I love yum cha. The har gau, the siu mai, the cheong fan, the hustle, the bustle, the crippling fear of humiliating myself with sub-par chopstick skills and not being that white boy asking if I can get some of those pork roll things, all that fun stuff. So I heroically took one for the team and went to track down some of the very best yum cha restaurants Sydney has to offer. And if you need any convincing at all (shame, shame on you) yum cha is always a cheap feed. 'Nuff said.
Situated in the Canterbury RSL, have to say this is not where I was expecting to find Cantonese goodness. Har gau (steamed prawn dumplings) are one of the hardest dumplings to make. You’re looking for a thin, translucent, skin; a bit chewy, without being tough. If a place nails them, you’re probably onto a winner. And The Dynasty nails them. The lo bak gou (turnip cake) is top notch as well.
Part of the Phoenix Group family, East Phoenix is a pretty slick operation. It’s a big, modern, space, with quick, attentive, service. The cha siu cheong fun (rolled rice noodle with barbecued pork) is good, the pastry on the egg custard is good, and that’s pretty much all I need to be a very happy boy.
Marigold is one of the best of the bunch. It’s been around for ages, smack bang in the middle of Chinatown, and it shows. They just know what they’re doing. Take it as an opportunity to push your boundaries a bit, the tripe is seriously good—light and gingery, soft and delicious.
East Ocean is another Chinatown institution. The food is fresh and simple, no real modern twists, just good solid classics. The service can get a bit abrupt, so if you’re in the habit of leaving hysterical online reviews shrieking how loudly the tables are cleaned this probably isn’t the place for you. But hey, the food is great and that’s what you’re here for right?
Heading up north, the renamed King Fook is a big 600-seat restaurant in the heart of Chatswood. It can get a bit exxy, but the ham sui gok (fried glutinous rice dumplings) and the siu mai (open-topped steamed pork and prawn dumplings) are absolutely first rate—easily as good as anywhere else in the city.
Golden Times Chinese Restaurant
Heading out west to Ashfield, Golden Times hits those yum cha cravings juuuust right. The stuffed eggplant is tip top and the ja leung (fried dough wrapped in rice noodle sheets) is spot on.
One of the gems in the Merivale crown, Mr Wong brings a fresh, modern, take on yum cha. While the classics are still around, they’re often given a little bump to bring them along—the prawn toast with foie gras and almonds being just one example. If you’re after a seriously traditional experience, Mr Wong probably isn’t the go. But if all you care about is some beautiful food in an amazing venue… Ooh lawdy.
Buried in the heart of the CBD, Palace has long had a reputation for being the best Chinese in Sydney (and their yum cha is pretty damn great). I’m not sure I’d stake my totally unknown name on that, but it is pretty damn good. Great service, and plenty of variety. If you were ever going to try the feng zhao (chicken feet), this is your chance. They’re soft and glutinous and spongy and delicious. It’s a totally unique texture that you won’t find anywhere else.
The Lotus Dining team has given us many food comas at every single one of their Sydney eateries and Madame Shanghai isn’t any different. Menu items are served Chinese barbeque style, honouring the traditional street-food of Shanghai—with a modern emphasis. Lamb cutlets with cumin, crispy salt bush and miso butter, and tempura jasmine smoked Fish are just some of the oriental flavours that have us wanting more (oh-so-much more).
Sharing is the name of the game at any yum cha and this is still absolutely true at Zilver. This place is quick with the service so if you’re looking for somewhere to hit and run—this is it. With classics like steamed prawn and chive dumplings, steamed pork ribs and, shall we say, experimental dishes like pig blood jelly, meat lovers will love this place sick.
At this Maroubra local, the line is as long as the menu but hey, when endless dim sim options are on the table (literally), who are we to complain? Settle in for short wait then order one of everything, at least, that’s what we do.
Sunny Harbour Seafood Restaurant
If you’re looking for authentic AF yum cha in Sydney, you’ve just found it. Spread over three sprawling levels, Sunny Harbour Seafood Restaurant is one of the better-known eateries in Hurstville and for damn good reason. With everything ranging from abalone hot pot to half roasted duck on the regular menu—you just know the yum cha selection is top notch too
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Madame Shanghai | Image Credit: Alana Dimou