An insider's guide to Chinatown with chef Reynold Poernomo

Home to a melting pot of cultures and cuisines, Sydney’s Chinatown is a vibrant neighbourhood to eat your way through.

Reynold Poernomo

Reynold Poernomo

Sep 2021 -
min read

Reynold Poernomo

Sydney pastry chef and MasterChef alumni Reynold Poernomo chats about the diverse mix of eateries on offer in Chinatown, Haymarket and Darling Square, including his favourite spots to grab a snack.

Reynold Poernomo

From old-school seafood eateries and hole-in-the-wall noodle shops to exciting new precincts offering a modern take on Asian street food, Sydney’s Chinatown is one of the best in the world. What do you love most about the neighbourhood?

For me, it's the busy nightlife, from the modern vibes in Darling Square to the classic old school restaurants and eateries in Chinatown towards Haymarket. The food, the crowd, the markets and late night eats. There's always something exciting to do and different places and cuisines to discover.

The Exchange Darling Square, Chinatown

The Exchange Darling Square, Chinatown

Your dessert bar KOI is known for its imaginative pastries, wild flavours and creative designs. Aside from KOI, what are your other three favourite places to get dessert in the neighbourhood? 

Surprisingly I am actually not a huge dessert eater myself, but when I do go for a dessert, I love Gelato Messina in Darling Square. A tub or two (yes, seriously) of the classic Super Dulce de Leche flavour is a go-to for me. I'm a huge gelato/ice cream fiend. Bengong Black in Darling Square is my favourite spot for a good soft-serve drink, and at Yomie’s in Haymarket, the Purple Rice Yoghurt is a delicious post-dinner treat.

Bengong Black at Darling Square in Chinatown and Haymarket

Bengong Black, Darling Square

Sydney’s Chinatown has a variety of cuisines on offer, with everything from northern Chinese hotpot to spicy southern Thai food. What is your go-to lunch spot in the neighbourhood?

My favourite lunch dish is at the Malaysian restaurant Ho Jiak; their char kway teow is the best I can find in Sydney. I love the little bits of fried lard that are scattered throughout the noodles – they create an extra burst of flavour as you eat.

Friends buying Thai street food style desserts from Thanon Khaosan restaurant, Haymarket

Thanon Khaosan, Haymarket

With its night-time noodle markets and restaurants open late into the evening, Sydney’s Chinatown is a popular spot for a late-night feed. Where is your favourite place to eat after dark in the neighbourhood?

On a really late night, I love to go to Thai noodle joint Dodee Paidang for a level three or four of their spicy tom yum noodle soup; I love Thai food and everything spicy. They are open until 12am over the weekend, and their keaw tod (deep-fried quail eggs wrapped in wonton wrappers) makes a great midnight snack.

BBQ and roasted duck hanging in a restaurant window in Chinatown, Sydney

BBQ and roasted duck, Chinatown

Chinatown has really evolved its offering over the years, and you can now find lots of sophisticated cafés and modern eateries. Where is your favourite place to get a coffee?

I like to visit Edition Roasters when I am around; they roast their own beans, so the quality is really high. The cafe also has a great fit out, but I like to grab one to takeaway and wander the open area of Darling Square.

Market City in Haymarket, Sydney City

Market City, Haymarket 

We know you love cooking and you were one of the favourites to win on MasterChef. What are your favourite ingredients to cook with and why?

The fresh food market at Market City has so much incredible fresh produce on offer, including my favourites: mushroom for its natural umami flavour as well as it's texture and versatility; and chicken thighs, they are the perfect ratio of fat to meat, which means there's so much flavour and they will always stay tender without drying out when cooked right. They are the most forgiving part of the chicken to cook with, I'd say.

Capitol Theatre in Sydney City, Sydney

Capitol Theatre, Sydney City

What are your top three must-dos in Chinatown and Haymarket that you would recommend to a friend who was visiting?

Catching a musical or theatre performance at the Capitol Theatre is a must. Exploring the factory outlets, diverse eateries and Asian groceries at Market City is always an adventure. A late-night feast of anything and everything at Bornga Korean barbecue.

Nomtella Celebration cake in Ryde, Sydney North

KOI Dessert Bar, Sydney

Do you have a favourite secret Sydney experience you can tell us about?

I'm creating one right now for KOI Dessert Bar, stay tuned!

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