Ok ... sometimes those all-in-ones in the far reaches of outer suburbia (ok ... its Balwyn!) succeed when they really have no right to ... especially when service is extremely chaotic and staff are borderline downs. I was actively discouraged from writing about this well-guarded secret, but the truth is already out there as envisaged by the wealth of voluntary links on this restaurant's Urban Spoon page. I am of course talking about MaBrown, the not-Malaysian-but-really-Chinese restaurant in Balwyn.
Firstly, lets debunk the all-in-one myth ... they bill themselves as Malaysian, Thai and Chinese ... but lets face it ... the majority of dishes are Chinese in flavour, source and inspiration so be warned.
Secondly, I'm not exaggerating when I say that service is chaotic. I recommend that you book and when they invite you (i.e. force you) to pre-order ... do it!! Which means you will need to do your homework, but if its your first time there ... go for their recommended specialties. You will not be dissappointed ... the specialties of the house list is not just a marketing ploy.
Thirdly, the food (although not quite amazing!) is pretty darn good! Prices are what you expect for this side of town.
The one thing you should not miss out on is the Spicy Quails! You pay by the number. There was 4 of us, so we had 6 quails which works out to be a Quail and a half each. Absolutely delicious and yes they are spicy, not quite the searing "tear bits out of the roof of your mouth" Singaporean scoville standard, but just the right accent of heat.
We also had the beef and chinese broccolli ... which shock horror was not overly salty, and not drenched in oil either. Although it was at this point in the meal that the fawlty toweresque service reached its nadir when we were duly informed that they had run out of chilli sauce ... and all they could muster was about 4 spoldges of chilli oil in a condiment bowl.
We ordered the Steamed Fish (which along with the quail is another specialty of the house) chinese style. This dish would easily make my Top 10 on deathrow list. I still think my own humble version is better, but other charlatans take note, the encumbering sauce is sweet, not from sugar, but from the sweetness of the fish and the ginger and the spring onions.
Our fourth and final choice was the beef spare ribs ... which was a tad on the sweet and sour side but yummy nonetheless ... well it all got polished off anyways ... which at the end of the day is the best recommendation of a restaurant I guess.
So while Melbourne is in the grip of Purple fever, I recommend you take in a little bit of the colour brown ... Mabrown to be exact. You won't be dissappointed ... entirely!
PS ... yes I know it was a bad pun. But I had to work it all in somehow.