Time Out Melbourne

Craving spicy Sichuan or all-you-can-eat dumplings? Chopsticks at the ready: here are some of the city’s finest Chinese joints

Remember the bad old days when Chinese food meant lemon chicken doused in an iridescent yellow sauce? My goodness we’ve come a long way since then. Many of us know our har gaos from our siu mais and dried egg noodles have become a pantry staple. Here’s a list of places to go to (both casual and fancy) if you don’t fancy wokking something up at home.

For more of Melbourne's top spots for Asian cuisine, follow our guide to Japanese restaurants and bahn mi, then read the ten things we love about Chinatown or best dumplings.

Cheap eats

ShanDong MaMa
Genuine home-style Shandong cuisine doesn't get better than at this little shopping centre dumpling den. The family restaurant is producing food with crazy freshness and flavour. Try the fish dumplings; a loose mince of oily mackerel, fragrant with ginger, coriander root and chives. 

Camy Shanghai
Chinatown's old faithful sees a steady stream of customers lining Tattersall’s Lane every night, and for good reason. Offering the cheapest, fastest meals you’re likely to find in Melbourne, the famed $12 'Eat all you can eat' menu is incredibly popular. In fact, 'Eat all you can eat' is more or less an order.

New Shanghai
Emporium’s lofty third-floor food court is the home of many fashionable food establishments, and New Shanghai is no exception. Hit the slippery, pork-filled ‘shepherd’s purse’ wontons with chilli oil and a dribble of peanut butter for a modern spin on classic flavours.

Tina's Noodle Kitchen
Part of the Dainty Sichuan group, this noodle kitchen does not shy away from the spice. So get your glass of cold milk ready, and prepare yourself for some delicious chilli heat. Famous for their fried chicken and Tina's specialty noodle soups, the lunch time queues indicate it’s well worth the wait.

Enlightened Cuisine
Wander down to Southbank and try something new at this Chinese vegetarian restaurant. These animal-loving folk have made faux meat their speciality – an art that has been mastered over centuries. Everything from roast duck to shark fin soup is on the menu, completely meat-free.

The classics

Ants Bistro
Although it has one of the most eccentric menus in Melbourne, Ants offers great food for a great price, which is what places it among Chinatown’s winners. The dishes on offer cover a wide variety of culinary China, from Peking duck to jellyfish and turnip puff-pastries.

Flower Drum
Unwavering attention to detail has ensured this high-end Cantonese restaurant has stood the test of time. Traditional Cantonese food is meticulously prepared and wheeled to the table on trolleys. Peking duck is prepared at the table with a few quick manoeuvres by expert waiters. It’s practically performance art as you dine.

Lost Heaven
The hotpot is the main game at this spicy Sichuan kitchen from the HuTong group. At this maze-like restaurant, diners work from a tick-a-box hotpot menu to create their perfect concoction of broth, before watching it simmer on a burner in the centre of the table.

Pull on your loosest pair of pants and prepare yourself for a ridiculous amount of dumplings. Order up a round of soup dumplings, and if you still want more, follow them with some steamed, gelatinous pork belly.

Dainty Sichuan
Don’t let the name fool you – there's nothing fragile about this Sichuan restaurant. The chilli is fiery and the Sichuan pepper is numbingly fresh at this South Yarra treasure. Head upstairs for a hotpot or stay in the sunny downstairs dining room for thin slices of Chinese-style cured pork belly.

Spruiking regional-style share dishes, David’s offers up a creative menu and speedy service. Stuff-‘em-yourself pork buns are a unique dish, letting you decide the perfect ratio between sweet steamed bread and spoonable cubes of pork belly.

Chic and contemporary

Charlie Dumpling
Prepare yourself for a sense-jangling ride from start to finish, as Chef Dylan Roberts dishes up plates of pan-Asian goodness, with the perfect mix of sugar, salt and spice. A bit pricier than your run-of-the mill dumpling night, but it is a barrel of high-energy, high-impact fun.

Lee Ho Fook
Head to the city where head chef Victor Liong is creating some truly modern cuisine that is sure to impress. Unbridled enthusiasm from the kitchen sees traditional dishes updated, like the Lee Ho Fook spring onion 'Chinizza': a fried pizza done shallot pancake-style, with buffalo mozzerella.

Northern Light
Chef Adam Liston and manager Glen Bagnara have created a Japanese-ish, kind-of-Chinese and sometimes-European beast, which is dishing up adventurous meals. The eclectic mix sees a variety of dishes on the menu, including spanner crab, udon, smoked dashi butter and kizami nori, and dry-aged lamb ribs.

They’re all about the shared dining experience at Seamstress, offering a wide range of banquet menus, complete with Singaporean chilli crab and honey glazed wagyu. Take the rickety stairs up to the dining room where the best pan-Asian ingredients are plated up or keep climbing up to their colonial themed cocktail bar and escape the bustle of the city.

Shu Restaurant
There's something here for all food-lovers in this glamorous, nightclub-esque Sichuan restaurant. Bean fiends will find plenty of vegan options, and if you love meat you’ll be well looked after with silky chicken dumplings and sweet sticky hunks of duck.

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Updated on 14 Aug 2015.

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