Mikala's favourite spots
Ching Yip Coffee Lounge is one of Chinatown’s best-kept secrets, and getting there is half the fun. Hop on the creaking escalator from Dixon Street and ride your way past travel agents, herbal stores and accountants until you find the blinking neon sign at the end of corridor. This Hong Kong diner is all about comfort food for cheap which would explain the dining room full uni students and pensioners, all talking a mile-a-minute in Cantonese.
The white-tiled walls and big windows looking out on Pitt Street give this place the sort of designer dried goods vibe that compels you to empty your wallet on imported lime paste, kitchen gadgets and dried mango sheets. But the left side of the room looks like a traditional Australian café: you've got your glass display case lined with chocolate tarts, sweet buns, and scrolls. In addition to your flat white or tea (leaves courtesy of Tea Craft), they do Thai coffees, Thai red teas and cold-press juices supercharged with tumeric shots for an antioxidant boost.
This non profit arts organisation and gallery holds a regular program of exhibitions, performances, and public programs with local and international Asian and Australian artists, with the aim of presenting different cultures through the arts.
The menu is a mix of simple dishes with a Hong Kong influence. Spam is featured heavily, replacing bacon in the breakfast sandwiches. Also on offer are instant noodles with eggs and Spam and Hong Kong milk tea, served either hot or cold.
Waterfalls, weeping willows, lily pads and blossoms make this one-hectare garden a charming and calming place to visit. Officially opened in 1988, the Chinese Garden of Friendship was initially commissioned by the Guangdong Landscape Bureau in Sydney's sister city Guangzhou to reflect the bond between the two cities, and incorporates architectural principles of the Taoist philosophy of yin (calmness) and yang (activity).
The Japanese born, Paris based artist is known for his massive projections that combine both pure audio and visual media, creating mathematically precise live performances and installations. 'The Radar' is a looping series of images that separate the exhibition space into a grid, with radar lines that sweep across periodically, leaving highlighted marks in its wake against the dark background, like a ship slowly moving across a deep ocean.
They have restaurants all around town (Manly, Randwick and Galeries Victoria in the City) but this one may just prove to be the best of the lot. As soon as you walk through the door into the New York warehousestyle space you’ll see a bunch of chefs toiling over flaming grills and boiling oil in a space big enough to swing a kitten. We start with the feather-light redfish fritters – powder puffs of kaffir lime spiked redfish mousse served with pickled cucumber. The chicken and prawn wantons – a lot like the Cantonese version you see at yum cha – are accompanied with a sauce that’s a little too sweet.
Arrive at this noodle joint and you’ll be greeted with an invitingly colourful menu, covered with pictures of a selection of dishes and housemade dumplings. Noodle Bay serves up the standard fare of Asian cuisine including wontons that are available in either soy sauce or clear seaweed soup. Usual favourites like fresh cucumber with mashed garlic, chongqing noodles and mapo tofu are also available. Cool off with a range of iced teas.
The practice of Sydney artist Jason Wing is influenced by his Chinese and Indigenous heritage. This artwork, commissioned by City of Sydney council as part of a revitalisation of three laneways in Chinatown, is no different: it incorporates Chinese and Aboriginal motifs, including “auspicious clouds” and spirit figures that represent ancestors. Wing designed the work to be a passage, between heaven and earth – so walk through the lane to get the full effect.
An unobtrusive doorway in the middle of Dixon Mall in Chinatown leads to an elevator, and then you walk into a Blade Runner-style idea of the Shanghai wine bar of the sci-fi future: glass, screens, mirrors, jade statues. You’ve got a choice of either private rooms or taking your chances on the big main stage, and staffers here seem to think that if they keep you fed and watered, you’ll stay all night. They’re right.