Owner Amy Tran at Malamay.
Owner Amy Tran at Malamay. Photo: Colleen Petch

Burbury Close Barton, Australian Capital Territory 2600

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Opening hours Tues-Friday lunch noon; Tues-Sat dinner 6pm-late
Features Vegetarian friendly, Wheelchair access, Licensed, BYO
Prices Expensive (mains over $40)
Chef Jeffrey Shim
Seats 100
Payments eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 02 6162 1220

Canberra Times Top 20 for 2012

The thing about restaurateur Josiah Li is that he and his team don’t do things by halves. The longevity of Chairman and Yip plus the excitement and derring-do of the Lanterne Rooms meant that when his new place, Malamay, opened this year in Barton you could have all confidence in the vision. I was so keen I almost beat the wine reps in.

Malamay follows the Chairman fusion theme - Cantonese at Chairman, Nonya at Lanterne Rooms, and at Malamay, a sultry version of Sichuan flavours melded with hints of the West and other trickery.

It is in a strange spot, wedged between a couple of hotels in the dark streets of Barton, and at the base of the Burbury, not the easiest place to get a park.

The setting is more formal than the other two in the group, lots of black in the decor in a small, divided space, with a set menu that does away with the question of what to order. You just sit back, take in the moody, quite eerie surrounds and wait for the array of pretty unique dishes.

A dish of slowcooked eggplant with seaweed paste and toasted sesame has so much going on with layers of flavour and that unmistakable prickle of heat and umami richness, a vegetarian dish that would have me changing teams.

Three-chilli-relish prawns with handmade noodles is another spectacular dish that is so complex in its delivery of flavour and texture.

And everyone should have the chance to try mouth-watering chicken where you get to see Sichuan pepper in all is crackling glory, a dish that sends your mouth into a spin of fireworks.

Even though it's a minimum of five courses, each dish is well judged in intensity and balance, building as you move through each course. At $68.50 for five courses, $88 for seven, it’s a steal. Exciting times ahead.

How we score: Food and Wine Annual Top 20