When Footscray Food Blog declared that Mamak to make Melbourne's best roti, I took notice. This Malaysian style of snackery isn't well known for its veg options but I could dream of the dessert breads, stuffed with bananas and dripping with condensed milk, couldn't I? More recently Nouveau Potato revealed that Mamak's roti canai can be adapted for vegetarians, a tip that had us heading over for a quick Friday night dinner.
The options available to vegetarians are less than crystal clear, and vegans and coeliacs will be more perplexed still. But our encounter with a waiter reassured us immensely - she checked that we wanted shrimp and anchovies omitted from our meals and even seemed to have buttons for the purpose set up on the PDA to click through to the kitchen.
We could barely believe the swiftness with which our food arrived! First, two rotis with double dahl and no (shrimpy) sambal. The roti telur ($6.50) was stuffed with fried egg, a filling roti/omelette hybrid. The roti planta ($6.50) was yellow with brushed butter, and lacking crunch as a consequence. While they were both great, I harboured a little order envy for the crunchy balls of roti canai we spied at neighbouring tables.
The nasi lemak ($9) with vegetarian curry ($3) had a little fragrance and heat, but we missed the sambal (and a half boiled egg seemed a little stingy!). As vegos, it's more rewarding to DIY on this dish.
We tamed the heat with frothy stretched beverages - a teh tarik ($4) for me and a half tea/half coffee cham ($4) for Michael, both milky-sweet with just a bit of bite.
Mamak is enormously popular and known for causing queues on Lonsdale St. Still, they don't waste anyone's time - we were seated within five minutes and our food was served in a flash. And amid all the bustle the staff we encountered were equals parts chipper and efficient. I'll gladly return for a fast and friendly roti.
A vegetarian perspective on Mamak has already been posted on Nouveau Potato. It also gets a tick on The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar, egg tarts and apple pie, Footscray Food Blog, The Bake-a-nista, PETIT MIAMx, temasek, foodie about town, twoMunch, Gastrology, peach-water, Sweet and Sour Fork, Deconstructing Comestibles, theycallmemaggie, Yellow Eggs, Gourmet Chick, And Lashings Of Ginger Beer, Foolish for Food, le bon vivant, The Epicurean of Southbank, new international students, Pigging Out Around The World, The Misadventures of MissC, Foodscrazy, ohdenny., Asian Restaurants in Melbourne, Not Just an Auditor, LIVE TO EAT, Couture Foodie, It's an expensive but delicious habit., Fika & Kuidaore and The Food Society, while its weaknesses have been picked up by EAT AND BE MERRY, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE(T), mangiabeve, Ichigo Shortcake, Biting Travels, Barley Blog, The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua & The Boy, Suburban Culinary Adventures, GOOD FOOD GOOD MOOD, Lots of Cravings, The Chicken Scene, Edesian Feast, confessions of a little piggy, and Burp! Appetit.
366 Lonsdale St, Melbourne
veg snacks & mains $5.50-14.00
Accessibility: I think Mamak has a flat entry. Tables are crowded but corridors are well-defined. We ordered at our table and paid at a low-ish counter, crowding up that corridor, out front. We didn't visit the toilets.