When I first moved to Melbourne, my exposure to its spritely Chinatown precinct extended to 3am dumpling trips that rendered me unconscious for the majority of the next day. However, as the years have flown by, I have become acquainted with many of Melbourne's best Chinese restaurants, dishing up delicious delicacies like lemongrass beef, stewed lamb ribs in spicy broths and my favourite – chow mien. So, in celebration of Chinese New Year (it's Year of the Horse by the way – giddy up!) and Alison Gold, we've rounded up the best Chinese restaurants in Melbourne.
With a huge two-level space for diners, dozens of floor staff and the smell of sizzling lamb filling the air, you know that Silky Apple is one Chinese joint that has its operation down pat. Peking duck, steamed oysters and ginger lobster are on offer, teamed with an extensive wine list – it's affordable and fun dining at its best. This is a place best enjoyed with many people, so get a birthday/food enthusiast group together and smash your way through a banquet meal.
Silky Apple | 969 – 975 High Street in Armadale
One of Melbourne's oldest Chinese haunts, Dainty Sichuan is a hub of good Asian nosh. A little different from your typical Chinese restaurants, Dainty boasts a huge and luxurious interior; a fountain takes pride of place in the entrance and there's many a gold leaf Buddha smiling at you.
Traditional Chinese art graces the walls and patrons are invited to dine amongst typical rounded tables, complete with hotplates. Dainty is known for its love of chilli, with generous hotpots and beef dishes being the most popular menu items – and with good reason, they're downright delicious. Dine in or takeaway, Dainty Sichuan is a classic location for a faultless, BYO-friendly, mid-week meal.
Dainty Sichuan | 176 Toorak Road in South Yarra
LAU'S FAMILY KITCHEN
A family run restaurant in the heart of St Kilda, Lau's Family Kitchen is a staple of many a southside diet. Situated bang on the bay, patrons fight over streetside seating (which I feel is a rarity in Chinese restaurants…), but inside is just as delicious, with beautiful wooden panelling and high ceilings providing some serious design porn.
My favourite thing about Lau's is that the menu is not overwhelming, with considered dishes making it a lot easier to make decisions when sharing, without sacrificing any of the taste. With all this fabulousness comes a price – bookings are highly recommended.
Lau's Family Kitchen | 4 Acland Street in St Kilda
ONE NOODLE FRIENDSHIP
While handmade noodles in hearty broths are the calling card, you'll also find all your old favourites here. Fried rice, dumplings and even spiced pigs ears grace their menu, but it's the homely vibe that'll have you back weekly. It's all very typical Chinese (the décor ain't gonna make it into Vogue Living), but that just seems to make it that much more authentic, and therefore worthwhile forking out some cash instead of cooking up leftovers. It's cheap, it's BYO and it's fun to say "noodle".
One Noodle Friendship | 417 – 419 High Street in Preston
Peking duck, peking duck, PEKING DUCK. Serving authentic Cantonese cuisine since 1984, Bamboo House is a Bourke Street institution. With an elegant red and gold interior lined with bamboo, it boasts a somewhat regal vibe, but you know you're in a good old Chinese restaurant when you see the white tablecloths – ready and waiting to be destroyed during your sitting.
As I mentioned before, the peking duck is a must, but other favourites include their spicy calamari and Sichuan beef – nom! Book for a function or just walk in the door, Bamboo House is top notch any time of the week.
Bamboo House | 47 Little Bourke Street in Melbourne
Less traditional but nonetheless delicious is Wonderbao – probably the best and most efficient takeaway you can get in Melbourne. I may be biased (I think I was a pork bun in a previous life), but this little street kitchen smushed behind RMIT's city campus churns out sensational fodder – think barbecue pork bao, chicken bao and even a shiitake and tofu bao for those of us who are averse to meat. Wonderbao is perfect for a lunch time hit or a quick fix for your three-thirty-itis, washed down with a cup of their house-made soymilk.
Wonderbao | 4 / 19–37 A'Beckett Street in Melbourne
Image Credit: David's Facebook
LEE HO FOOK
Smith's Street go-to for Chinese is Lee Ho Fook, lovechild of the money makers behind Pei Modern and MoVida. In a tight, industrial-looking space, Lee Ho Fook is casual, but the food is fancy. Think crispy eggplant with spiced miso, wagyu beef san choy bau and their specialty spiced and slow cooked lamb shoulder. Mmmhhhmmm. It's a little on the exy side, but entirely worth it if you're in the market for some quality Chinese.
Lee Ho Fook | 92 Smith Street in Collingwood
Definitely more the place you come after a steady night of drinking, China Bar nonetheless dishes up good, cheap Chinese fare. Whether you're picking up steamed pork buns for $2 a pop, or dining in on some of the best Singapore noodles money can buy, there's an endless amount of choice on the menu, even if the descriptions lack diversity. It's never too busy to get a table and there's outdoor seating, making for a good break to people-perve on Brunswick Street locals.
China Bar | 325 Brunswick Street in Fitzroy
With an epic wine list, sexy, moodlit interior and Neil Perry behind the stove, this is where you should force your date to take you for a night of deliciousness. Spice Temple is housed in Crown Casino and, though it is always busy, it somehow pulls off that restaurant trick where you feel like you're the only people in the room. The menu touches on all precincts of China and is imbued with the usual Perry magic, but take note: the name Spice Temple is not a coincidence. Fun fact: the cocktails are named after the signs of the Zodiac, so should you run out of conversation, there's plenty of delicious drinks to turn to. Bookings are highly recommended.
Spice Temple | Crown Casino, Shop 7 / 8 Whiteman Street in Southbank
Housed in a light-filled, airy nook with white-washed wooden walls and high benches, David's is clean, sophisticated and modern dining, with a street food edge. The interior is something else, with furniture from the Orient Express taking pride of place, alongside beautiful greenery and cute staff. Pop down their alleyway off Chapel Street if you're looking for a cheap lunch; there's a range of specials all under $12, like spiced sweet potato salad or beef noodle soup. For dinner, you can't go past their seafood, with their special crab fried rice taking the reigns everytime I go there – you seriously can't beat it. On Sundays they do yum cha as well; seriously, can it honestly get any better?
David's | 4 Cecil Place in Prahran
HUTONG DUMPLING BAR
Possibly one of the most well known dumpling purveyors in Melbourne (with locations in the CBD & Prahran), HuTong pumps out dumplings faster than me on a bag of Smarties. By logical extension, the restaurants are always busy, but it's certainly worth the wait. As well as dumplings, there's their famous Peking duck and drunken chicken, or lobster san choy bau if you're feeling fancy. The dishes are designed to share, so get a whole range of plates and crack open that bottle of vino you picked up on the way over.
HuTong Dumpling Bar | 14 - 16 Market Lane in Melbourne
HuTong Dumpling Bar | 162 Commercial Road in Prahran
Image Credit: Flower Drum Facebook
The fanciest of the lot, Flower Drum takes the Oriental wizard staff for presentation, tastiness and authenticity. With incredible decor – giant floral arrangements, Chinese panelling, reds, golds, those little pagoda roofs that everyone knows are straight out of Shanghai – it's a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Flower Drum has been the piece de resistance of Chinatown for over 30 years, and rightfully so, with those Peking duck pancakes and mud crabs sending punters home with much lighter wallets, but satisfied bellies. Though you may have to book, it is most certainly worth the experience, as the sights, the smells and the sounds of happy diners make for a truly memorable dining experience.
Flower Drum | 17 Market Lane in Melbourne
PACIFIC SEAFOOD BBQ HOUSE
You can guess what they're about straight up – Chinese seafood. Boom. Signposted by the peking ducks hanging in the window, Pacific BBQ is a Richmond icon, famous for its overcrowded atmosphere, well priced feeds and super friendly staff. It's perfect for a midweek feed with your housemates – don't forget the wine.
Pacific Seafood BBQ House | Shop 8, 240 Victoria Street in Richmond
TUL Note: Ella Stening is a freelance writer based in Melbourne, Australia. She can be found compensating for her addiction to eating out and drinking lots of wine by writing about it all over the web. Or with her cat, Louis.
Main Image Credit: From the Kitchen