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On a recent Saturday afternoon in South Delhi’s Select Citywalk Mall, guttural sounds rumbled from workout junkies breaking a sweat in the central atrium. Inside Mamagoto, however, it was pleasantly boisterous, where diners rattled off their orders and engaged in animated discussions about sharing plates. The ceiling loomed large, highlighted by a giant blue stuffed bear that seemed to stare right down at you. Clearly, the décor, with assorted curios and stylised Oriental artwork, was a nod to Asian kitsch.
Such is the craze for Mamagoto’s Pan-Asian fare that you need to be armed with oodles of luck to snag a table at the restaurant on weekends, without waiting an hour or more. So, when a table opened up finally, at a corner of the restaurant, I made a mad dash for it, only to find a scroll, tightly rolled up inside a tiny bottle, concealing a secret menu. It listed favourites of loyal patrons who had thronged their outlets over the years and were missing their old must-haves in the new menu. Understandably, the secret menu items do not make an appearance on the list of current dining options available at the restaurant. One has to ask for the secret menu in order to be part of the charmed dining circle.
Of course, there is no looking back once you have been let in on the secret. In this searing summer heat, it made sense to begin with the Vegetarian Thai Glass Noodle Salad, a genre defining staple that is taken to the next level with a Thai-inspired dressing of lime and pepper. Equally refreshing was the Gomai Salad (blanched spinach with a light sesame-flavoured dressing), which cleansed the palate with its vibrant notes. The secret to the mad rush at Mamagoto during lunch hours is not so much about completely off-kilter recipes as it is about a careful selection of fresh produce and sauces. In a vast and diverse Pan Asian menu, delicate ingredients such as Enokitake Mushrooms and Spinach can shine rather than being smothered in cloying and stodgy sauces. For instance, the Smoky Grilled Aubergine Robata, which had resurfaced from the restaurant’s first menu, featured sliced aubergines, grilled on a coal-fired robata and dressed in just a hint of mirin and sake glaze.
Subtlety, the enemy of mass market dining establishments, is venerated here. The Fragrant Indonesian Curry on Rice in a Lotus Leaf took a luxurious turn at Mamagoto, where a deeply aromatic turmeric and lemongrass-infused coconut milk curry was poured over short-grained rice. Similarly, the hawker food staple, Tom Kha’s Cousin, was a study in textural contrast where flat rice noodles were played against a coconut based soup and vegetables.
Writer Virginia Woolf, it is said, had once remarked: ‘One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well.’ Well, one can always head to Mamagoto, for a similar sense of wellbeing.