MaMa’s cooking in Downtown San Mateo

Sign out side of MaMa's Vietnamese Cuisine (gogobot.com)

Sign out side of MaMa's Vietnamese Cuisine (gogobot.com)

Shayan Mandegarian, Staff Writer

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On the corner of El Camino and 25th Avenue in downtown San Mateo in the shady side of town is a Vietnamese restaurant called MaMa’s.

MaMa’s Vietnamese Cuisine may not attract much attention from the outside and the surrounding buildings, but it deserves a chance.

Similar to the other restaurants and shops in the neighborhood, the first noticeable part of the interior is the minimal amounts of decor. Here and there will be a Asian style painting on the wall or a statuette, but for the most part it’s pretty bare.

Next thing in the interior that would be considered undesirable is the noise. El Camino is noisy through the doors and the kitchen noise can get a bit noisy, so conversations will occasionally interrupted by a passing group of motorcycles or the sound of cooking.

There is hope though. The service and quality of food at MaMa’s is noteworthy.

The servers are always polite and listening. In some restaurants there may be the group of good servers and the group of bad servers, but at MaMa’s they all provide great service. However, they can be a bit slow at times.

Food wise, they have a great selection of food for every eater.

They have a selection of the usual Vietnamese staple meals, and a page full of their vegetarian options.

Some places will have a few vegetarian options that narrow selection down to a few types of dishes, but here there is a vegetarian choice for every type of meal.

First off, the appetizer. One choice would be the signature Vietnamese spring rolls. At first, they don’t look like anything special, and they don’t taste like anything special at the first bite. Yet, they magically become better and better as more bites are taken until everyone wonders where they all went so fast.

Then there’s the main dishes.

Firstly, the pho. The vegetarian pho at MaMa’s is truly different than others, taste and content wise. In most Vietnamese restaurants, the vegetable broth is made using a pre-made flavorer called bouillon, and it just doesn’t take quite like real vegetables. But at MaMa’s, the broth is flavored using actual vegetables which makes it tastes much better and fresher, and gives it a more natural color. Plus, they are very generous with the vegetable portions, which includes onion, broccoli, carrot, bok choi, celery, zucchini, and cabbage. Plus, it even comes in a glass bowl, which is unique in a quirky way.

Vegetarian pho

Vegetarian pho

Another option for the entree is called eggplant with basil over rice. Basically, it is a combination of carrots, eggplant, green and white onions, basil, rice and even jalapenos slathered in a sweet sauce. The mix of spicy, sweet, and crunch from vegetables is unique and tasty, would certainly recommend especially for vegetarians.

Eggplant with basil over rice

Eggplant with basil over rice

MaMa’s even has some international food, like pad Thai. Though, the pad Thai isn’t exactly note worthy. It is just a mix of noodles, green and white onions, tofu, jalapenos, peanuts, and sprouts. It also has an unusually white hue compared to other dishes of its kind. While it doesn’t taste bad, it doesn’t live up to the standards set by the other dishes at MaMa’s.

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

While MaMa’s may not be in the best location, and service may be a bit slow, it’s a good place to go and get some superb Asian cuisine.

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