Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus in China late last year, Melbourne’s Chinese restaurants have been feeling the pinch with many would-be diners avoiding the cuisine in fear of coming into contact with the infectious disease. The effects have been so dramatic that one Chinatown business, Shark Fin House, has had to close its doors.
While the virus can be spread through close contact with someone who’s infected, eating Chinese cuisine here in Melbourne presents absolutely no more danger of contracting the disease than if you were chowing down on some Mexican with a Tecate in hand. Our city and surrounds are thriving with eateries worth your time, and the mecca that is Chinatown is a great place to start.
Shark Fin Inn
While Chinatown took a hit to its offering with the recent closure of Shark Fin House, it’s business as usual for sister restaurant Shark Fin Inn. Situated at the top of Little Bourke Street since 1980, Shark Fin Inn offers traditional Cantonese cuisine in a refined setting that isn’t reflective of the modest prices. It’s also open until 1:30am daily for those hunting down a late-night feed.
Okay, so ShanDong Mama does dumplings, and they do them damn well. The haunt is tucked away in Mid City Arcade, and given the quality, you can expect to pay a slightly higher premium than that of your cheap and cheerful spots along the main drag. The menu is expansive, and with that in mind, the boiled squid ink dumplings are a great place to start.
Juicy Bao does exactly what it says on the packaging, and then some. The team here have your usual suspects covered off, like steamed or fried prawn dumplings and several fried rice varietals, but the 10-page menu lets you get lost in everything Chinese cuisine has to offer. Juicy Bao is fast and no fuss; perfect for a quick feed during lunch or late in the evening.
There’s something liberating about ordering off a touchscreen. Chicken San Choi Bao? On its way. Szechuan Chilli Spicy Chicken? Coming up. A serve of Shao Long Bao Dumplings? Double it. China Red is that boozy, debaucherous Chinese restaurant that comes to mind when someone in the group chat mentions Chinatown for dinner. Bookings for you and your 12 mates recommended.
Anyone looking for a spice hit that slaps should venture off the main drag of Chinatown for a visit to Sichuan House. Here, anything labelled “spicy” should be taken seriously, especially the house favourite, spicy mud crab tower. If it’s your first foray into Sichuan dishes, don’t be afraid to let the team know, as while there’s a focus on spice, the cuisine also champions bold and sweeter flavours found in the generous amount of garlic and Sichuan peppercorn so commonly used.
Take a look at everything else on offer in Chinatown.
Image credit: Caitlin Hicks