Best yum cha in Melbourne
Secret Kitchen is recognisable by its curved fishtank on the corner of Little Bourke and Exhibition Street, signifying that they specialise in seafood. Don't worry – the place doesn't slouch in the yum cha department. Secret Kitchen falls under the China Bar umbrella, and this two-storey Cantonese restaurant is the place to go when you’re in the mood for a big feed. You definitely have to book in for yum cha on the weekends or you will be turned away, as this is the go-to for any Chinese-Melburnian.
Plume Chinese Restaurant is a Doncaster staple for Chinese locals, known for its elegance and clean lines rather than the ornate, traditional fit-out you might find in a Hong Kong restaurant. Yum cha is a daily occurrence at Plume, where dishes are prepared with care and precision and walk the traditional line rather than being tricked up to suit more modern palates.
As part of the Gold Leaf group, Docklands' branch is a safe haven for dim sum chasers who want their dishes served hot and their service efficient. You'll find all your typical dishes here like har gow, sui mai, chicken feet and tendon, but pay special attention when the barrel of fresh, silken tofu rolls past for some of the best tofu fa (fresh, warm tofu topped with a ginger soup) in Melbourne.
You're going to have to get on a bus to Templestowe to get to Golden Dragon Palace, but at least the bus stop is right out the front. Carved dragons, a piano and man-sized urns surround pristine linen-covered tables, which makes GDP one of the more ornate Cantonese restaurants around. Weekend tables require a booking, and seatings are a very fast 50 minutes. Siu mai come with an XO sauce, sweet suckling pig is all crisp skin and melting meat. GDP is the place to try something different, as the 100-plus dishes available at yum cha offers more interesting dishes than just har gow and cheung fun.
This bustling first-floor Cantonese restaurant is packed for both lunch and dinner services for its seafood-forward dishes. Yum cha occurs daily and alongside more traditional dishes, wu gok (fried taro dumplings) may be stuffed with a creamy chicken filling rather than the usual pork gravy, and golden lava buns (steamed buns filled with a sweet-savoury runny salted egg yolk custard) arrive steamed in orange-tinged buns. Book on weekends or be herded like cattle amongst all the parked prams at the top of the stairs for your window of opportunity.
Crown Melbourne’s upmarket Chinese restaurant has launched a weekday yum cha special. For a cool $50, you get three dim sum dishes (offerings include king crab crystal dumplings and scallop siu mai) plus a noodle or congee dish and a drink. It’s hardly cheap, but the dim sum are finely made and plump with seafood – these aren’t the kind of dumplings you drown in soy or vinegar and scoff down before the lunch hour’s up.
The 'original' Shark Fin restaurant has been offering up traditional Cantonese food to Melbourne's city-goers since the '80s. It does daily yum cha service that doesn't require a booking, but weekends will bring lines snaking out onto Little Bourke Street, ready to be ushered to their reserved tables. The har gow are beautifully sweet and bitey, but the real winner is the ngau yuk cheung fun (steamed beef rice noodles) that are so silky you can't resist slurping the sweet soy-soaked sheets.
There are few things in life worth waiting for, but Tim Ho Wan's barbecue pork buns are worth the wait. These sweet-savoury, lard- and sugar-crusted buns are baked rather than steamed, and the featherweight pastry filled with a jammy barbecue pork interior makes good sense with the dusting of sweetness. More traditional dumplings come in the form of the arrestingly translucent casings containing a wealth of garlicky spinach and some shyly hiding shrimp meat. Thankfully there are no lines at THW anymore, but the one-sheet ordering system still stays. Sorry, there is no trolley service to satisfy your impulse eating at this dim sum house.