A Mother’s cooking is a powerful thing. It can evoke feelings of comfort, safety and love knowing it has been made with care and especially for you. This is the kind of food I could eat every week. And that’s what I found in Mamaku: It’s a family Indonesian restaurant owned by a son, with his mother behind the stoves and his father joining him on the floor.
If you’re not familiar with the Northside of Brisbane, Mamaku is a blink and miss it kind of place. Located off busy Sandgate Rd, wedged in the corner of a little precinct, the eatery is very small, with 10 seats inside and about 10 outside. As we found out on a Monday night, these seats fill up fast. Good thing we had booked ahead.
The son politely seated us inside with a view into the kitchen where we could see his Mother working her magic. The room is minimalistic with white walls and shelves filled with Indonesian nick-knacks such as a mini mortar and pestle. Out came a couple of small dishes to share. Five fried pork and prawn meat balls ($7) were dense and incredibly moreish. The sweet chili sauce served alongside was a good addition but we needed 10x the amount of sauce. The bowl of home made prawn crackling ($5) was crunchy and salty, whetting our appetite for the mains to come.
The best whole fish dish I have ever eaten was at Spirit House where a huge ‘standing’ fish arrives doused in a homemade chili sauce, its wings, skin and tail so crispy they are like chips. Mamaku’s whole chili fish ($22) wasn’t ‘standing’ but was a grand rendition of the Spirit House classic. The flesh of the baby barramundi was beautifully flaky and tender while the skin and fins were wonderfully crispy. The sauce was the star, giving a hit of spice that lingered at the end of each mouthful.
Slow cooked beef curry served with sweet potato ($16) will go down as one of the best rendang’s I have eaten. The soft sweet potato paired very nicely with the tender beef and I loved the grated coconut that was permeated throughout the sauce.
Slow cooked pork belly cooked with preserved vegetables ($16) is as rich as a dish could possibly get with melt-in-the-mouth fatty pieces of pork belly, sitting in a sauce that had extracted the flavour of the bok choy and cooking juices of the pork.
No desserts are on offer at Mamaku and to be honest they aren’t necessary. Leaving room for dessert would be a sin with food like this. Another note, the restaurant doesn’t have liquor licensing so bring your own drinks.
Mamaku is one of the only restaurants in town where you can actually taste a Mother’s cooking. The food here doesn’t only satisfy in a physical sense but it is food that is good for the soul.