its the satay sauce that makes the dish.
Their homestyle Otak Otak was closer to its origins, but needed a bit more of a Kafir lime leaf boost. But they came in cute banana leaf wrapped parcels, showing a little bit of skill.
As far as I know, not many other places serve Roti John. A curious dish melding the orient with her colonial past, its essentially a baguette (of the sweet shiny kind) grilled with egg and minced meat (usually lamb), and eaten with tomato sauce. Greasy, eggy, meaty, yummy! The perfect snack.
Masak Masak's offering bucks the religious trend and serves their's with a thick slab of Bak Kuah and crispy lettuce. I'm all for fusion and I'm all for Bak Kuah, but I'd wish they would tweak the menu listing and advise customers that this is their version of a much loved hawker dish. Thats my only gripe, as this dish is moreish and something I would come back for. (Incidentally, in Singapore, you usually find Roti John at Malay run stores, and Bak Kuah is made out of pork ... in-te-rest-ing!)
For mains, we shared the Kon Loh Mee and some Fried Kai Lan (sorry I seem to have lost my photos for these). You have 2 options with the wontons, either fried or served in a soup. Ours came in a soup which was a little tasteless, but some people may prefer their broth that way.
The Noodles themselves had the requisite flavour of Kon Loh mee, but the dish was missing slices of Char Siu, and I would have preferred the noodles a little less lighter in colour and washed in the sauce, rather than cooked or mixed too well in it. Not sure if I'm being clear but there is a difference, at least in my head.
The Fried Kai Lan was served with crispy fried garlic chips, which was a nice touch. And stemmage was suitably crispy.
Masak masak, in summary, is worth checking out. There are some dishes that are not usually found in other Malaysian establishments, and its always worth trying something new.