Malamay restaurant, Barton.
Malamay restaurant, Barton. Photo: Supplied

Natasha Rudra

It's designed to be a scene out of a National Geographic special - dozens of villagers gathered in a courtyard, tucking in to noodles and big communal dishes. That's the premise behind Malamay's special ''Family Feast'' dinner later this month, anyway.

Though instead of a courtyard, the dinner will take place in the slick interior of the restaurant at the Burbury Hotel in Barton and instead of Chinese villagers, it will be the restaurant's Canberra clientele. Dressing up for the event is strongly encouraged.

It's a repeat of a similar feast that was held last October at Malamay. That time the Chairman Group, which owns Malamay and Chairman and Yip, flew in a chef from its Hong Kong restaurant, also called the Chairman, to cook for the Canberra crowd. And he's coming back this year.

Lobster tail in aged wine, chicken oil and rice noodles.
Lobster tail in aged wine, chicken oil and rice noodles. Photo: Graham Tidy

Amy Tran, who's a partner in the business with Josiah Li, says the dinner is meant to evoke a traditional Chinese family banquet. The menu is being developed in the Hong Kong and Canberra kitchens and will include a vegetable plate featuring the four seasons in pickled vegetables. It'll be followed by ''auspicious'' Chinese-style tapas (think wontons). ''Next we're doing long-life noodles from Chinese banquets and we're sort of pimping ours out a bit with some lobster and shrimp roe, so very fancy longevity noodles.'' And no banquet is complete without servings of pancakes. ''These are do-it-yourself pancakes that will go in the middle [of the table],'' Tran says. ''We want everyone to get in there and get messy with the dishes.''

The brains behind the Chairman's Hong Kong restaurant is Danny Yip (the Yip in Chairman and Yip), who is using the Family Feast dinner as an excuse to pop back to Australia and catch up with his Canberra mates. He says the dinner draws on communal dining. ''In Chinese villages, everyone knows everyone, often somehow related, with the same surname,'' he says. ''They work, support, hang around like one big family. They can always find ways to celebrate something, to party and to dine together. Food is designed to share, to pass around, to be playful even, to have fun.''

Yip will be flying in with his Hong Kong chef in late May to put the final touches on the menu and test out the dishes they've developed with the Malamay chefs. Tran says the international collaboration is often a test. ''Everyone is always WhatsApping pictures of their dishes to each other.'' They've been trying out dishes for several months, sending recipes and notes back and forth between Hong Kong and Canberra, and Tran's looking forward to seeing the results soon - ''everyone in the same room at the same time, tasting the same food''. A bit like a family meal.

Amy Tran: ??We want everyone to get in there and get messy with the dishes.??
Amy Tran: 'We want everyone to get in there and get messy with the dishes.'

Details: The Chairman Family Feast is held from May 29-June 7. Tickets $98.50 in tables of four or more. Bookings 6162 1220, malamay.chairmangroup.com.au