Mu Lan Restaurant

Licensed/BYO $-$$   Hat iconHat icon
343 Elizabeth Street, North Hobart
03) 6231 3609
Open: Lunch Wed to Sun; Dinner nightly.

The Internet tells me that Mu Lan is a type of magnolia, the name of a fabled Chinese female warrior heroine and a Walt Disney film from 1998.

It’s also the name for North Hobart’s latest restaurant where someone has spent a motza converting the old Jacobson’s Butcher shop into a very stylish Chinese eatery. Opened with two dining floors in October, there are private booths, black lacquered tables and chairs and a tasteful assortment of Chinese lanterns, screens and pottery.

While there are familiar dishes like pork dumplings, spring rolls and BBQ pork with plum sauce on the smallish – for Chinese – menu, they say they’re aiming to bypass the usual Chinese menu clichés and modernize traditional dishes with their presentation.

Accordingly, the menu’s “roasted duck breast” comes in fact as a deconstructed Peking duck with two beautifully cooked and lacquered breasts handily sliced; pancakes and other traditional ingredients there to make up and roll your own, with a small bowl of hoisin for dipping.

Two other very enjoyable dishes were shrimp and beans in lettuce cups and the silky steamed eggplant, both with sweet/sour vinegar flavours quite distinct from what one finds in Cantonese sweet and sour dishes, and which, I believe, are signatures flavours of Fujian province. Both were attractively presented, the shrimp with precisely diced beans cupped in crisp iceberg lettuce and the sauce for the meltingly tender strips of steamed eggplant thickened with minced garlic, pork and, I think, peanuts. While the salt and pepper squid in a vinegary sauce of melted onions and chillies was also delicious, two others were less successful.

I’m not sure what’s special about black beans from the inland region of Luo Ding, but they appear a number of times on the menu and in our case did little to enhance a rather gluggy sauce coating portions of beef fillet. The bland flavours of Chairman Mao’s Pork also suggested some vital ingredients had perhaps gone missing, the pieces of belly pork and green beans nicely crisped and tender, but with no taste evident of the menu’s listing of star anise and dark soy while an abundance of seared red chillies contributed nothing by way of either fruitiness or heat.

The service was pleasantly smiling and attentive and the wine list adequate, very well priced and with a few wines by the glass. Full, and turning over tables downstairs on a Monday night, Mu Lan is an enjoyable and very welcome addition to the North Hobart strip.

Soups $8/$10; entrees $8 – $18; mains $22 – $32; vegetables $12 – $18; noodles and rice $3 – $18; desserts $8 – $12

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