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.
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. 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.
Still in need of a pick me up? Here's where to find Sydney's best coffee.
Image Credit: Alita Ong