MSG: The Melbourne Social Guide

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Old Town Kopitiam Mamak

with 5 comments

Old Town Kopitiam Mamak
Level 2, Shop 11, QV Square,
QV, Melbourne, 3000

Old Town Kopitiam Mamak on Urbanspoon

I would like to note first of all that I have been to this restaurant on numerous occasions and have therefore had the ability to sample several of the dishes. I will thus give you a breakdown of all of them.

Old Town Kopitiam Mamak is a recently opened extension of the already established and fairly popular Old Town Kopitiam on Little Bourke Street (as far as I know, no connection to the chain in Malaysia by the way, I find it bizarre how people tend to assume that just because a place has the same name… a name that you can clearly see is a fairly ubiquitous concept based on traditional concepts… means that they are the same place). For the uninitiated, the ‘mamak’ concept comes form the Malaysian name for Indian Tamil Muslims that settled in the country (the term is considered to be pejorative as far as I know) and opened restaurants of a particular type selling a particular variety of food. For more detailed information check out the fairly comprehensive wiki article on Mamak stalls but the general gist is that these restaurants are often open 24 hours a day, are very cheap, sell very tasty (but very unhealthy) food and are hubs for everyone, old and young, to come, hang out, chat and order an array of artery-clogging awesomeness.

Now Old Town Kopitiam’s version is not cheap, but it is also not expensive, you pay roughly the same amount for a meal here as you would in most other ethnic eateries. The decor is inspired partly by the mamak stalls themselves (stools, tables outside, uncles/ah peks/old men) with their leg up smoking, etc.) and partly by the old Ipoh white coffee-style coffee shops with the marble, tiles and the old wood (somewhat similar to Hong Kong-style bing sutt but somewhat different also).

The fare is definitely mamak-inspired, and the test here is definitely for authenticity. The menu has a selection of rotis, both sweet and savoury, Malaysian breakfasts (such as half-boiled eggs and kaya toast), Nasi Kandar and mamak-style noodles (mee goreng, etc.)

Of the dishes I have tried here let’s start with the nasi kandar, of which there is a selection of either biryani rice or plain jasmine rice and either two or three dishes from the nasi kandar menu.. I selected the nasi biryani (spiced rice) with ayam goreng (fried chicken) and sambal egg ($9). Of the dishes I sampled, I found this one to be one of the best and most authentic. The rice was spiced well, the sambal could’ve been spicier (as usual) but was good overall, the ayam goreng wasn’t the best in Melbourne but was definitely passable, all together it was a worthwhile dish for 9 bucks.

The second dish I tried here was the savoury roti telur (roti with egg, $4.50) which was, in marked difference to the nasi kandar, a spectacular fail. The roti itself tasted bland, and was served chopped into pieces for some reason (bizarre), there was far from enough egg but the worst part was the curry. It was served with a sambar (a vegetable type curry) and some sort of fishy curry. The sambar was basically brown and water and tasted like nothing, the other curry was basically oil with sugar in it. Horrible.

I’ve also tried the sweet roti bom (roti $5) buttered and served with condensed milk and sugar on the side, ) on two occasions and both times I was satisfied. For starters, the roti was served whole as it damn well should be, the butter gave it the requisite flavour (though nothing like in Malaysia of course) and though there was not enough condensed milk and far too much sugar, the staff were helpful and provided additional condensed milk free of charge upon request.

However, by far my favourite roti at Old Town Kopitiam Mamak would have to be the roti john (minced meat, mayonnaise, sweet chili and egg served in a long toasted bun, $7). This is another legendary dish in Malaysia & Singapore, legends abound as to how it came about. I’ve heard that there was a white customer at some mamak stall named John who requested western bread instead of the roti, the dish stuck and was named after him. Take that with a grain of salt though. Roti John recipes vary in Malaysia & Singapore, some are served with a cold cut, some with minced beef and some with sardines. This particular roti john is one of my favourites and, due to being heavy on the mayonnaise, can feel like a light snack or a meal depending on your stomach.

In addition to the food, Old Town Kopitiam Mamak also serves Malaysian drinks such as the teh tarik (sweet milk tea that has been pulled through the air for aeration) and a great set of ‘specials’ which are incredibly sweet, fruit-based (such as lychee, mango, etc.) and are served in a big jar-type glass mug with fruit chunks and flavouring. For anyone who has been to the mamak stall in Malaysia’s Petaling Jaya SS2 called Murni will be very familiar with these. I haven’t seen them anywhere else apart from Murni and Old Town Kopitiam Mamak.

Alex’s Ratings:

Taste: 7/10. I suppose three out of four ain’t bad, discounting the savoury roti fails.

Authenticity: 7/10. Almost but not quite, again the savoury roti really lets them down.

Value: 7/10. The food is still cheap, but not uniquely so, definitely not by ‘mamak’ standards and while some dishes are excellent value (such as the nasi kandar) other dishes seem excessively expensive (such as the roti john).

Service: 7/10. Mixed bag, I’ve had some friendly and attentive service here as well as slack-jawed waiters staring into space while I wave my arms around trying to get their attention. Given the price and standards set by other Asian restaurants in the same market category, definitely above average here.

Ambience: 8/10. They have definitely done well here, combining Malaysian mamak ambience that makes us all long to be back in KL with Australian hygiene standards and cleanliness. There are also some unique visual elements that I appreciate, such as the picture at the top of the stacked cans. Could do with less stools and more chairs though.

Overall: 7/10. Just scrapes through, they’re lucky I’m in a good mood.

5 Responses

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  1. Sounds like you didn’t have a great experience – a shame as I really liked it! Can’t say much for its authenticity but there are lots of students eating there, so I guessed it was pretty good.

    Jetsetting Joyce

  2. Well maybe I wasn’t enthusiastic enough about the other dishes which I did like but pretty much everything I had *was* good *except* for the savoury roti telur! I do think it’s quite authentic and the students do love it, a big part of that is also nostalgia I think (and the fact that QV apartments is sort of an International Student ghetto). Maybe I should bump the authenticity mark up to 8 or something. Gah, numbers.


    March 3, 2010 at 3:08 pm

  3. 7 is a good mark to give. I gave it a rather good review too. There are a few hits and misses but it hits the right spots when I have cravings for mamak.

    penny aka jeroxie

    March 4, 2010 at 9:16 pm

  4. mmm…. mamak. i crave the real mamak. you know what i’m talkin’ bout. 🙂


    March 5, 2010 at 12:29 am

  5. the food in old town mamak is delicious and the price is quite reasonable,i did have a good supper at the QV old town mamak,but the table service is really bad…. my friend did order a nasi briyani combo which is the curry chicken,rendang lamb…. but the meat of the chicken curry is pinkish(the part is chicken thigh) and my friend couldn’t chew it when we tell the supervisor he respond to us that the meat is actually cook… due to there is no blood apppear…if the meat is over cook it will be dry…i found that quite funny and i ask him is that the raw chicken meat is pink colour and he feedback to us that i study cookery so the meat is cook….and he also tell me that don’t be so rude. if any thing happend please come to complain me my name is calvin tan i am the supervisor at QV mamak store working hours from 6:00p.m. until 6:00a.m….haha what a good table service to the customer.

    elvin lee

    December 31, 2011 at 2:10 am

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