Review: Malamay | HerCanberra

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Review: Malamay

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It’s a chilly Autumn night when we head to Malamay, the Chairman Group’s one-hatted ‘Sichuan fusion’  fine diner at The Burbury Hotel. Although it’s consistently good at any time (hence the hat), to me, Malamay will always be a restaurant for cooler seasons. The moody interior, with its dramatic sweeping curtains, a Black Bamboo forest setting, 1930s Shanghai style monkey-patterned woodwork, and touches of lacquer red, envelopes you as you enter, ushering you into an intimate, secluded space.

The interior sets the scene for what will come with the Winter Tasting Menu – dishes with varying degrees of Sichuan heat that will warm you from the inside.

The service is warm, too – co-owner and manager, Amy Tran, is rarely without a smile on her face, and her enthusiasm for the food bubbles over in her explanations of the dishes and the history behind them. Owner of the Chairman Group, Josiah Li, is also never far away – more than 20 years after opening his first restaurant, he still works the floor.

We start with what’s become an ‘old favourite’ with regular customers, according to Josiah – the Scallops with prawn roe noodles and Bean paste pestoIt’s a simple dish, but so moreish. The scallops are plump and juicy, beautifully caramelised; their softness contrasts wonderfully with their nest of firm noodles. Our appetites are certainly whet.


Scallops with prawn roe noodles and Bean paste pesto.

Next up is prawns with 3 chilli relish – a dish that has been refined over time, the perfectly cooked prawns having gained a stylish accompaniment of delicate pickled ginger and cucumber since we last enjoyed it. It’s a refreshing course, with a hint of heat and sweetness.


Prawns with 3 chilli relish.


Third course is crabmeat croquette with smoked portobello, and it’s a marked departure from what’s come before. A crisp, golden shell gives way to a creamy crab interior, balanced by the smokiness of the thin slices of portobello mushroom and a dab of squid ink ‘mayo’. The flavours are big, the contrast in textures appealing.


Crabmeat croquette with smoked portobello.

We’re half way through and I find my favourite course of the night (so far). The Xian spicy roast duck is amazing – spicy and fierce with a strong chilli and pepper flavour which is very different from Cantonese roast. It has a lingering heat – not overpowering – and the contrasting textures of the vegetables are the perfect foil.

Xian style spiced duck.

Xian style spiced duck.

We first tasted the Braised oxtail with port, cardamom and lemongrass at Malamay’s Great West of China dinner in 2013, where it won our table’s dish of the day – it’s no less impressive now. Its flavours are surprising on a Chinese menu – the oxtail slow cooked and featuring big tomato flavours, but with distinct Chinese spices and a star anise undertone.


Braised oxtail with port, cardamom and lemongrass.

It’s a rich dish, so the accompanying dish of Crunchy local vegetables with Yunnan chilli jam is welcome, the vegetables cooked simply and well, and a pleasure to eat.

Crunch local vegetables with Yunnan chilli jam.

Crunchy local vegetables with Yunnan chilli jam.

I’m not someone that goes completely bananas over dessert, so I greet the Sesame sponge cake with yuzu curd, miso ice cream and sesame tuile with interest, but not over-the-top enthusiasm. That is, until I take my first bite. This is a showstopper…the mix of soft sponge, creamy curd and ice cream and crisp tuile is a sweet and savoury delight (not unlike my favourite combination of chocolate and peanut butter). Yum. Yum yum yum yum yum. More please.

Sesame sponge cake with yuzu sabayon, miso ice cream and sesame tuile.

Sesame sponge cake with yuzu curd, miso ice cream and sesame tuile.

As we take our leave (not before we enjoy some aged Sake that reminds us of sherry) into the night, we can feel winter breathing down our necks…but somehow, it doesn’t seem nearly that bad, because we’re warmed from the inside out.

Malamay Wine Dinner Series

See local wines in a new light and explore the diversity of our unique local wine region. This wine dinner series offers a unique opportunity to discover and enjoy our lesser known gems and learn from the winemakers from Eden Road, Mount Majura, Ravensworth and Collector.

The wines will be paired a tasting menu designed by Malamay’s chefs on 11 and 18 June.

$120 per person all inclusive of food and wine. Very limited seating, to book please email: or call 61621220.

the essentials

What: Malamay
Where: 1 Burbury Cl, Barton
When: Tuesday to Friday 12.00am to 2.00pm, Tuesday to Saturday 6.00pm to 10.30pm
How much: Dine a la carte, or experience the winter tasting menu for $82 pp
Bookings: 02 6162 1220

The author dined courtesy of Malamay for the purposes of this review. Nevertheless, it represents her true experience.

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