Truth be told, there’s really no such thing as “Chinese” food. Every region, province, and ethnic group that make up the world’s ascendant superpower of 1.3 billion people are so varied and distinct that it doesn’t make sense to talk of the cuisine as a homogenous whole.
Instead, you can get exploring the history and traditions of the myriad web of tastes in the best way we know how: eating a whole bunch of delicious food.
Sydney is packed out with restaurants that trace their roots and influence to our biggest trading partner. Historically these have been Cantonese establishments but nowadays you can find cuisine from all across the country. From the tiny Haymarket hole-in-the-wall right through to the opulent sprawling eateries that double as teleportation to the imagined “oriental” far east, there is such a range that it’s overwhelming to even know where to start.
Thankfully that’s where we come in. Have a peruse through our top picks for best Chinese in Sydney and we guarantee your taste buds will approve.
Chinese Dumpling and Noodle House
Starting out on a slightly sideways approach, this tiny corner spot on a busy road in Ultimo serves up the best dumplings in Sydney (fight me). Super quick, simple stuff for rock bottom prices, it’s everything you want in a dumpling house. The smokey braised eggplant dumplings are like liquid gold and you will order 12 and eat them all even though you definitely shouldn’t.
Haymarket and Chatswood
One for the chilli lovers who want to put their taste buds to the test, Spicy Joint does exactly what it says on the tin - a tin that should come slapped with a heavy warning label. It’s a Chinese chain restaurant hailing from the land of spice, Szechuan Province, and the Haymarket venue is a luxurious setting to feast on fiery fish dishes and brisket hotpot. Portions are huge too so bring some backup with you.
Northern Chinese Noodle Restaurant
There’s a reason this recently opened two-story venue round the corner from The Star has a queue out the door come lunchtime. The sparse, tiled venue serves no-frills Northern Chinese cuisine on rapid-fire setting. They are famous for their peanut chicken and their chilli eggplant while their dumplings and plates of crispy fried veg are sides worth making room for.
Bondi Junction and Haymarket
Check out Zilver if you’re hungering for some top quality yum cha. The Cantonese-style brunch food is typically tea and dim sum which the Zilver family deliver up with an eye for authenticity and flair. Henry Tang founded Zilver in 2005 and has been expertly crafting steamed buns and crispy rolls ever since.
This is the destination Chinese restaurant if you want to pay top dollar for delicious Chinese flavours (from all regions) catering to Western palates. Down an alleyway near Bridge Street, the line outside is often long and bookings are essential. Once you’re inside you’ll be feasting on a whole array of Chinese classics in an intimate atmospheric setting. I’m not sure what they do to make those stir-fried mushrooms so good but I’m pretty sure it should be illegal.
Chiu Chou Garden Chinese Seafood Restaurant
Out in the North West, this Chaozhou style restaurant serves authentic cuisine in an unassuming setting. It’s a local hot spot for families and those looking for a big feed with friendly service and a strong reputation as best in town. Make sure to try the congee and the Chiu Chou fried flat noodles to see what all the fuss is about.
Fortune Village is a longstanding, family-run establishment that has been serving up modern and classic dishes from across China since 1981. This is a standout in the CBD region and a must-go for Sydneysiders wanting that nostalgic Chinese experience like your parents used to take you to. Expect a good range of all of your favourites here like tamarind chicken, beef and black beans, and beancurd with mushroom. If you can’t pick your way through the extensive menu, the highly attentive staff here will be more than happy to help.
Taste of Shunde
This one is a serious outlier and redefines the meaning of hidden gem. In a shopping centre out in Kogarah, Taste of Shunde brings Shunde cuisine to Sydney with meticulous accuracy and skill. What is Shunde cuisine, you ask? It’s a highly specific, niche form of dining originating from the Shunde district of Foshan, China’s south-east. Once you sample the show-stopping roast goose you’ll be on Google Flights planning your post-COVID era trip.
When this kitsch retro Hong Kong-style cafe opened up at the tail end of lockdown, Hong Kongers rejoiced at being able to get a taste of home without having to fork out for the currently extortionate airfare. With a menu divided between quick bites and larger meals, the Kowloon Cafe provides authentic street-food like pineapple butter bread and scrambled eggs, shallots, and prawn fried rice in a mock-market setting. A fun way to get acquainted with the taste of Hong Kong.
Perched waterside at the iconic finger wharves, China Doll is a grand Sydney institution that has held its own against the tides of newcomers since 2004. The menu is sophisticated, clever, and broad with something for everyone. However the food is not fusion: the chefs here have been carefully selected to represent their own respective parts of Chinese cuisine with passion and flair. It’s an experience worth having.
OK, this one is kind of cheating as it’s not technically one restaurant but loads of little food stalls all packed under one roof, with their bright signage and fragrant aromas all battling for your attention. Burwood Chinatown is a heady mix and A perfect trip if you want to recreate the feel of walking through a food market in China or simply can't wait for the night markets to resume. Pick a few bites from a few stalls and grab a perch on a milk crate to devour.
For some authentic, fiery hotpot experience, you have to go over the bridge and up to Chatswood. Tonnes of good options around here but Haidilao is a true standout. They’ll load you up with a selection of raw ingredients from their menu including glossy marbled beef and fresh Chinese mushrooms which you cook yourself in a range of delicious soups. The wait can be long but they provide chess and origami to help pass the time.
Yuxiang Mini Hot Pot
Haymarket and Eastwood
Speaking of hot pot, Yuxiang Mini is great for smaller, more intimate settings, though they will cater to bigger groups too. Both locations are great but the Eastwood version is slightly more upmarket in decor. They offer a wide range of soup and noodle bases like the oxtail, abalone and chicken, and spicy mushroom alongside carefully arranged, super fresh ingredients for self cooking. It’s a lot of fun.
Yummy Chinese Barbeque
CBD, Ashfield, and Chatswood
You can’t cover the range of Chinese food without mentioning Chinese BBQ and Yummy’s is one of the best to do it in the city. They offer all-you-can-eat fresh tender skewers which rotate freely over hot coals right in front of you and their lamb is succulent enough to comprise your whole meal. It’s worth branching out beyond the BBQ too as their spicy beef soup is on point and their red bean dessert buns are awesome.
The Gardens By Lotus
An old-world dream, this garden paradise is the perfect location to sip champagne and scoff dumplings. The Gardens by Lotus a recent takeover by the Lotus group set in the Chinese Gardens of Friendship and overlooks the red-tiled pagoda roofs and trickling ponds. They do a set menu yum cha and beautiful Singapore-style crab that features as their menu centrepiece. Perfect for date night.
Looking for Sydney's best dumplings? Here's a list of our favourites.
Image credit: The Gardens by Lotus