The first thing you notice about Chinacy is the space. It’s enormous: 100-odd seats, tucked just off Chapel St in South Yarra, with two glass atriums overhead and a hanging garden running down the wall. It's a cross between upmarket Chinese restaurant and Art Deco greenhouse.
“The previous owners weren’t even using them,” says founder Darren Fan. “They’ve covered the glass and created a false ceiling. We didn’t even know they were there till we went up to the roof and had a look around.”
Chinacy is trying something new for Chapel St: Chinese food with a side of glam. There’s plenty of places you can get greasy noodles or dodgy dumplings along the strip, but this is the only spot with head chef Eugene Yap running the pass, serving up traditional Cantonese cuisine at fine dining standard.
The menu is broken down into small, medium and large dishes. You can load up with a full-scale Chinese banquet, or sit up at the bar with chicken wings and pork bao, sipping tea-infused cocktails from friendly barman Will Finch.
Want some tips? The chicken wings really are amazing: chef Yap has perfected that crispy, sunflower-gold tapioca batter, and there’s a chilli-spiked dipping sauce to go with. From the main menu, try the ginger & scallop dumplings with Chinkiang Vinegar Dressing, and sticky stout-glazed pork ribs with chilli and white sesame.
The mains are all the sort of thing you can get down at the local takeaway, but prep’d with love and fanatical attention to detail. The fried rice, for instance—you don’t just get a few hunks of old char siew and some peas. Eugene loads it up with delicate crab meat, Lep Cheong sausage and a housemade XO sauce.
The thing we really love about Chinacy? The way they’ve incorporated that heritage street-front. The copper, brass and deep blue tones of the window run through the whole venue. Feels like your family’s old Chinese joint warped very firmly into 2018. Classy and cosy, all at the same time.
“We weren’t allowed to change the stained glass and brass frontage,” Fan says. “So we worked with it instead. There’s a really good flow through the whole venue.”
Image credit: Annika Kafcaloudis