I am a fan of Hainanese Chicken. It is a very particular dish as you have to appreciate how to enjoy the flavor and texture of poached fresh chicken with exceptional quality. There are also little things like the way the chicken is served, the seasoning, the dipping sauces and the rice that comes with the chicken. Always on my radar, Mamalee Malaysian Delight in Kitsilano is known for serving one of the best versions of the dish in the city. So when my roommate Tristan brought it up for the lunch idea, I was excited.
The place is small but very cute and clean. It was not fully packed for an early raining Saturday afternoon. There were 2 guys running at the front and there was an older lady was in and out of the kitchen as well. I assume that was Mama Lee herself?
For serving humble Asian dishes, the prices here were not as cheap as we expected. I do understand that the rent in Kits is not cheap.
For truly good food, I am always willing to pay more. But not everyone is like me, and in this case, Tristan rather wanted to figure out how to get the best value for 3 of us. The easy way would be us just all getting the individual servings of Hainanese Chicken on Rice ($11.95 for small, and $13.95 for large). But we also want to try other dishes as well, especially the Bak Kut Teh ($16.95), a famous Malaysian & Singaporean dish made with pork ribs and Chinese herbal soup. So I thought maybe we could just get Half Hainanese Chicken ($17.95) and individual servings of chicken flavored rice.
Tristan was concerned if there would be enough chicken for 3 of us to share. I know for Cantonese BBQ, they always give you a quarter of a chicken when you order the chicken on rice. So I decided to ask the server how the size comparison between the amount of chicken in 3 individual servings of Chicken on Rice and the Half Chicken.
The server guy didn’t have an answer, so the “Mama Lee” lady came to our table. Somehow she seemed bothered by my question. Looking rather impatient, she wouldn’t tell me how they portioned the chicken-on-rice dishes. She did not look happy when we decided on getting the half chicken to share among 3 of us.
It just became awkward after that.
There were only 2 settings on our table and we needed one. But despite us having already asked them for the extra set of chopsticks, teacup, and napkin, they just kept ignoring us even after they had put all the dishes on the table. I walked to the counter and asked the lady, she had this disdain on her face and just grabbed a pair of chopsticks and stuck them in my hands with no eye contact after. Of course, the teacup and the napkin were still missing and it took another 5 minutes for us to get one of the servers to get them.
Also one of the servers was really loud when he signaling the kitchen or the other staff, which really made us feel uncomfortable. I could see the other customers were turning their heads too when the guy was yelling.
The “Mama Lee” lady came out to the dining room from time to time but she never looked at our table. However, she went to who seemed to be her regular customers and chatted with them with a big smile.
This really made me feel like an ass, living in a Jerry Seinfeld moment. Did we run into the Hainanese Chicken nazi? Maybe nazi is a bit of a strong word, but I really haven’t seen any attitude like this at a restaurant? If you have read posts before, you would notice that I rarely spent so much effort talking about the service. But this experience was just extraordinary.
The food was good though. I have to admit the Hainanese Chicken here is superb, one of the best I have ever had. The preparation was authentic – the chicken was nicely deboned and was covered with a very thin layer of sweet dark soy sauce, exactly like how it is served in Malaysia and Singapore. The chicken flavored rice was also excellent with the subtle aroma of frying ginger and garlic in chicken oil. Unlike a lot of other places, they put the 2 dipping sauces in one little plate, with only a small drop of ginger & green onion sauce floating on top of the layer of sweet chili sauce, looking rather precious. But the amount was enough for us. The chicken was so delicious that I almost did not need any sauce – the succulent and slightly bouncy meat with the tight along with the slightly crunchy skin was achieved with the fresh quality chicken and the precisely controlled cooking technique.
The Bak Kut Teh was quite tasty too. The Chinese herbs was not super powerful and the ribs tasted lovely in the soup.
The Hainanese Chicken here is easily a winner for me, something that would make me crave and return for it. Despite the horrific service and the attitude that I received, for which I have to take a point from the rating, I would still come back here. After all, true foodies like me will always go back to any of the Soup Nazis.
$ – $$
Mamalee Malaysian Delight
3144 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V6K 2H3
(604) 733-8882 or mamalee.ca