Middle Eastern restaurant review: Mama Malouf in Kennedy Town, Hong Kong
If you asked a group of Hong Kongers about their favourite restaurant in Kennedy Town, chances are a good number would say CATCH. The bright, open, Melbourne-style restaurant has been serving up fresh seafood to happy dinners for a few years now. What people may not realize is that the restaurant is opened by Alex Malouf, the nephew of award-winning Lebanese-Australian chef Greg Malouf. Building on the success of his first restaurant, Alex decided to open up Mama Malouf, a place focusing on his mom’s Lebanese recipes, last year.
For eight months now, Mama Malouf - located right beside CATCH - has been serving up homestyle dishes to city becoming increasingly interested in Middle Eastern cuisine. And ‘homestyle’ isn’t just a marketing gimmick, these really are many of the dishes Alex’s family grew up eating. After taking in feedback from guests, it was time to add new things to the menu which is now nearly double in size. Recently, we had the opportunity to try a couple of the new dishes and revisit some of our old favourites.
We started with a trio of dips. There was a delicious amount of tahini in the baba ganoush ($68), which was smokey with a hint of mint and topped with roasted green chillis. We also enjoyed the smooth hummus ($78), with lean minced lamb and mealy pine nuts. The cucumber labne ($68) was very refreshing, sweetened by honey and tarragon, and topped with caramelized onions.
When we cut into the burrata, it oozed pleasingly over the salad ($128). The mild creamy cheese mixed with the tahini, eggplant, tomato and parsley salad was light yet full of flavour; a perfect dish for summer.
During our first visit to Mama Malouf, we’d loved the haloumy and fontina cheese fondue with fig jam on brioche ($118). It was just as delicious the second time around. The cheese isn’t stringy, but scoops out and spreads easily. A scoop of the fig jam helps to keep the salty cheeses from feeling too overwhelming and oily.
It was our first time eating Selak ($108), a silverbeet roll with a chickpea, rice and tomato filling. Mama Malouf's version is served with a pleasing yogurt sauce with Turkish chili salt. This is a special occasion food in Lebanese households, as it’s time consuming to make. Alex told us up to thirty percent of the rolls break while they’re being made. The silverbeet tasted slightly earthy in a pleasant way, but overall this dish was a bit too mild for our palates.
Each of the three beef kafta skewers were generous in size ($178). While the seasoning was good, we found these to be on the dry side. The whole roasted baby snapper ($168) was much better, perfectly cooked and lightly seasoned to allow the natural flavour to shine through. We don't usually eat cabbage with our fish, but it turns out to be a common side dish for fish in Lebanese cooking and we can see why. The crunch of the cabbage was a nice texture to have with the soft fish. On the side, we were also served perfectly crispy potato cubes in a cup.
We have only good things to say about the new desserts. The Turkish delight fondue ($68) is pleasingly simple. A cup of rose and vanilla turkish delight is served with a cup of melted chocolate and another cup of crushed pistachios for dipping. There’s nothing fancy about this, just quality ingredients for a satisfying end to a meal.
It was a tough call, but we liked our second dessert even more. The burnt honey with yoghurt panna cotta ($68) had such interesting depth with the bitterness of the burnt honey contrasting with notes of orange blossom and mandarins. At the same time, the yogurt base was so refreshing we wanted to eat the whole thing.
Mama Malouf doesn’t serve up fancy, complicated food but this is its strength. When our schedules are packed and we’re overloading our bodies with toxins from too many meals out, it’s nice to eat a simple meal that isn’t overly complex. Here guests are served homestyle food where the portions are generous for the price. We’ll definitely be back to try more things from the new menu.
93G/F Catchick Street, Kennedy Town, 2817 3828
Thank you Foodie for inviting me to review. Photos 1, 5 and 6 are from the PR agency.