Comparisons between Hawkers, which opened a few years ago, and the new Mamak are inevitable. Both have similar concepts of serving small plates, and even the sub names are almost the same, Asian Street Fare for Hawkers and Asian Street Food for Mamak. And they're both in the Mills 50 district.
And they're both quite good.
Mamak takes over the space that most recently was Ha Long Bistro, a Vietnamese restaurant. The interior has been beautifully renovated and sports bright yellow walls and decorative accents of nautical ropes that hang from the ceiling in swooping patterns and hang from the walls. There are individual tables and banquets as well as a couple of hightop communal tables with yellow metal stools. Despite the way that sounds, it actually has a classy appeal.
The name refers to vendors of Asian food — hawkers, if you like — who sell noodle and rice dishes from stalls set up on the streets throughout Southeastern Asia. At Mamak, however, there is special emphasis on Malaysian dishes. At the top of each section of the menu is a highlighted Malaysian dish indicated as a house specialty, which is where I focused most of my ordering. In fact, the one dish that I had that was the least bit disappointing was one that was not one of the featured items.
That was the Crispy Roast Pork, billed as a "tender pork belly, fire roasted to crispy golden brown." It was indeed that — the crackling on the pork was crispy and delicious. The meat, however, was a bit too tough for your basic belly.
But even that wasn't a total let down. It just paled in comparison to the other dishes. Such as the Malaysian Coconut Kari, listed as that country's most popular dish. It was a moody brown curry with myriad layers of spices that culminated in a bit of heat that was not overpowering but left a lovely lingering note. My guest and I ordered ours with beef (you may choose chicken or tofu, if you prefer) and we enjoyed spooning the gravy over the jasmine rice.
While the Kari is Malaysia's most popular dish, Char Kway Teow is, according to the menu, the most popular street food. Similar to a pad Thai, it featured rice noodles wokked with shrimp and chicken plus bean sprouts and a bit of egg. Delicious.
The Mamak Roti Canai was a puffy bit of bread that wouldn't have been nearly as appealing without the spicy curry sauce that came with it. We liked the sauce so much that we kept it on the table to be enjoyed with some of the other dishes.
As with other tapas concepts, the small plates are delivered as they are ready, served by the perky young staffers. The highest price on the menu is $8.50, but be alert to how many you're ordering — you could get carried away and end up with a hefty bill.
But I don't think you'd be the least bit disappointed.
Mamak Asian Street Food is at 1231 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. There is no website, but the menu is available on the restaurant's Facebook page.