Monday, July 16, 2012

Mama Baba @ South Yarra, Melbourne

We were heading towards Burch and Purchese on Chapel Street to get our dose of sweets when at a traffic light, we spotted the sign "Mama Baba". It took that 5-10 seconds before I realised that this was the latest place opened by the short pudgy bald guy on Master Chef (apologies to George, if you found that description rude).


Once that sank in (not the image of George but the fact that Mama Baba was just around the corner), we decided we will pop in for dinner that night. Luckily, the place was open at 4pm and we managed to get in to secure a reservation for later.


The place is rather hidden, literally at the end of the quiet and dim Daly Street (off Chapel Street). However walk into Mama Baba and it is a different story. While it is still dim, the whole place has "If you are hip and cool, we want you in" written all over it. That isn't exactly a bad thing as it was probably just the thing we needed after I was complaining to the Wife that I felt old and boring. The whole vibe and music made us "young" again during dinner.  


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The black cutlery was something different although in this case, was I being cynical to think that there was some form of advertising going on with Salt&Pepper or the other way around?

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I always give bonus points for complimentary bread and Mama Baba gets it with the focaccia bread. After seeing George advertising Western Star butter on TV one too many times, we weren't surprised that the bread came with what else but Western Star butter, apparently the best but I beg to differ.  

I can't seem to find pictures of our starters but we did have a serve of polenta chips and culatello. The polenta was crispy on the outside and had a soft inside but polenta naturally tasting rather bland, we would have liked more of the chilli in that chilli sour cream dip provided on the side. The culatello, a kind of prosciutto was rather meagre in portion with bits of mozarella, radish and balsamic. Subsequent to the meal, I got to learn (where else but on Master Chef) that culatello is like the king of prosciutto which probably explains why there was no more than 4-5 see through thick slices. 

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Like the waiter / waitress will tell you or you can tell them you read it here first, Mama Baba is all about pasta and is split between Greek influenced (Mama) and good old Italian (Baba). Accordingly, the cheeses you get is different, I can't remember the name but the greek cheese really packed a punch.   

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The tortellini came from the Greek side, filled with a prawn saganaki served with some tomatoes, feta and fragrant prawn oil. This was delicious through and through.  

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From the Baba side, we ordered the agnolotti with a slow cook pork filling on a bed of artichoke and dates and finished with mortadella and guanciale on top. While the filling was nice and the artichoke cooked beautifully soft with burst of sweetness from the dates, there was something wrong. In a typical Master Chef response, we asked "where is the sauce?". The dish just needed a little sauce to tie everything together, even if it was juices from the artichokes or even burnt butter. 

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The "Ferrero Rocher" sounded awesome on paper (despite having Burch and Purchese desserts sitting in the fridge) but didn't exactly deliver. Rather one dimensional in texture, the nuts in the cake were rather flat too. The gelato on offer sounded tempting so if we ever come back, let's hope it delivers. 

The meal came up to about $40 per pax and while that won't leave you stuffed, we didn't leave the place hungry. I reckon had we switched the starters for another pasta, I might have left the place even happier. 


Address and contact details:

Mama Baba on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. I don't think the place deserves that low rating on Urbanspoon and even if I was to be extra critical of this place (you know, having a celebrity chef behind the whole place), it is still a decent place for a plate of pasta (maybe a plate and the half). 

8 comments:

Brisbane Devoured said...

That packaged Western Star butter is really annoying...

Sean said...

all about pasta? sounds like my kinda place! there's been very little pasta excitement in KL this year, unfortunately...

Michelle Chin said...

40 per pax... you might as well go to the press club and have their set lunch!

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

mchin: alas, its 50 for food only and mon-fri..a lil rich for a working day lunch and of course don't want to be bumping to bosses in there (if not they think i am too well paid).. a pity since it does sound like quite a bargain!

sean: well i hope some restauranter hears you and dreams up a concept pasta bar!

brisbanedevoured: i know!! although i do admit i use their butter in cooking..

Baby Sumo said...

For some reason, I thought this place would serve Baba Nyonya food. ;P

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

babysumo: oh dont tempt me with that thought, i dont think i have seen a baba nyonya restaurant in this part of town yet!

iamthewitch said...

Oohh you watch MasterChef too? I have a colleague who scorns at people who watch that :P Anyway, I wonder if George has any restaurants in Sydney? It would be nice to try out something from his restaurant after watching him criticize so many contestants :P The tortellini looks really good though!

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

iamthewith: despite how "drama" the whole thing is i actually watch most episodes..all of george's restaurants are in melbourne and he has actually quite a few