The best Chinese restaurants in Sydney
You can’t call yourself a true Sydneysider unless you’ve had at least one post-rager dinner here ordering sticky, burgundy-hued barbecue pork, steamed prawn dumplings, fried spring rolls and salt and pepper squid. In fact, they’ll salt and pepper pretty much anything that stays still long enough, and while the tofu is good, the pork ribs are better. The extra flavoursome meat has for the most part been stripped off the bone then deep fried, the golden shell shown no mercy by the hand that seasons it, with extra garlic and fiery red chilli on top.
Chefs Dan Hong and Jowett Yu have left the day-to-day running of Potts Point pop-Asian diner Ms G’s to take the reins here, alongside head dim sum chef Eric Koh, fresh from London’s Hakkasan – luxurious dumpling den to the stars. If you’ve been waiting for a no-holds-barred-spend-big-with-service-and-wine–to-match Canto-palace, congratulations – you’ve found it.
And no, it is not just hype: the food here, a fusion of Chinese and native Australian cuisine, is sensational. Get the saltbush cakes to start things rolling. Four little crescents of crisp, flaky, buttery pastry will arrive, stuffed with native saltbush leaves and a dip each of soy and hot, fermenty chilli sauce on the side. Do not miss the steamed mini pork buns. They are served with more of that chilli sauce and filled with meat marinated in local honey from the Wayside Chapel’s rooftop beehives. (Hot tip: if you don’t fancy a full meal, you can come and sit at the bar and just have a snack of these – or anything else for that matter – with a drink.)
Rather than choosing some airy harbourside venue with Opera House views, Neil Perry's gone subterranean in the city for Spice Temple. "I'm asking people to go down a number of steps and come underground in beautiful Sydney," says Perry. "To do that, I felt I had to have something really special." And special it is – a Chinese restaurant that does not serve any Cantonese dishes. Instead, you'll find a menu that roams China from Sichuan to Yunnan to Guangxi.
Situated within Canterbury Leagues (which boasts a mini rainforest complete with a waterfall in the middle of their foyer) you'll find some of Sydney's best yum cha. From sweet, glossy, baked barbecue pork buns to an impressive 12 folds in their prawn dumplings, there’s a level of quality and care here that really takes it to the next level.
Did you know that dumplings are double the size in Sydney that they are in Melbourne? Scout's honour - the ones in Sydney you pretty much need to bite in half, whereas Melbourne's versions generally go straight in the cake hole. You also get more variation here and the trolleys make the rounds more regularly. Best bets at Marigold are the pork knuckles, beef tendon, fried radish cakes and prawn dumplings. Banquetting it up? Expect stuffed crab claw, scallops in birds nest and all your seafood favourites.
This joint has a golden dragon with glowing eyes set into a feature wall. Oh, and enormous chandeliers sparkling from the ceiling. Fun. Carts do the rounds filled with silky scallop and snow-pea dumplings and plates of surprisingly light pan-fried rice noodles dusted with toasted sesame seeds and served with a side sauce of hoisin and sesame paste.
This high end Chinese diner is the shiny, new addition to Enmore’s eat street. And here, mud crabs are the new dining status symbol. Forget lobster – either you can afford to shell out on the fleshy crustaceans (that usually go for $140-odd dollars a kilo) or you can’t. And when a restaurant is boasting hefty little pinchers that weigh in north of three kegs your cash will disappear faster than a dirty dog on bath day.
The Liverpool Road stretch of Ashfield is littered with dumpling houses these days but Shanghai Night was arguably the first. Back then, staff would make dumplings at one of the back tables in the dining room; now they’re stationed within a modern glassed-in kitchen with fancy laminated menus to boot. They’re still serving up some of Sydney’s cheapest xiao long bao soup dumplings at $7.80 for eight. But wait. There’s more. Steamed and fried dumplings arrive in hearty portions of 12 for the small serve, 18 for a large.
Fisherman's Wharf is one of the better locations in town with spectacular views of Blackwattle Bay and the most impressive fish tank in town. This thing has the best range of seafood you're likely to find from pipis and scallops to coral trout and yabbies. And it'd want to - it's right above the Sydney Fish Market.
At the Eight they push the boat just that little further – there's an extra lick of attention paid to everything on offer, from the moist, sweet, tender barbecue pork to the stout little mango pancakes. The congee is excellent – all loose and glutenous with little pieces of pork and preserved egg woven through, topped with little bits of fried bread and green onion. If you're not a Chinese nanna, you might have to arm wrestle the waitress for it, but persevere. The dumplings are generally a little smaller than the footballs you see around Sydney, and just a little more tender - namely the plain prawn and pork.
In Xi’an, they like their noodles thick. Really thick. This northwestern Chinese city in Shaanxi Province is the home of biang biang – fresh handmade noodles three fingers wide and as long as your arm. When tossed in oil mixed with roasted chilli, they make a fast, warm and filling bowl of cheap street food. The name is thought to come from the sound the noodles make as they are pulled out and loudly slapped on a flour dusted counter to stretch them further. Bang! Bang!
Want to know the future of Sydney eating? It's regional Chinese food. Yunanese. Hunanese. Xiang Jiang. Uighur. And, of course, Sichuan. Just take a walk up the top end of Dixon Street and you'll see what we're talking about. Grills. Noodles. Whole chickens doused in hot chilli. Sweet buns barbecued and filled with squid. But back to Spicy Sichuan. There's a version in Glebe already but this one, which you'll find on Cunningham Street in the CBD, is far superior. It's also very fancy.
Look for the neon yellow sign that marks the doorway to Luyu and Yum Yum. Head up the stairs and you emerge into an elegant dining room that has a sexy birdcage vibe thanks to all the black lattice panels that divide up the room. In case the wall of wine wasn’t tipoff enough, this isn’t a hurried-service BYO kind of place. And the prices reflect that.
The Chefs Gallery Instagram feed is filled with lusty pictures of noodles captured mid-slurp, under-the-radar dishes like dongpo (Chinese-braised pork belly) and sweet, emoji-inspired buns filled with custard. You'll want to order it all and fill your boots at the Chef's Gallery, one of the bright spots on Parramatta's newest eat street.
This Angel Place spot (from the China Doll folks) will serve you up wagyu ‘pastrami’, dressed with black vinegar and crunched up with Chinese celery. It’s a really cool idea – they’ve been curing beef like this at NYC’s Mission Chinese for a while – and it’s great to see someone doing it in Sydney. Its combination of approachable, mostly Chinese-inspired food in a fairly upmarket setting attracts huge crowds piling in for sweet, sticky hunks of pork hock and slices of stir-fried zucchini with lup cheong sausage.
Want more of the Chinese restaurants in Sydney?
Sydney loves a dumpling so it's lucky for us there are Chinese dumpling houses dotted all over the city as well as out in the 'burbs. Whether you want a vegan option, a cheap student favourite or internationally renowned dumplings, we've got 'em – here are 10 of the best.