A few months ago, a friend asked me if I knew of any restaurants on Ellice Avenue that might be for sale. I gave a wander down the street, and the only thing I noticed was that Palm Tree Restaurant seemed to be closed. It wasn’t long however, before I noticed a sign for a new place, called The Mami Project – Filipino Noodle Bar.
I waited eagerly for the opening of this restaurant, walking by every couple of days for the last month or two to see when it would actually be open. A friend of mind David Driedger, one of the pastors at First Mennonite Church, and who lived kitty corner to me in my former apartment building, sent me notice that it was open.
Mami Project, Visits One & Two
With moving and a few other things, it took me several days before I visited the first time. My first visit was just before closing time.The first thing I notice when I walked in was how much nicer The Mami Project looks in comparison with Palm Tree. They’ve opened up the whole space, so it feels much more roomy than the Palm Tree did. Also, there’s a variety of different table and chair configurations. The tables are also of better quality and the overall cleanliness is much better as well.
As I looked over the menu, I was going to order the Longga Burger. However, they were out of the sweet potato fries, and while they did offer the burger alone at a reduced price, I decided I wanted something a little bit more substantial.
At that point I decided I would go with the one of the Mami (mah mee) bowls. Given that it’s in the restaurant name, I figured it would be a good starting point on the menu. There are five varieties, and I opted for the Spicy Beef Miso. I also ordered the wings.
The wings came first. They were fried to a good crispiness with the meat being juicy and tender. The Tabuyo Ranch sauce, which I can’t find a description of, is a sweet-spicy dip that complements rather than overwhelms the wings.
The Mami is a soup dish, you can find a brief definition and a recipe here. In style it’s not dissimilar to a Udon or Ramen. It came with thick noodles, vegetables, an egg, along with a slice of brisket on top. The brisket looked like it might be a bit of a challenge given that it was a large chunk, and I was attempting to eat it with chopsticks.
However, when I stuck the chopstick into the meat it flaked away into delectable, melt-in-your mouth chunks that were easy to manoeuvre with the chopsticks. The broth was good and spicy, although not overwhelmingly so. I really enjoyed the noodles which have a really good chew to them. Towards the end of the bowl, I added a little of the homemade chili sauce that sits on each table, to give it a little bit more of a kick. This was definitely my favourite of the dishes that I have tried.
On my second visit I decided I would give the Pansit a try. I really enjoy Pansit. I like the thin, translucent, almost transparent noodles, and the variety of spicings that come with different variations of the dish. I choose the Bihon variety. The market vegetables were a crispy combination of peas and carrots. The pork, like the beef in the Mami, was melt in your mouth tender with the fat having been rendered down to a smooth texture. The noodles were cooked perfectly and the it presented a good contrast in style to the Spicy Mami.
I had hoped for the Sylvana, a meringue dessert, but that wasn’t available. A few unavailable items seems to be one of the growing pains that this restaurant will need to get out of it’s system in the next few weeks.
I ended up going with the Banana Fritters. I’m not a huge banana fan. However, these were really well done. The pastry was good, providing a slight crunch and a bit of a chew, while the banana filling combined with the Nutella on top and the fruit salsa on the side providing a good mixture of flavours that made each bite interesting.
Dining with David
I mentioned my friend David earlier in the post. After a bit of conversation and arranging of schedules we decided to meet up for lunch yesterday. The Mami Project seems like a good place for such a meeting. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual, and the staff always seems genuinely glad to see you. As well, even though there were several other tables with customers, it didn’t make it difficult for us to carry on a conversation.
David tried the Longga Burger, (again no fries available). and found it enjoyable. The burger itself is made in house. I chose the Beef Pares rice bowl. My order turned out to be quite a platter. I don’t l know if the soup is meant to be mixed in with the rice and the beef, but I ate mine in much the fashion of a miso broth or consomme.
Again the meat was very well prepared. The little bit of salad was a pleasant surprise, and added a fresh touch between the somewhat heavier mixture of beef and rice. This was the most substantial of the dishes that I ordered.
While we caught up on life in our churches, David also told me a little about some of his other visits to The Mami Project. We seemed to agree that the Spicy Beef Miso Mami was the best dish that either of us had tried. David had also tried the tacos, and while he enjoyed the filling, he had found the wrapping itself to be a little of the dry side.
The service here is excellent. The staff goes out of their way to make you feel welcome. They answer or attempt to get answers to any questions you have. They come by regularly to make sure your water is filled and all in all bring a general level of cheerfulness to the establishment.
The Mami Project should be having their official grand opening in a week or two. Hopefully they can work out their supply issues by then. The other thing the restaurant is waiting on is their liquor license. Until then, only water and pop are available as beverage.
When all is said and done, The Mami Project is a restaurant that will bear many repeat visits. It’s another welcome addition to the West End.