Date of review: January 21, 2016 | Reviewed by: Wilson Fok
After the success of her first Thai restaurant Chachawan, Yenn Wong moves forward with her second act, Mak Mak. Opened earlier this month, the venue promises to deliver with its casual setting and bold flavours. Guests searching for Mak Mak will be greeted with a traditional Thai shop storefront, which operates as the restaurant’s take-away counter that cleverly conceals the 60-seater dining room just behind the walls. Designed by NC Design & Architecture, the hidden dining concept creates a homely feel, which is enhanced by shelves of Thai grocery products (chilli sauce, coconut milk) lined up across the shelves. Tables are evenly spaced across the dimly lit room while the extensive use of timber and boldly coloured tiles bring a sense of liveliness to the room.
Mak Mak promises the vibrant flavours of Central Thailand, and this is what you will get. Each course offers five to six options, and there is also a full page of vegetarian dishes to choose from. Tom yum goong is served with a tea light candle underneath to keep it warm. The soup packs a punch with fish sauce and heat from chillies – the average palate may find it more on the fiery side. We opted for Thai crab and prawn cakes, thinly coated and deep-fried until golden. They may be overseasoned, but the homemade chilli dipping sauce is sweet and hot with a touch of garlic. Spicy winged bean salad merits our praises with the Thai veggie staple tossed in a dressing that is chock-full of shallots, toasted peanuts, and dried shrimps.
Mak Mak features a good selection of curries and wok-fried dishes. The roast duck and grilled pineapple red curry is picture-perfect and packs heat from the sauce. Wok-fried beef with Thai herbs is excellent with tender beef slices flash-tossed in the hot wok with fresh herbs.. The crab omelette is great with crisp, golden edges.
Green chicken curry, however was a let down, as it looks the part but lacks depth. Wok-fried soft shell crab with yellow curry sauce would fare better with a thinner coating but the sauce is creamy and rich in texture with flaky crabmeat, tender shallots and crunchy Chinese celerty. If you must order carbs, the phad thai is authentically sweet and savoury at the same time. Complimentary refills of steamed Thai jasmine rice is on the wet side, and slightly too glutinous to match well with the curries.
Desserts are popular especially the khanom mak mak, where dried fish, coconut shrimps, and steamed custard top glutinous rice cooked in a butterfly-pea infusion, giving it a striking indigo colour.
While Mak Mak brings a fine selection of dishes to the table, it is lacking in beverages. There are not a lot of wines to choose from, although the establishment earns extra points for offerings by the glass, and by the carafe options as well as by the bottle. Cocktails and mocktails (four each from the menu) are made with Thai elements, but it is the traditional Thai milk tea that stands out, with a good balance between the depth from the tea and smoothness from the milk, with just a touch of sweetness.
The service team Mak Mak brings sound knowledge to menu offerings, especially vivid descriptions of dishes and good suggestions for guests on portion control. The only drawback is that the restaurant is short-staffed and service is inconsistent as guests wait for dishes to be cleared and glasses to be refilled.
A full dinner for two including one drink and gratuity sums up to a total of HK$1,200. Dishes are well-executed and merit returns but the level of service is in need of boosting.