30 Apr Mabrown, Melbourne CBD
Mabrown, the venerable house of quail in Balwyn, expanded to the CBD a few years ago bringing their signature dish with them. Walk into Southern Cross lane using Australia Post as your landmark, and keep a look out for the red signage. Unlike its much older and well-established Balwyn cousin, whose white tablecloths, white napkins and high-backed chairs are more typical of Chinese restaurants, the CBD branch has a much more casual style, almost like a Chinese cafe.
Of course, one cannot come to Mabrown and not order quail. It’s what they’re famous for. Most people ordered platters of the stuff, engaging in a all-out hands-on feast. Fortunately there’s a much-needed hand washing sink sits just behind the front counter. The quail is first deep fried, then wok-tossed in chilli oil syrup, diced onion and peppers. This cooking process results in crispy skin, full-on flavours, and tasty quail meat. Their signature spicy quail is sweeter, and for people concerned about the how spicy the spicy quail is, it isn’t really. We pre-ordered the quail – highly recommended thing to avoid a long wait. Though I like my spice, I personally preferred the salt and pepper quail. It’s been years, or possibly nearly a decade since I had my first and only taste of Mabrown’s fame over in Balwyn, so I can’t make any comparisons. I can say though, that ordering the quail here is a no-brainer.
There’s a large selection of other meat, seafood, rice and noodle dishes to break up all that quail if you’d like, though really, no one will judge you for only ordering the small poultry. Drunken chicken (醉鸡) is moist and succulent, still sitting in a bath of its salty, Shaoxing wine cooking liquid. The salt and pepper calamari (椒盐鱿鱼) is coated with something crunchy yet light and puffy, perhaps rice. It’s a bit like eating a squid version of popcorn chicken.
Claypot dishes are one of my favourite parts of Chinese cuisine. Seafood and tofu, soy sauce pork belly, claypot chicken rice…I love them all, even when the weather is not conducive to eating hot food. We order the eggplant and chicken claypot (鱼香茄子煲), a style of dish usually seen with pork. Pork was still present in the form of lap cheong, but it added sweetness that I was unsure about. Melt-in-your-mouth eggplant is the star of the dish, with chicken, diced mushroom mixed through.
Mabrown is no frills dining, but you can’t deny that the food is tasty and that their quail is famous for a reason.
Disclaimer: I was received a discount to dine at Mabrown, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way