Your latest restaurant obsession has arrived, and it’s serving unexpected twists on the party food that we’ve all grown up with and loved. Mama Nams is The Moment Group’s latest concept serving familiar Filipino party food staples like pancit, inihaw, and inasal.
Opening right at the heels of their second Filipino-focused concept Pancit Pancitan, it’s apparent that the restaurant group loves Filipino concepts—and don’t we all?
The Moment Team explained that Mama Nams was a pandemic baby born from the search of a good time—as well as championing other facets of our cuisine that deserve the spotlight.
“We wanted to be there for celebrations at home and pancit is the dish that represents that kind of occasion. And we wanted to spotlight our Manam flavors through an array of pancits. That line of thinking is what brought about Mama Nams,” said Moment co-founder for creative development, Abba Napa.
And the celebrations are just warming up.
A celebratory tribute to an icon
Even from afar, Mama Nams isn’t difficult to spot. The restaurant’s signage is in bold red and yellow that attracts your attention even from afar. There’s something both new and familiar about Mama Nams. From the bright colors, intimate seating, and quirky wallpaper, the restaurant is reminiscent of the OG Filipino-style eatery: the carinderia.
Like all its other restaurant siblings, Mama Nams commits to the theme on a different level. There’s uniquely Filipino iconography present throughout the whole restaurant. The signs on the door and the font used on the menu is reminiscent of the hand-painted jeepney signs you see on your daily commute.
@nolisoli.ph Kain na, mga suki! #foodietokph #foodiesph #foodtokph #barbecue #inihaw #inasalmanok ♬ Acoustic guitar(1237657) – kajisan
The wallpaper adorning one of the restaurant’s walls is also proudly inspired by the kitschy printed tablecloths (or mantel, if we’re being authentic) you can find at either your lola’s house or the carinderia you frequent for lunch during the workday.
Once you’ve settled down at your table, you also notice the ambient sound of familiar music playing in the background. According to the Moment team, each restaurant has a specifically curated playlist crowdsourced among team members to add to the overall ambiance of the space.
The theme for Mama Nams is, of course, OPM classics.
But all of these things are just atmospheric teasers for the actual main event: The rich, flavorful, and sumptuous meal you’re about to have. And let me tell you, it’s truly a party.
Inihaw vs. Inasal
Before your food even arrives, a (free!) serving of kansi soup is delivered hot and fresh to the table. It’s the upscale version of the salty broth that most carinderias serve, on the house.
The restaurant makes the important distinction between inihaw and inasal. Inihaw is the method of cooking by skewering meat (usually chicken or pork) over an open flame. Think of it as basically grilling meat. Inasal, on the other hand, is cooking skewered meats in dry heat, which is very close to roasting.
The star of Mama Nams’ menu is their chicken paa, which you can order either inihaw or inasal style—an ever-present item on celebratory menus around the country.
All of their mains, like the chicken paa, petso, liempo, pork barbecue, pusit, and bangus, have the option to be prepared in either style. This honestly makes it a little difficult to choose considering both styles yield tender, flavorful, and tasty results (according to my coworkers without a chicken allergy).
Each entree also comes with your choice of white, garlic, or java garlic rice (which we highly recommend) and their mouthwateringly sour-fresh, house-made atsara.
My favorites among the mains were the inihaw na pusit and bangus inasal. As a seafood lover, I’m very picky when it comes to these types of dishes. The seafood has to be as fresh as possible so you don’t have to worry about the lingering lansa.
I was genuinely impressed with how fresh both the pusit and the bangus were. There was no lansa to be found. Both dishes were cooked excellently, which means the pusit wasn’t gummy and the bangus wasn’t dry. I paired both with their special spicy suka, which enhanced the flavors even more.
Wine goes with everything
While the typical alcoholic beverage pairing for a hearty meal like chicken petso inasal or inihaw na pusit is beer (which the restaurant does serve), Mama Nams serves up an unexpected pairing: Fine, natural wines.
“For the most part, when one thinks of wine, one thinks of western cuisine—perhaps French or Italian or Spanish. But I find certain wines can go really well with our own fare as well,” said Napa.
For now, they have a small selection of natural wines that make the perfect pair to your grilled or roasted entree of choice. Okr Milan Nestarec (a fruity white), Nach Milan Nestarec (a light red), and Meinklang Prosa (a sparkling wine) are your three boozy options.
“The champagnes go smashingly with the chichirya and fried items like the chicharron bulaklak. The natural wines are a lot of fun with the inasals and inihaws and grilled dishes. And that’s how we chose the wines—based on what went well with the dishes on the menu,” she added.
As wine rules go, we went for the red to accompany our hearty meal. The Nach Milan Nestarec paired excellently with the inihaw na isaw and isol we ordered, which was a delightful surprise. The light and fruity flavor of the red wine complemented the rich and deep flavors of the grilled skewers.
It’s as sosyal as pulutan and inumin gets.
In a word, masarap
For all the richness and fattiness that their grilled options offer, there’s an equally bright and sour component on the menu to bring you back to the sweet spot right in the middle.
For the starters, the pickled singkamas skewers and red egg, sigarilyas, and kamatis salad were the much appreciated bursts of freshness that punctuated the moments between big, bold bites.
Noodles are also a very important part of their menu.
You’d be hard pressed to find a steaming bowl of batchoy like the one Mama Nams has on their menu. The batchoy is made fresh with the soup only served when the bowl hits the table, which means the noodles won’t swell up before you can dig in.
Aside from the usual fixings like liver, sliced pork, and crispy crackings, the marinated, soft-boiled egg is a welcome addition to the batchoy party. The soft-boiled egg oozes yolk into the salty-savory broth and coats the noodles with an extra layer of flavor.
Palabok, another Filipino-party staple, takes a deliciously dark turn in their squid ink palabok. Their version of the noodle dish uses squid ink as its main flavor and color component instead of the usual atsuete.
The resulting dish possesses a deep, layered seafood flavor that would make any seafood and noodle lover swoon.
The two other heavy hitters on the menu that you cannot miss are the sizzling tendon kansi and the roasted bone marrow and pepita pao.
The sizzling tendon kansi was one of my personal favorites. The unassuming dish comes doused in a rich and sour sauce and enough garlic to scare vampires away (a good thing, in my book). The tendon was tender enough to fall apart by itself with enough body to keep its shape as you portion it to match your rice.
Cholesterol levels and blood pressure aside, everyone should also give the roasted bone marrow and pepita pao a try.
It’s a dish that takes a little bit of time since the bone marrow needs time to cook, but it’s worth the wait. The rich, fatty bone marrow is roasted until bubbling and then topped with crispy bits of fried garlic and green onion.
It’s served with deep fried mantou buns or pepita paos (the very same ones you can get from Pancit Pancitan), which serve as the vehicle that the marrow uses to land in your mouth. The right way to consume the marrow is by splitting the pepita pao down the middle and using the marrow as the palaman for an intensely flavorful sandwich.
As far as flavors go, no other dish on the menu matches this in richness. The soft, buttery texture of the marrow paired with the crunchy and salty fried garlic is an umami bomb waiting to explode.
There’s always room for dessert
You’d think that there can’t possibly be any room for dessert after being stuffed all the way full from the inihaw, inasal, and Mama Nams’ other delectable delights, .
We think not.
Fans of Manam will be happy to know that their signature drinks are also available on the Mama Nams menu. While technically classified as a shake or a drink, the ube sago, mango pomelo sago, and the buko pandan sago are more than enough to qualify as a sweet treat to end the meal.
The crepiyaya served with mantecado ice cream is the dessert menu’s real gem. While it sounds a little too heavy and rich as a meal ender, you’ll be surprised to find that it’s actually a light and sweet treat.
The crepiyaya is exactly what it sounds like—a crepe version of a piaya. The dessert is a light and sweet tribute to one of Visayas’ most popular exports. The muscovado sugar filling melts and crystalizes to form crunchy bits on the crepiyaya’s exterior, which can easily support the weight of a spoonful of the mantecado ice cream.
To me, this dessert alone is worth going back for.
It’s always a good time
At the heart of any good restaurant is a solid concept that births an excellent menu. Mama Nams serves both in spades. The menu focuses on dishes that are both familiar and exciting, which is served in a space that’s nostalgic to past celebrations and conducive to new ones.
“We wanted the opportunity to spotlight [ihaw and chichirya] on their own stage. They can be had for a fuss-free lunch. Or they can be enjoyed as pulutan for an after work inuman session. They can even serve as sustenance after a late night out with friends,” explained Napa.
Whether the occasion is as big as a family reunion or as small as post-work drinks with friends, Mama Nams sets the scene (and the table) for the best time.
And the good times are just starting to roll.
Manam’s Mama Nams is located at 832A Arnaiz Ave., Makati City
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.