The swank of the Landmark Mall may strike as a slightly odd destination for Thai food, but then again restaurateur Yenn Wong has impressive props for crafting hit restaurants. The chic colonial feel of Aberdeen St Social or swish Cantonese classics at Duddells are just two properties in her mini-empire, as are the often-fiery salads and skewers at Chachawan. There the Isaan cuisine is from Northern Thailand, whereas Mak Mak focuses more on the smoother, creamier and ultimately sweeter cuisine of Central Thailand.
Although maybe affected by a recent hop to Chiang Mai, I tend to prefer the gustatory smack of Isaan as opposed to the indulgent caress of curries. Mak Mak proves, however, that central Thailand can more than hold its own in the flavour stakes. It sits in the corner of the second floor, their design schtick a cute idea of a traditional Thai shop. The press release even mentioned The Grand Budapest Hotel as an inspiration – that’ll be the bellboy, below:
Inside is less Wes Anderson in feel but has some nice touches, especially for a sucker for tilework:
The menu is substantial enough to allow you to happily meander, with appetizers from $98-$148, curries $158-$228 and wok and mains $158-$288. Full disclosure as ever, I was invited to check out dinner alongside other food writers. What’s both genuinely refreshing – and surprisingly rare – is to see a specific vegetarian selection. The standout dish for me came from there, a brilliant larb moo tofu. It had heat (well it is an Isaan dish), lime leaf and lime juice – but God knows what to replace the fish sauce. It pulled off a smart and deceptive trick and I’d love to know their secret.
Another starter was also good if unusual, Hor muk salmon, a lightly-spiced salmon soufflé steamed in banana leaves with a coconut dressing:
There’s something about the texture and mouthfeel of Thai crab cakes that make them unique. Part fish ball, part metallic, part springy, they’re invariably a good vehicle for the elixir of the Gods, sweet chilli sauce. Here the wonderfully-named Tod man poo melded crab with prawn, alongside a green mango salad.
Staying with crustaceans – though not crushed by Asians, as lobsters in the MTR would make you think – came the goong sarong, i.e. deep-fried king prawns wrapped in rice vermicelli. It made for interesting if slightly inelegant eating, the shrapnel of vermicelli reminding me of Shredded Wheat. Now there’s a blast.
Pork omelette reminds how Thailand beats and fries eggs together better than anyone:
Massaman lamb curry was a slow-cooked beauty. Unsurprisingly, Massaman is not a native Thai word, but generally thought to refer to Muslims as 19th century writers called the dish “Mussulman curry” – Mussulman being an archaic form of the word Muslim. David Thompson knows Thai food better than almost anyone and explains that the dish seemingly originated in 17th century Central Thailand at the court of Ayutthaya, through a Persian merchant Sheik Qomi.
The final main of Panang nuer bought Australian wagyu beef curry with chili and spicy toasted coconut. While the heat quotient could have been higher – hell, it can pretty much always be higher – this was more good eating.
Even if the flavours aren’t quite as intense as at Chachawan, Mak Mak does a good job reflecting the cuisine of central Thailand. The price point may be higher than some Thai restaurants, but with premium ingredients and the Landmark as a backdrop, this is no great surprise.