Mama Rouge just opened on the Georgetown Waterfront at the former home of Bangkok Joe’s. The restaurant serves Southeast Asian cuisine in a French bistro setting.
I started with the Pork Belly in Bao Buns ($6), which were served with kimchee cucumbers and ginger scallion sauce. I expected the bun to be warm, but it came at room temperature. The bun was deep fried and had a lovely chewy, almost sticky texture. The chunks of pork were quite large and hearty. The pork was nice and fat for the most part, which I love, but the edges were a bit dry and hard to chew. The pickles added a nice crunch. I added nuoc mam sauce, which was sitting on the table in a cute arrangement with other sauces. The nuoc mam didn’t seem to have a flavor, but it added a nice oily texture to the buns.
I liked the pork belly bao buns a lot, and although the dish was an appetizer, it definitely could have been enough for a light meal.
Not realizing that the bao buns would be so large, I had also ordered the Thai Chicken Wings ($7). Mama Rouge took creative liberties on this dish because I’m not so sure that chicken wings are big in Thailand. I could be wrong though. These chicken wings were smothered in a coconut curry sauce, which in my opinion, definitely beats traditional barbecue sauce. Why hasn’t anyone thought of these before?! The idea is great and the execution was tasty. I was a little bummed that the dish only came with drumsticks and not actual wings (the flat pieces) because those are my favorites. However, the drumstick shape was definitely better at absorbing all of the wonderful, sticky sauce. This appetizer was also large enough to be a light meal.
My friends got the Shrimp and Chicken Pad Thai ($12), which they said was better than Pad Thai they’ve had elsewhere. The dish also came with tofu which was a nice touch, because restaurants typically serve Pad Thai with only chicken OR shrimp OR tofu. The dish also had more sauce than its rival versions and was sweeter, according to my friends.
Mama Rouge’s decor was fabulous. It was a very chic, modern take of classic French style. The typical wicker chairs you see outside of French cafes were given a modern upgrade in blue and white for Mama Rouge’s outdoor seating.
Inside, everything was beautifully accented with blue or red. The bar was sleek and boxy. The dining room ceiling housed a large, funky chandelier that didn’t really match the rest of the decor, but was interesting to look at.
Each of the tables had a tray of sauces and silverware. Chopsticks were cleverly placed in a straw container.
Although the decor was beautiful, the layout of the restaurant was a bit cluttered. Bangkok Joe’s, which used to occupy the same space, was separated into sections by high and low seating and a bar. Mama Rouge had just one large dining space, which made the restaurant seem uncomfortably packed.
Because of this, the restaurant was also quite loud; I had to yell to communicate with the person sitting across from me.
Another thing that had room for improvement was the service. It seemed that our waitress abandoned our table, as we had two different waiters helping us during the meal.
The first waitress had seemed nervous to speak to us. I felt like she was reciting a script she hadn’t learned when she told us the specials. It was a very awkward interaction.
After she took our drink orders, a second waiter brought them over. There was no need for us to wait what felt like 15 minutes for glasses of water. When the water arrived with the new waiter, we got a pitcher of water for the table for refills. The waiter insisted on pouring us refills from the pitcher, but because of the pitcher’s design, half the water missed my cup and dripped on to the ground. Not very graceful.
This had been the opening week of the restaurant, but I would’ve though they’d hire waiters with some previous experience in the service industry. The second waiter was able to make some good recommendations from the menu, so although the experience was awkward, I ate well.
The Bottom Line:
The food at Mama Rouge was great. The menu had a good variety of Thai favorites (Pad Thai, Pad See Ew) as well as Banh Mi sandwiches and eclectic appetizers. The dishes my friends and I had were great. The prices were also quite reasonable, especially so for being located in Georgetown. The restaurant’s decor was fabulous. After my meal I was ready to look for copycat pieces at Home Goods. However, the noise was a bit much, so I can’t give the ambiance a perfect score. The service is where Mama Rouge really struggled. The waiters felt uncomfortable and the service was slow. I’m curious to see if the service will improve after the restaurant is open longer.
3000 K St NW (Georgetown)
Washington, DC 20007