Monday, September 12, 2011

Restaurant Review - Mapo

Saturday night we had a bit of a break, with L-kun being looked after by some friends of ours (thanks a squillion!). We decided to go out and catch a dinner and a movie. The movie I'll talk about later, the dinner was at Mapo, a Korean Restaurant on Adelaide's premier eating street, Gouger Street. Now Mapo has been around for a long time though has undergone a bit of a revamp from the original Korean BBQ that we knew it as years ago. It's now a modern fusion masterpiece.

Things start of interesting as your entry is announced with a deep resonant gong. The atmosphere inside is simple, and whilst there's a traditional floor seating area, the majority is western table dining. As we had a movie at 7, we had an incredibly early booking for 5:30 to try and give us barely enough time to eat and get to the cinema. As a result, we were the only ones in the restaurant. That's a good and bad thing. The good side - no noise and you get the undivided attention. The bad side - it sort of shows up any deficiencies in the service and makes you realise how much of eating is atmosphere.

Now the a la carte menu was fairly small, and we were a little underwhelmed by the choice available. And I have to say, as T-chan and I don't go out that much, we were surprised a little at the cost. Having said that, when we go out, we don't mind indulging a little.

Mapo Money Bags - "Filled with local tiger prawns, fresh fish & squid served on a peanut puree". These were delicate little delights, with a fairly light seafood flavour. They're perhaps a modern take on the Japanese dish of takoyaki. The puree was nice, though understated. Great texture and a good way to start the night (they normally are served with 3, but they nicely upped it to 4 to make it easier to share). Cost $14.90 (for 3).

Ginger Pork - "Lightly battered pork balls served with a lime chilli sauce". These were quite nice, and my first though was that they'd be hot. But hot they were not (says Dr Seuss). The pork balls themselves were fresh, nicely cooked. The garnish of pumpkin was a particularly nice touch. The chilli sauce on top was perhaps a little too similar to sweet chilli sauce you'd have at home, and the sauce below (I assumed for aesthetics) was largely light and a good splash of red that added to the expectation of heat. Cost $13.90.

Tender Duck Fillet (210g – 250g) - "Marinated duck breast, oven baked then char grilled served on a nest of tempura vegetables. Topped with Chung Jae’s creamy basil sauce". We often order duck, though I've never had a Korean duck dish... and I suspect that I've yet to. This was a slightly different take on a European-style duck and (light) orange sauce. The Basil sauce was nice, but a little hidden away. One of the surprises was a massive grilled garlic, sliced in half. Quite nice, but I feel sorry for the people we shared a movie with later in the evening. Cost $28.90.

Crying Tiger Wagyu Beef (marbling score 7-9%) - "Chargrilled SA Mayura wagyu skewers with tamarind, coriander and chilli sauce accompanied by tempura veg and a tomato and cucumber salsa". This for me was the winner of the night. For the price, I was surprised to see it served on skewers. It was however, delicious. Tender and flavourful. The sauce really did set the meal off so well, and once again the chilli sauce was incredibly restrained. The tempura mushrooms were an interesting selection for accompaniment. The nest made of noodles was brilliant and gave the dish as sense of curiosity. Now T-chan would say to anyone that asked, Ben-chan loves his beef. I do, it's true. So I was pleasantly surprised by the enjoyment from these skewered beauties (even if a little on the pricey side). Cost $34.90.

Now we had unfortunately run out of time (due to our movie date) - but even with a fairly quick dinner, we enjoyed ourselves. We had been wanting to visit Mapo for a long time, especially since it changed it's image. Whilst we enjoyed the experience, a quick meal set us back $130+  when you threw in several of drinks. While I'm not necessarily a buy-by-bulk kinda guy, I felt that this was a little over valued (or am I just being a bit tight arsed?). The only other thing that I felt was that for a asian fusion restaurant, there was a little too much fusion going on, but too little asian (especially Korean). We didn't get a strong sense of the underlying Korean flavours, and these dishes wouldn't have been too exotic in any modern restaurants. Perhaps a different choice of dishes would have changed this view.

Mapo does come with a fine record, and a number of awards including the South Australian Award for Restaurant and Catering 2011 (Award for Best Asian Restaurant in South Australia), and Finalist in the Award for Best Chef in South Australia.... actually the list is too long to do justice. So there's obviously a lot of poeple that have been very impressed. In our opinion, it was a good quality restaurant, with good food and friendly staff that were very accommodating. A good night out!

113 Gouger Street
Ph:  8211 6042
Fax: 8357 2810

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