Friday, March 02, 2007

Yeah Maan, South Yarra, Caribbean

[Yay!!! Our first solicited review. Many thanks Mairead. Check out her website. Pretty cool. Uses flash and everything. - Chai]

Yeah Maan
Address: 340 Punt Road South Yarra 3141
Phone Number: (03) 9820 2707

Price Range: $20-40 for a meal

Total price: $221 for seven, not including wine
$31 per person

There is only one Caribbean restaurant in Melbourne (well there is a cafe called Babble On Babylon but it is only open in the daytime). It happens to be that our local bus takes us straight there, through the city centre and out the other side, right to the nearest corner. Some friends had warned us that the food was good but the portions were tiny, but we needed to see for ourselves.

And so it was that we took seven mates along there one Saturday night to see if it was anything worth talking about.

Yeah Maan is a tiny terraced building, converted from a house, with enough seating for about forty downstairs and another small dining room upstairs. Instead of the expected reggae blasting out, we were delighted to hear some classic soca tunes. We had a reservation but they didn't seem to know anything about that. We were shown to the upstairs room, and although we had explained that it was a reservation for seven people, we were asked to sit at a smaller table until we insisted we needed more room.

Once everybody had arrived we were pretty desperate for a drink - or at least some glasses for our BYO wine. In the end Orlando obliged by going downstairs himself. We thought that might shake up the waitresses, but we waited quite a long time for anybody to come and see if we were OK. It was the girl's first night so she didn't know much, but she was sweet.

Apart from myself and Orlando, we had three people who had only eaten Caribbean food in our house (Mena, Eileen and Kelvin), and two people who had no idea what they were in for (Australian Ida and Italian Viviana). The Trinidadian doubles served up were generous and talked about for days; Mena's Stamp 'n' Go was a huge portion and absolutely divine. Orlando and I both had the Pick Up Salt Fish, which was saltfish mixed with onions, tomato and peppers served on a dumpling. It reminded both of us how much we love saltfish, and I promised to go get some and start cooking it again. Pity we can't get ackee anywhere though...

The chilly janga roti (chilli prawns) were not too hot and spicy, which was probably just as well for the virgins. You could probably ask for them to be made a bit hotter. Kelvin chose the aloo pies, a huge portion of spicy potato balls which were tasty enough but nothing exciting.

The mains were even better. Eileen was served an enormous portion of jerk chicken and cassava fries, which she struggled manfully to consume, but ended up pleading with everybody to finish for her. She said it was lovely, but not as nice as Orlando's (well, you can't get Walkerswood here either).

The curried goat was really lovely, but I forgot to ask for mine to be made hot, so although it was tasty there was no kick to it. Orlando had asked for his hot, but it wasn't much better than mine. The rice and peas were made with small kidney beans (guess what? No gunga peas in Aus...) but it worked fine. Mena scored again with the ginger tamarind chicken which was beautifully seasoned, a good strong kick. The calypso chicken looked good, but even for the virgins it seemed very mildly-flavoured.

The service didn't get any better. We helped ourselves to more napkins, water and fresh glasses from behind our personal minibar in the corner, and raided the other tables for new candles for the table. Even when we wanted the bill, it warranted another trip downstairs. Maybe if we had been seated down with everybody else it might have been better.

Nonetheless, we were not in any hurry and the relaxed vibe certainly didn't ruin the evening. We put the world to rights without fear of annoying other diners with our noise, we finished a few bottles of wine and enjoyed some fine West Indian food. The rumours of small portions were well and truly scotched, and we will definitely come back again for more.

Review written by Mairead.


Mel said...

I've eaten at Yeah Maan - being from the West Indies myself, I was in seach of somewhere for 'authentic' Caribbean food (should 'ave just gone home to mammy!) and Yeah Maan seemed like the place.
The service was just as charmingly inattentive the last time I was there - but we didn't mind, it seems impossible to feel anything but relaxed and slightly intoxicated by the smells coming from the kitchen. During my dinner we were treated to Buju Banton instead of the Mighty Sparrow - but no complaints. Whilst I found the range of food appealing, the spices were definitely catering for the traditional Western palate, not the 'blow your head off' chilli and garlic from the Caribbean. It was good to see Cassava Chips on the menu, if only we can convince them to import some breadfruit, ackee and salt fish and maybe some mawbee... oooohh la la!
I would heartily recommend anyone seeking Caribbean food to visit a. the Caribbean, b. Notting Hill London or Queens New York, but if flying for 16-24 hours isn't your thing then by all means ... go Yeah Maan, or beg an invite from me ma... :)
Good review!

MelbourneGirl said...

i enjoyed my visit to yeah maan about 8 years ago or so. sounds like the service hasn't improved. "charmingly inattentive" sounds like a good way of putting it, but we also didn't really care. just went with the casual feel of the joint. err. not intentional pun there, BUT A GOOD ONE IF I DO SAY SO MYSELF.

from memory the food was good, and we kept ourselves amused with riotious laughter about how often the waiters were prolly out back spliffing on. we were pissed of course. each man his poison.

sublime-ation said...

Good old Dalton's place. I went there once with some West Indians and they loved the place, but were dispaionted in the goat. I keep meaning to go back. Mel your Ma's kitchen sounds the bomb.

David said...

The lack of heat puts me off. I had many good times with Jamaican and West Indian food when I lived in London. The smoke from the grills cooking Jerk chicken and corn at the Notting Hill carnival is a stand out. The food needs that 'blow your head off' chilli and garlic in taste and aroma.

I've been to babble on babylon, which is not bad, although still tame. The prices are good though, and the johnny cakes were good. I remember ackee and saltfish being served there, although I may be mistaken.

Anonymous said...

doesn't charmingly inattentive service = authentic caribbean service?????

Anonymous said...


I found the service terrible, it took an hour and a half to get out mains. The food was bland, the jerk chicken had the right look but no flavour at all.

We ended up cancelling dessert and leaving.

Easily the worst dining experience any of us have had.

Judging by other reviews we are not the only ones.

Will not be back

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