Southern Cross Lane
111 Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Quail is one of those delicious but under-utilised meats. Thankfully places like Mabrown exists. Instead of being the same-same and specialising in fried chicken, this place is treated as a fried quail pit stop by most punters. But they do actually do other dishes as well, though you wouldn’t be able to tell it from most diners’ tables. The food here carries a south-east Asian influence, and that’s what I’m here to check out today, along with the fried quail of course.
|Drunken Chicken ($9.5, 2ppl)|
To kick things off, we were served the ubiquitous starter of Drunken Chicken ($9.5, 2ppl). The chicken was poached to delicate, silken perfection, sitting in broth flavoured with sesame oil.
|Drunken Chicken ($9.5, 2ppl)|
However, instead of having the alcohol infused into the marinade, we were given a little shot glass of Chinese cooking wine to pour over the chicken. That meant that the smell of alcohol prevailed over the taste. A less traditional way to do things for sure, but perfectly fine for those who aren’t so fussed about the drunken aspect of the chicken.
|Salt and Pepper Quail ($8pc)/Spicy Quail ($8pc)|
Our two pieces of Salt and Pepper Quail ($8pc) and two pieces of Spicy Quail ($8pc) looked ridiculously tame compared to the platters of quail ordered by the other tables, and they do taste pretty darn good. They were sweet and succulent with a thin layer of caramelised skin. The spicy quail was topped with a smoky chilli oil which, mingled with the sweet marinade, left me licking my fingers clean.
|Peking Sauce Beef ($22.8)|
I’m pretty sure that Peking Sauce Beef ($22.8) is a non-Chinese invention. Yet there is no denying that the strips of battered beef covered in plummy sweet and sour sauce, though rather tough, are downright addictive.
|Wok Tossed Juicy Prawns in XO Sauce ($28.8)|
Up next were scaled down portions of prawns, served two ways. The first was Wok Tossed Juicy Prawns in XO Sauce ($28.8). This spicy seafood sauce, chock full of fried shallots and shrimp, was the perfect accompaniment to the plump, fresh prawns.
|Wok Tossed Juicy Prawns in Ginger and Spring Onion Sauce ($28.8)|
The Wok Tossed Juicy Prawns in Ginger and Spring Onion Sauce ($28.8) boasted a much more traditional flavour palate, the lightness and umami bringing out the delicateness of the seafood.
|Archar Barramundi ($22.8)|
Out last dishes were fillets of fried barramundi, once again done two ways. The Archar Barramundi ($22.8) hit like a punch, the vinegar and turmeric delivering a sour and pungent right hook, before mellowing out to a surprisingly warm finish of ginger and palm sugar. Needless to say, this dish definitely impressed.
|Tom Yum Barramundi ($19.8)|
The Tom Yum Barramundi ($19.8) was visually stunning, and though less explosive, tasted just as good as its predecessor. Despite the mean looking sauce, it wafted gently with a balanced mix of lemongrass, ginger, and chilli for an aromatic finish.
|Coconut and Sweet Corn Ice Cream|
We insisted we were full but our host was such a sweetie that we soon had a tub of Coconut and Sweet Corn Ice Cream in front of us. Though not a flavour I’ve had before, it is an absolute genius of a combination, and the chewy corn kernels added texture to flavour. It was a neat and tasty solution for a sweet tooth that didn’t leave me feeling too guilty.
Whilst Mabrown is not all that far from your average Chinese restaurant, with a vibe that reminded me of the university restaurants on Chris’ campus, there are some rather good dishes on the menu. And even if that’s not your thing, I agree with everyone else – the quail alone is good enough to come back for.
Rating: 14/20 – pabrown.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of Mabrown .