Malamay restaurant in Barton, part of the Chairman group.
Malamay restaurant in Barton, part of the Chairman group. Photo: Melissa Adams

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

The Canberra Times Top 20 for 2013: No. 9

Malamay is the most recent offering from Canberra's flash and fashionable Chairman group. Still ''fusion'' Chinese, but focusing on Sichuan flavours, it is a sea of muted elegance in the hip but well-dressed Barton ''hub'' development. The room is carefully decorated in oriental black and red with nicely divided spaces, and sectioned-off private rooms.

An a-la-carte option for small tables has recently been added to what had previously been set menu or degustation only, and the added flexibility is a good thing - although this option is unusually only available for groups of five or fewer.

Barbecue lamb ribs with baby peppers.
Barbecue lamb ribs with baby peppers. Photo: Melissa Adams

A creamy crab croquette is sweet and wonderfully contrasted with tremendously smoky wafers of portobello mushroom and a charcoal smear. Little barbecue lamb ribs are easy to pick up and chew, with a pleasant stickiness, but a slight dryness in the meat. The classic mapo tofu gets a twist, with a piece of nicely presented fish added to the slippery and feisty bean curd classic.

Malamay is exploring the slow cooking of the Chinese west in its menu, with braised dishes such as oxtail with port, cardamom and lemongrass; or lamb shoulder with cumin and salted chilli.

Earl Grey custard with peanut ''popping candy'' makes a clean and witty end to the meal.

Vegetarian degustation menus are also offered here.

The wine list is a serious document covering the Canberra region to New Zealand and France. Tasting notes are provided, but staff are willing and able to chat about options with genuine knowledge. More exciting still, a sake list has been added to the mix, so this is the place to gen up on that most on-trend of drinks.

Malamay is a very pleasant place to eat, with enthusiastic, skilled staff, and good, sometimes terrific food, in classy surroundings.

Look out for regular visits from Chairman's Hong Kong chef, whose restaurant quickly earned a Michelin star.