Sydney is home to Australia’s largest Chinatown, and also a sizeable Chinese community outside this inner-city precinct. So, it comes as no surprise that the city has a plethora of incredible yum cha restaurants to dine at.
Where: Macquarie Park
This sleek restaurant in northern Sydney unites old-world Shanghai, colonial Hong Kong and modern Beijing in design. It works, and is a striking space to dig into delicious lunchtime yum cha offerings. There’s a lot to choose from (more than 30 plates), including fluffy pork buns, pork- and-chive dumplings, crispy-skinned Cantonese roast duck, and honey glazed char siu pork. There’s also a long selection of specialty teas to pair with your meal. If you’re visiting with a group, opt for one of the yum cha banquets.
This legendary establishment in Haymarket has a dining room as enormous as the menu – there’s space for 750 guests across the main dining room and private rooms. While you can sample dishes from across China, the speciality is lunchtime yum cha, when wizened waiters wheel around trolleys loaded with steamers piled high with prawn and pork dumplings, barbecue pork buns, radish cakes, spring rolls, scallion rice rolls… and so much more. Don’t miss the baked custard buns for dessert.
With a large Chinese community, the northern suburb of Chatswood is home to some of Sydney’s tastiest yum cha restaurants. Not in the least Mama Mulan, occupying an architecturally designed space that stuns from the moment you step inside. Steamed and fried dishes range from pork-and-prawn shumai and scallop-and-snow pea dumplings to gooey custard buns and beef-and-water chestnut rice rolls. Yum cha is only available for lunch, but can be complemented by a wide range of other mains.
Where: City Centre
The Merivale hospitality group can do no wrong in Australia, opening applauded restaurant after applauded restaurant serving everything from French to Middle Eastern to Cantonese cuisine. It’s the latter that stars at Mr Wong, a dimly lit dining room spread over two levels. The lunchtime dim sum menu never fails to delight: order scallop-and-prawn shumai, king crab dumplings in hot-and-sour soup, pork xiao long bao, roast duck and truffle puffs, and prawn toast with foie gras and sesame, among other imaginative takes on traditional Cantonese yum cha.
There’s plenty of red (a lucky colour in Chinese culture) adorning the dining room at Palace, from the walls to the lanterns to the lazy Susan’s that deliver your food. Yum cha is a middle-of-the-day event, served from 11am to 3pm. And while there are queues, things move fast and you’ll be at a table in no time. Order dumplings in every incarnation under the sun, as well as prawn toast, pork bean curd rolls, and a few delicacies – beef trip and chicken feet, anyone?
Where: City Centre
Step into Uncle Ming’s and you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve been transported to 1920s Shanghai. It’s that glam. The drinks list features interesting beverages from around Asia, while the food is heavily Cantonese – with a few surprises. There are close to a dozen types of steamed dumplings to choose from, including chicken-and-mushroom and a vegan edamame version. Add on pork buns, spring rolls and chicken wings, and you have a yum cha feast you won’t forget in a hurry.
This popular haunt in Cabramatta does a brisk trade in yum cha daily between 9am and 3pm. Yes, you can have a fill of dim sum delights for breakfast. While the full menu is extensive, ticking off just about every Cantonese delicacy under the sun, the yum cha options are concise – and delicious. Try stuffed crab claws, scallop fritters and steamed dumplings… with a side of fried ice-cream for a sweet ending.
Sitting pretty within the sky-scraping Crown hotel in Barangaroo, Silks takes yum cha to a luxe dining level. Expect steamed dumplings filled with rock lobster and tobiko, braised abalone and lotus leaves, pork and crab meat. Then add in traditional Hong Kong-style pork buns, wagyu beef rice balls with truffle and radish cake with XO sauce. If you can tear your gaze away from your plate, enjoy stunning views over Darling Harbour.
The Phoenix group has four Chinese restaurants across Sydney, not in the least East Phoenix in Zetland. The sleek decor is all glossy black and red, and yum cha trolleys do regular rounds through the dining room. Hail down a waiter and order scallop-and-prawn dumplings, sesame prawn toast and steamed pork dumplings, all the more delicious thanks to the frenetic atmosphere and clamorous of chopsticks working overtime.
With its pagoda-style timbers, bamboo curtain roof, dramatic artworks and tranquil waterway, The Dynasty feels more like a movie set than a dining room. This is not a place for the indecisive – the menu is long. But don’t let that put you off ordering treats like duck and spinach dumplings, steamed egg yolk buns, minced pork congee and baked BBQ pork pastries. There are plenty of sweet treats, too.
You can order yum cha a la carte at Golden Unicorn, or opt to go for the banquet, for $30 per person. The menu is extensive, with dozens of steamed and fried dumplings, rice-noodle rolls, congee and flavour-packed side dishes. Try taro dumplings, snow pea-leaf dumplings, sticky rice buns and pork spareribs. There are more than a dozen dessert specials as well, from black sesame balls to mango pudding.
Sister to Sydney’s revered Golden Century restaurant within The Star complex, XOPP puts a contemporary spin on traditional Cantonese fare. The dining room is seriously sleek and sets a fitting tone for the luxe yum cha offerings, available daily between 12 and 3pm. The minced mushroom dumplings pack an umami hit, as do the braised chicken feet and scallop-and-edamame san choy bow. It would be remiss not to order the house special: pippis slathered in signature XO sauce.
Where: Multiple locations
This popular Cantonese chain has restaurants across Sydney, including Barangaroo, The Galeries, Double Bay and within the Chinese Garden of Friendship – it also has dedicated dumpling bars at Walsh Bay, Circular Quay and in Summer Hill. The Gardens by Lotus outlet comes filled with everything from lobster and prawns to black fungus, spiced tofu and kimchi. If you can’t decide what to order, go with the mixed basket at $35 per person. Then walk off your meal with a stroll around this serene and leafy pocket of Sydney.
Yum cha restaurants don’t get much more traditional than Royal Treasure, where the tables are large, the decor red and the service brisk. While you can order all the usual dumpling offerings, both steamed and fried, some of the house specialities that stand out are crispy leek pancakes, salt-and-pepper whitebait, deep-fried taro puffs and more-ish turnip cake.