In 2018 and 2019, we asked Sydney locals to share what they love most about their own neighbourhoods: everything from where they eat to where they grab coffee, and where they hang out. Now it's more important than ever to support local businesses where you can, just make sure you're prepared for a safe and fun time.
Over the coming weeks, we're revisiting our Sydney Local guides. Check out what Chinatown and Haymarket’s enthusiasts had to say. And send us an email if we missed your favourite spot.
“Ho Jiak Haymarket is a brilliant, tasty local spot for fabulous modern Malaysian Nyonya cuisine, from fresh Australian seafood cooked in rich Malaysian flavours to the humble char kway teow. Ho Jiak is delicious eats that lives up to its name (which translates to ‘good eats’),” said Zona on our online form.
For a virtual trip to Penang, bring your appetite to this multilevel Malaysian restaurant. Lively and comfortable, Ho Jiak focuses on fresh ingredients and specialises in home-style cuisine. The menu helpfully offers beverage suggestions to complement your meal.
“Boon Cafe gets my vote for the best stir-fry/Thai salad sandwich mashup you could imagine, inventive drinks and an Asian supermarket with all kinds of treasures,” said Dee on our online form.
Boon Cafe, inside the Jarern Chai Asian Grocer, dishes up locally sourced ingredients with a Thai twist. For lunch, go for one of the brown rice bowls or sandwiches. To turn up the heat a bit, come back at night, when the menu switches to isaan (northeastern) Thai cuisine, renowned for its bold (and often spicy) flavours.
“Their side dishes are fantastic! Service is great too! It is open late. It is one place I don’t mind lining up for,” said Anthony on Facebook.
Let the queue be your clue: this bustling traditional Korean barbecue restaurant is worth the (often fast-moving) wait. A vast array of meats and seafood awaits, grilled up with charcoal-y goodness. The authentic menu also features light bites, hotpots, soups, cold noodle dishes, Korean steam bowls and more. Sydney Madang is also fully licensed and BYO wine (for a small corkage fee) and stays open until 2am to quash any late-night hunger pangs.
“Do Dee Paidang in Haymarket offers an unrelenting, fierce level of spice and authenticity not seen anywhere else outside Thailand,” said Tommy on our online form.
Drawing on a recipe that’s more than 30 years old, Do Dee Paidang serves up its signature Thai-style tom yum soup in hot-and-sour broth with noodles or rice. Its tom yum comes in a variety of spice levels, ranging from ‘nursery’ (no chilli) and ‘Monster (spice level 1) to ‘Super Nova’ (spice level 7). Douse the flames on your tongue with craft and Asian beers on tap – or you can BYO. Do Dee Paidang is open until 1am. Grab a seat inside, or snag one of a handful of outdoor tables.
“Fantastic interior design, great service, knowledgeable staff, extensive whisky list, divine cocktails and fantastic bar food. Owned by the crew that also runs Tokyo Bird and Osaka Trading Co,” said Rens on Facebook.
This swish new addition to Chinatown’s small bar scene focuses on whiskies, cocktails with an Asian twist, and salty and satisfying snacks. Banchō features a marble bar, massive wooden benches, soaring ceilings and appropriately moody lighting. The colourful and substantial cocktail menu draws on pan-Asian ingredients sourced seasonally and locally from the Chinatown markets and surrounds. For the whisky enthusiasts who have become (or will soon become) regulars, there are even on-site lockers so you can store your purchased bottle for sipping next time (and the time after that, and the time after that).
“Mother Chu offers heaps of vegetarian options, be it snack/finger food or a proper meal!” said Jhao on Facebook.
Fresh from a recent facelift, Mother Chu’s is back at it, serving up traditional snacks, noodles and rice, soups, congee and other Taiwanese favourites.
“Best ramen in the city,” said Juan on Facebook.
For fabulous food-court fare, don’t go past the ever-popular Gumshara in Chinatown’s busy Eating World. Slurp Gumshara’s signature tonkotsu ramen noodles, dished up in a thick pork broth that’s MSG-free. Or choose miso- or shoyu-based ramen and throw in a few add-ons, such as a yolked egg or a ‘chilli bomb’.
“I always go to ChonSiam for the boat noodles. Quick and tasty. Order 1 for a snack or 2 for a meal. Opens pretty late too, so it's a way-healthier alternative to the usual after-party Maccas or kebab,” says Felix on Facebook
At this affordable Thai gem just down the street from the Capitol Theatre, you’ll find entrees, salads, traditional noodle dishes, soups, fried rice, curries and stir-fries. Can’t decide? Opt for ChonSiam’s famous, cheap-as-chips boat noodles, a winning combination of noodles, meat, sour-and-spicy broth, vegetables, cinnamon, star anise and other rich spices.
“Authentic Chinese,” said Peter on Facebook.
For a taste of regional China – specifically Xi’an in the Shaanxi province – eat in or take away at Sea Bay Kitchen. This little restaurant’s home-style dishes include clay pots, fried rice, wok stir-fries and soups, as well as handmade noodles, dumplings (steamed or pan-fried) and wontons.
“I enjoyed the food, the timely service and their focus on placing their guests at the best table/setting based upon the group size,” said Timothy on Facebook.
A bit of a queue is generally a good sign, and Home Thai is no exception. Though the bustling restaurant doesn’t take bookings, the hustling staff keeps things moving. The industrial space features loft seating and an open kitchen, so you can watch the cooks expertly make your noodles and dumplings. If you’re looking for high-quality Thai cuisine at high speed, Home will be where your heart is.
“Favourite yum cha. Their seafood dumplings are particularly good!” says Maddy on our online form
A Sydney institution for nearly 40 years, the palatial Marigold specialises in classic Cantonese cuisine, quintessential yum cha and group banquets. Yum cha carts take to the Level 5 dining room floor from 10am to 3pm daily, ensuring that patrons are never hungry for long. You’ll find all your traditional and favourite bite-sized morsels here, be they steamed, pan-fried or deep-fried. And be sure to save room for the mango pancakes and custard tarts.
“For a fun buffet experience, I recommend Kobe Wagyu Yakiniku. This is a high-quality Japanese BBQ joint with premium wagyu beef, seafood and other delicious dishes. Order on the interactive menu and the food is delivered to you in minutes... basically a buffet without having to leave your table or line up. Make sure you wear stretchy pants, as you will happily roll out of this restaurant!” said Grace on Facebook.
At Kobe Wagyu Yakiniku, the lunch and dinner buffet menus come at a convenient set price – you just have to choose among the many decadent options! Though the restaurant specialises in Wagyu beef barbecue, you’ll also find sashimi, sushi, nigiri and other seafood staples.
“Quality food, affordable prices, massive menu, vegetarian options (eggplant dumplings are pretty unique),” said Anthony on Facebook.
Love a dumpling? Need a noodle fix? Get them both – handmade, traditional and reasonably priced – at this neighbourhood institution. The dumplings come steamed, boiled or pan-fried. Also try the lamb and onion variety for something a bit different.
"It’s just the entire mismatched feel of it, the nonchalant dining atmosphere, the whole shebang of tastes and stimulation of familiar flavours... you know right away that you are in for a good feed and satisfaction,” said Lulu on Facebook.
For a banquet on a budget, don’t miss this dumpling institution famous for its plastic-grape-draped ceiling. The food is authentic and delicious, the vibe loud and lively, and the service quick and efficient.
Explore hidden laneways from Chinatown to Circular Quay. Download the free Culture Walks app.
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