31st May 2017
11-15 Liverpool St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
You know what’s clever? Discovering vaccinations is clever. Making cereal out of Milo is clever. And opening Hochi Mama right next door to Rice Paper Scissors is clever.
So why is Hochi Mama being where it is such a clever move? Well, when Rice Paper Scissors first opened, its concept of building your own banquet from a selection of dishes for a set price caught Melbourne by storm. These days, you’d be lucky to get a seat there even if you waited right outside for it to open. And that’s where Hochi Mama comes in. Boasting a style of dining very similar to Rice Paper Scissors, it’s perfectly positioned to catch the overflow from next door. Whether this was planned or not, you have to admit that it’s rather clever.
Hochi Mama is set up to be as stylish as it comes, with neon, street art, and dim lighting coming together to create a vibe for partAYing. The cocktails are equally as cheekily named, but what impressed me the most were the little icons next to each cocktail, indicating which dish it pairs well with. If something is going to get me to order a drink, this will be it (it didn’t).
Being not so hungry, I forwent the $59 set menu (2x small dishes, 2x large dishes, and 1x side dish) and ordered a la carte. The Hochi Chicken Banh Bao ($8ea) was a neat little snack, the soft bun sandwiching crispy fried chicken and creamy chilli bean paste, all brought together by the tangy pieces of kimchi.
The Spicy Crispy Pork Belly with Apple Slaw ($20) sounded a lot like the legendary pork belly from Red Spice Road, but it unfortunately fell short in the execution. The pork was tough in places, the crackling practically impossible to bite through, and there wasn’t nearly enough of the tamarind and chilli dressing. It was somewhat redeemed by the fresh Granny Smith apple slaw, but all up, it was par at best.
The Southside Tofu Curry ($20) on the other hand was, surprisingly, a winner. The curry sauce was rich and aromatic, with the elements of sweetness and spice carefully and meticulously balanced. The creamy sauce held a good variety of veggies, plus some satisfyingly hearty slabs of pan-fried tofu, and tasted fantastic over a bowl of Jasmine Rice ($3.5).
I was saving room for the Pandan Panna Cotta ($16) from the get-go, having seen photos of it online. And the plating is as exquisite as I had hoped, the pale green panna cotta surrounded with fresh melon and berries, two scoops of ice cream, and sugary, delightful homemade honeycomb. The actual flavours themselves didn’t quite live up to how the dish looked, but then again, it is an extremely pretty dessert.
Ok so there’s a reason why Hochi Mama is catching the overflow from Rice Paper Scissors and not the other way around. Despite being very similar on paper, the dishes at Hochi Mama aren’t as deftly executed, and just seem a little less exciting overall. Although this restaurant falls more under the category of ‘crowd pleaser’ than anything, the share dishes, fun atmosphere, and the myriad of cocktails make for a recipe for a good night out.
Rating: 12.5/20 – hohum mama.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.