Mixed results from eclectic menu
Mao Bar and Cafe
64 George St, Palmerston North
Phone 354 8410
Mains range up to $34.90
Open: Daily 7am until late
Reviewed by Lisa Durrant.
Mao Bar and Cafe has always had a pleasant atmosphere, and now it appears new owner Alan Rowell (he purchased Mao about 18 months ago) has managed to match the quality of the food to this.
Alan was on hand the night we dined, offering great service with a chatty, personable approach.
Mao's menu is quite eclectic, with offerings from around the globe, though there is a leaning towards Asian-style food.
We started with salt and pepper squid and Thai fish cakes. My friend enjoyed her squid, flash fried with a fresh salad and lime chilli mayonnaise. It was tender and hot, with the little dollops of mayo on top of each rolled-up piece of squid giving each mouthful quite a hit of chilli heat. While she enjoyed this, she wondered whether everyone would and whether it would be better to have the mayo on the side.
I was quite surprised at the size of my Thai fish cakes - two large cakes served with a huge salad alongside, huge considering this was an entree. The size of this dish would be suitable for a light lunch.
The fish cakes had plenty of flavour - garlic, chilli, coriander and ginger. The lime chilli mayonnaise was also the accompaniment, which when added to the cakes equalled quite a bit of chilli, which I enjoyed.
To follow I had chicken and cashew filo - filo parcels filled with succulent chicken pieces, cashews, spinach, sauteed button mushrooms and Spanish onion in a cream cheese sauce, and drizzled with a homemade plum sauce. This was partnered up with a salad.
While the flavour of the dish ticked the box, the chicken was a little dry. The two filo parcels had been stacked on top of each other, which had led to the bottom pastry going soggy. The slight drizzle of plum sauce on top had also soaked in, so didn't impart any real flavour, simply adding a bit of colour.
My friend had chosen one of her favourite dishes, braised pork belly, for her main. The pork received a good review, as did the potato and orange kumara mash, which was nice and smooth. The vegetables could have done with a little more cooking and the little piece of crackle perched on top of the pork was lukewarm and chewy, and merely acted as a garnish.
We did wonder whether we could fit in any dessert after the first two courses, but decided to do our duty and succumb to temptation.
Eton Mess was the choice of my friend, who was interested to see how this rated against those from her childhood spent at English boarding school. Mao's version turned out to be non-traditional, with a fruit sorbet used instead of cream, but this made for a light finish to the meal. My homemade apple and blueberry pot pie was well done, complemented by a scoop of Kapiti vanilla bean ice cream. We tried hard, but couldn't quite finish.
All up, we had an enjoyable evening at Mao Bar and Cafe.