Perhaps mirroring Bangkok's rapidly developing dining scene, Hong Kong upped its Thai food game in 2015, first with the notable opening of one of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants Issaaya Siamese Club, and then with JIA's 10th restaurant opening, Mak Mak.
Interiors at Mak Mak
Hidden behind the bar counter on the Landmark Atrium's 2nd floor, the tables were all bustling on a Wednesday night, with many bowls of Massaman curry and pad see ew emerging from the kitchen to counter the crisp February night. The interior is windowless, as would be expected from a speakeasy-esque eatery, intended to be an edgy representation of 1960’s Bangkok recreated by NC Design & Architecture (the firm responsible for Mrs Pound and Krug Room).
Hidden entrance at Mak Mak
What's great about this restaurant, firstly, is the lack of 'concept' and 'big name chef' driving it. Though a big fan of creative concepts and renowned chefs, these can be used as a thin veneer masking a mediocre eating experience. Yenn Wong is cleverer than that, however, and from experience with Chachawan has birthed another winning Thai restaurant that does what it says on the label: delicious, punchy Thai food. What's different this time is that all the items one might miss at Chachawan–not that there is a lot–and doesn't come under the 'Isaan style' genre can be spotted on the menu at Mak Mak. You would never walk into Chachawan expecting a tom ka gai or gaeng kheaw wan gai (green curry) and astutely, JIA notes this and completes the Thai puzzle with Mak Mak.
Exteriors at Mak Mak
I came with an intent to eat mainly vegetable dishes 1) because 2050 estimates have me thinking we should eat more vegetables and 2) because I had heard Mak Mak has a great vegetarian menu. The vegetarian version of the larb, the lab tau hoo ($88), is a tofu sensation with all the addictive complements of the carnivorous version; lime, chilli, roasted rice and fresh herbs. How they simulated the padaek I'm unsure but it was excellent and fresh with the little lettuce cups. The other surprising winner was the khao pad sapparod (pineapple fried rice) ($88), which managed to be vaguely Middle Eastern as well as Thai with the sweet onion, raisins and pineapple and fragrant curry powder and cashew nuts.
Massaman curry at Mak Mak
Being a professional restaurant prowler, meat needed to be sampled, so I opted for going hard instead of home, and ordered the lamb shank Massaman ($208) and hor muk salmon ($128). Lamb shank is always delicious if cooked right and when swimming in a spiced curry sauce, so this was pretty much a guaranteed winner. The sauce is again more Middle Eastern than Thai to my palate, perhaps due to the great stick of cinnamon that pokes out the side of the bowl. Not a bad thing, but different than the norm. The salmon was a great triumph, and I would probably eat a bowl of pebbles if they came slathered in the coconut dressing that is drizzled over the warm souffle. Where this dish originated is unknown, but it's essentially a Western style fish mousse that's been adapted to the local land with curry paste and thickened with coconut cream instead of normal cream. It's really quite delicious, given an offer of warm fish mousse with coconut cream wouldn't immediately have me raising my hand for the first bite.
Hor Muk Salmon at Mak Mak
Chef Mumu is herself from the north of Thailand, but doesn't discriminate and features dishes from all over the country. She's formed a menu with enough favourites to feel comfortable ordering 80% of the menu and enough unknowns to keep things interesting. Cocktails are inventive and desserts predictable (though not the Khanom Mak Mak: an assortment of rice desserts, topped with sun-dried fish and shallots, sweet coconut prawns and baked egg custard). I'll definitely be back to try that, the many tofu and noodle dishes that sound endlessly crave-able and drink gallons more of Mak Mak's Thai iced tea.
Khanom Mak Mak dessert
Website or Tel: 2983 1003
217A 2/F Landmark Atrium 15 Queen's Road, Central
Lunch: 11.30am – 3pm (last order at 2.30pm)
Dinner: 6pm – 11pm (last order at 10.30pm)