Top 10 Restaurants in Chinatown 2023
Here are our top Asian restaurant eats in Chinatown Melbourne (not necessarily in order of preference)...
ShanDong MaMa - 200 Bourke St Mid City Arcade
Shandong Mama was an exciting addition to the Melbourne culinary scene in Mid City Arcade and has now celebrated 10 glorious years! It can lay claim to the best dumplings in Melbourne. Mama is a retired ex accountant from China who spent years cooking for friends in her social circle in Shandong Province. She's had the courage to start this homely restaurant with her delightful family here in Melbourne. Friends and relatives are part of the scene. Mama has a passion for healthy, delicate cuisine. It's exciting to see a Shandong Restaurant (one of the 8 major Chinese cuisines) in Melbourne.
Mama is particular about process and having the best ingredients. You may find her at Footscray or Springvale markets sourcing the finest ingredients for her dumplings. The fish dumplings include expensive mackerel in the filling, for example, hand picked by Mama.
Mama is not keen to use electric kitchen tools to stir the dumpling mixture, but she throws her shoulder into every batch. These dumplings have the perfect (thin) casing, exciting fillings and broth. There is more imagination here than most other dumpling houses in this city.For example the Prawn, Black Fungus and Chives Dumplings are delectably filled with large chunks of prawns with chopped chives and black fungus, a small amount of mince for texture and flavour, wrapped in thin dumpling skin in-house.
Mama uses the highest quality prawns in these dumplings, not shrimps. Being from the coastal city of Yan Thai in Shandong Province Mama has an affinity with the sea and loves to cook seafood.
The Fish Dumplings consisted of fresh mackerel fillet mixed by hand with coriander ginger and chives, into a mousse-textured filling, wrapped in home-made thin dumpling skin. The dumpling holds together well, and is tasty without being overpowering. This is a delicate dumpling.
The Pork and Cabbage Dumplings also have spring onions, ginger and a dash of dried shrimps for a superb dumpling.
When you think you've just had some great dumplings, out comes the Melbourne Dumpling. It's Mama's nod to multiculturalism in Melbourne. This baby sings! I managed to catch an aftertaste of the lemon rind and it was wonderful.
ShanDong Mama has taken all before it in terms of Melbourne's best dumplings and is a value for money champion. They've won awards and expanded with a new outlet in Centre Place. Having been to Shandong Mama since their humble opening we've been tracking them since - and the quality continues to resonate.
The story of Mama Wang coming from the ShanDong Province of China to bring her expertise to Melbourne is compelling. With family alongside her, Mama is unstoppable. When you think you know the dumpling scene well, you get a revelation at ShanDong Mama at how good it can be. This restaurant serves up dumplings not found anywhere else in Melbourne. And the dumpling range is extensive.
We visited ShanDong Mama on a Sunday afternoon and the place was pumping. Naturally we ordered noodles but we have enjoyed many other dishes on previous visits. Dumpling kings they are, but not just dumplings. Something as simple as Beef Noodles (above) is the most sublime dish with home cooked noodles and quality meat cuts (Mama doesn't compromise), as well as generous crispy vegetables and moorish sauce. Portions are generous too.
How about a rustic noodle signature dish called DARYL (great name) with chicken and vegetables featuring mushrooms in this thick broth? Fresh quality ingredients and steaming goodness. So rewarding.
We indulged in the famous Pan fried pork dumplings with dill, shrimp, ginger and spring onion. The dumplings here are considered by The World Loves Melbourne as the best in this city for the excellence of the skin, the right amount of crispiness, and importantly the quality of the filling. The Fish Mackerel dumplings (above) are possibly the best dumplings in the world - and we're serious! A creamy mousse like texture from the lux Mackerel (expensive ingredient) dumplings.
Not to mention Treasure tea with its mysterious ingredients...
ShanDong Mama continues to enthrall with its delicious Chinese cuisine. Our conclusion is that ShanDong Mama has not diminished in quality but is going from strength to strength. The recent advent of ShanDong Mama Mini in Centre Place with an emphasis on dumplings and craft beer is sensational for city workers.
Filmaker Colin is part of the crew and his high quality clips of Mama making dumplings appear at the front of the restaurant for passers by to see...
Given the quality the prices are reasonable, and accessible for students.
We highly recommend Shandong Mama as the highest quality dumplings and a homely ambience with passionate owners...
Yulongfu - Bourke St
With generations of tradition and culinary expertise behind the menu, husband-and-wife team, Yong and Emily Liu take great pleasure in serving up their expertly hand pleated Xiao long bao at their humble Melbourne eatery, Yulongfu, namely their exquisite black truffle and pork Xiao long bao. This is a work of art, something that belongs in the NGV, with it's distinctive black casing and luxe 16 pleat fold. (Try 16 pleat fold at home and see how you go!).
Longrain - 40-44 Little Bourke St (needs update with new owner and menu)
Longrain is an impressive Thai restaurant that pleases with its sexy fit out, high calibre cuisine and exceptional service. It brings fine dining to the Chinatown precinct. Longrain was an impromtu venue to catch up with fellow members of The TV Dinners new wave band that thrilled audiences in the 1980s. The lads were in town from Adelaide to see the resurgent Sunnyboys (who the TV Dinners once supported) at the Corner Hotel in Richmond. As new wave rockers we were into driving guitar, seedy venues and loads of anarchy... We looked to bands like The Clash, The Buzzcocks and The Jam for inspiration.
The anarchists JL and Tony (aka Johnny Dynamo and Fab Charisma) are now lawyers and professionals but still love to rock out... We were also joined by a Melbourne filmmaker. Crazy stories of rock and roll and filmmaking over sophisticated Thai dinner...
Longrain always delivers in terms of fresh, Asian cuisine and killer ambience. The Sashimi of Kingfish, caramelised cashew nut nahm jim, trout roe, micro herbs with a ton of heat went surprisingly well with the 2013 Kir Yianni Petra.
The Kir Yianni Petra actually matched with all the Asian dishes we enjoyed at Longrain.
The World Loves Melbourne noted the solid number of diners at Longrain on a lazy weeknight... Here we have Longrain in its element. How can you come to Longrain and not have some of the Eggnet. It was a flavour explosion of Filled eggnet, prawns, peanuts, caramelised coconut, cucumber relish.
The Prawn salad, mint, chilli, lime and roasted rice matched perfectly to the 2013 Kir Yianni Petra. This was the designed match for the evening, as the strong flavours of the salad matched with the Kir Yianni Petra - low in alcohol and higher in acid.
Longrain is a cool place to connect with its exposed brick, creative artwork, eclectic lighting and timber floors...
The oysters at Longrain were a hit with Freshly shucked oyster, red chilli nahm jim, coriander and lime... We loved the Thai influences.
Another hit at Longrain is the Betel leaf, either with smoked trout, mint, peanuts, chilli paste or with pomelo, mint, green papaya, toasted coconut...
The pork skewers at Longrain were also tasty with right amount of spice.
The highlight at Longrain was the Caramelised pork hock, chilli vinegar, crisp garlic. The Caramelised pork hock with chilli vinegar at Longrain is a melt-in-your-mouth delight. The pork is cubed then deep fried until it is crisp and has an irresistable sweetness. This is serious caramelisation that causes the pork to have a lovely stickiness. The chilli vinegar cuts through the sweetness like South African fast bowlers through the Aussie middle order. We ordered a second serving .
The TV Dinners were known for hits such as You Got It (profound lyrics of "she's my nightime girl with long black hair, who's always with me, cause she don't go anywhere...") and Avon Lady (Avon Lady - if you don't come back I'll join the navy)... Entertaining and energetic with raw emotion and passion. Playing many a venue and the odd crazy party. Some of the live venues we played have now been replaced with apartment blocks.
Other courses were ordered at Longrain but I had to leave... I intend to return soon for the Duck salad, famous Eggnet and the curries. The Sunnyboys went on to smash it at the Corner Hotel and are now playing gigs over the summer in Melbourne.
Longrain continues to rock on as an iconic and fine dining sensation in Little Bourke St. I'm a happy man.
Mr Ramen San - 200 Bourke St Mid City Arcade
Ramen lovers! Mr Ramen San is a superb Ramen house located in Mid City Arcade with several points of difference, including use of local and organic ingredients and exacting skillful cooking processes. Come here for some of the best ramen in Melbourne with owner and Head Chef Roystan trained under Japanese Ramen masters and has worked in several high profile restaurants. With a trend to healthier eating, Ramen is known for it's health properties including claims of being good for the bones and joints. Service here is super friendly with young staff welcoming you as you enter the restaurant and engaging and attentive throughout.
An attraction at Mr Ramen San is the daily house made noodles made fresh for the Ramen dishes. The noodles themselves are amazing, and what is even better is that Mr Ramen San will give you extra noodles for free (most other places will charge you). You won't leave hungry! And the value here is excellent with high quality Ramen below $14 in most cases.
The Tonkotsu broth has traditional flavours and is cooked over 10 hours to maximise the flavours. The kitchen staff work hard, stirring the broth for about 4-5 hours a day! They say it's all about the broth and the consistency of the broth at Mr Ramen San is first class. Furthermore you can choose from different types of soup for your dishes (not every restaurant offers this!). You can "build your own" Ramen if you like starting with choosing your soup base.
Mr Ramen San has gathered a reputation for it's signature Tonkotsu Charsu Ramen, featuring Roast pork, leeks, spring onion, bamboo shoot, wood ear mushroom, seaweed and a seasoned egg. The key is in the cloudy white broth pictured above; this thick cloudy broth is the result of boiling pork bones and collagen over high heat for the 10 hour cooking process, in which it fuses to produce a hearty pork flavour and a creamy consistency! Office workers, you need this in your lunchtime!
Or try the Beef Miso Ramen featuring Beef cooked with miso, spring onion, bamboo shoot, corn, beansprout, seaweed and a seasoned egg. By the way, eggs are cooked perfectly, slightly runny in the middle.
For vegetarians the Vegetarian Tofu Ramen is a popular choice, featuring Tofu, spring onion, beansprot, corn, seaweed and a seasoned egg.
Grab a Sapporo Japanese beer from the fridge, perfect with your Ramen dish.
The Seafood Ramen is a winner featuring large succulent prawns and clams, spring onion, beansprout, corn, fish cake, seaweed and a seasoned egg. Mr Ramen San is easily accessible either off Bourke Street or Little Bourke Street. Get on it!
Gingerboy - Crossley St CBD
Gingerboy is a popular restaurant featuring acclaimed chef Teague Ezard that brings modern Asian flavours and cuisine to Melbourne. Here you will find inventiveness, freshness and flair with a sophisticated ambience.
To be honest I am writing this article after having visited some months ago, but I was highly impressed (and intend to visit again soon for an update). Gingerboy is one of the best restaurants in Chinatown for sure, and is the favourite of many of my foodie friends when it comes to Asian flavours with finesse (if I can be so general).
Image: Gingerboy Instagram. Gingerboy is not a grungy restaurant in Chinatown but a modern upmarket fit out makes it the place for your date, as well as for general dining. The bamboo ceiling catches the eye, as does the red themes and romantic lighting. Come here for an intimate style lunch or dinner; while I was at Gingerboy I spotted several couples seemingly in locked engagement.
Gingerboy serves up some delectable Braised duck spring rolls. My visit for lunch included spring rolls and dumplings - simple I know, but I intend to return soon.
Some time ago I enjoyed Wagyu dumplings; I see the menu has changed and the prawn and ginger dumplings look amazing. Ever evolving. We enjoyed the famous Red Duck dish, which boasts perfectly cooked duck and a slight "kick" of spice.
Gingerboy offers choice; start with Snack and street food and then move on to larger Shared dishes. Street dishes include salt and pepper oysters, shredded iceberg and prik nam pla (3 pieces) or try son in law eggs, chilli jam and asian herbs (3 pieces), or even prawn and ginger dumplings, peanut chilli soy (3 pieces).
Also tempting are the seared hervey bay scallops, edamame puree, black bean dressing (3 pieces) and the grilled wagyu in la lot leaves, sour chilli vinegar (3 pieces). Sesame crusted swordfish tataki, avocado, garlic chips, shiso-wasabi dressing also feature, as well as roast pork belly, steamed buns, pickled cucumber, chilli sauce (3 pieces), and hot and sour smoked ocean trout, banana blossom salad, roasted shrimp dressing. Tempting are the salt and pepper chicken spare ribs, tamarind hot sauce, and the tempura chilli salt cuttlefish, lemon and roasted sesame.
Also check out the crying tiger beef salad, roasted rice, cherry tomato, young coconut and coriander, the steamed pork and garlic chive dumplings, with szechuan-chilli dressing (3 pieces), as well as braised duck spring rolls, spiced hoi sin dressing (3 pieces).
An attractive option is sticky tamarind pork, lettuce cups and crisp shallots.
The Shared dishes include prik khing curry of local autumn vegetables, coconut, toasted cashews and thai basil, as well as deep fried silken tofu, black bean-chilli soy, crispy asian coleslaw, or try the spiced yellow rice, chicken, prawns, cherry tomato, chilli, garlic and fried egg. Great variety here for all tastes with whole fried baby snapper, mandarin caramel, pickled ginger salad, five spice salt, as well as sweet and sour pork belly, pomelo, chilli peanuts, asian herbs. Or try the crisp fried coconut chicken, dry green curry and green tomato sambal, or the red duck leg curry, thai basil and coconut cream.
Tempting is the wagyu beef MS7, black pepper chilli sauce, asparagus and soba noodles, as well as the slow cooked beef brisket, hot and sour sauce, fried taro and lotus root salad all shared dishes are accompanied with steamed jasmine rice.
This is about modern cuisine with a twist using fresh Australian produce. It really is the complete experience, with the ambience of modernity and a laneway vibe the perfect backdrop for the funky cuisine.
Gingerboy is essentially celebrating Asian hawker style street food. In my opinion Gingerboy has been a trendsetter, with a few others now "glamming up" street food in Melbourne.
This has been a highly acclaimed consistently excellent restaurant for some time, which should be applauded.
Flower Drum - Market Lane
Flower Drum in Market Lane is often acclaimed as one of the best Chinese restaurants in the world and resonates with a sense of occasion. After decades of fine dining, Flower Drum is still riding high. This is the archetypal fine dining experience with expert service, standout food and classic fine dining ambience. Enter through a red door in Market Lane and up an elevator to the first floor to enjoy Cantonese classics such as Duck wontons, Steamed dim sum, Pork ribs, Peking duck and Quail Sang Choi Bao. Or try spectacular Grain fed eye fillet with Sichuan sauce or the luxurious Abalone.
Amazing White Pearl meat signalled the lux elegant Cantonese cusine in store for us. Dip in the sauce, but not in both sauces at once.Even simple Cucumber was crispy and nuanced.
Shallot cakes are also lux; there's a lightness to them.
The World Loves Melbourne's favourite dish is the Mud crab with ginger and shallots; a compelling elegant dish featuring mud crab from Queensland. Silky and nuanced food. We savoured every morsel of this rich and rewarding dish.
A stunning dish is the Drunken baby pigeon, infused with Chinese wine. Juicy tender pigeon with amazing flavour of the wine throughout. The waiter recommends eating off the bone with your fingers; and they provide a wet towel to wash your fingers (regularly replacing the towel).
Peking Duck is the signature here and the presentation is first class. Perfectly cooked duck, and the decoration of the sauce on each plate is a different character.
We love some Secret Kitchen Yum Cha action. We find it's good quality and affordable as the trolleys go around. Secret Kitcehn has a few locations so if you're a fan you can get your fix all over the city. Having daily yum cha available is so welcome.
Lighly battered calamari was one of the larger Yum Cha dishes and was crispy and perfectly cooked with a compelling seasoning.
Dumplings here are on song.
Chicken feet are a particular love and we can't get enough.
Sichuan House - 22-26 Corrs Lane
Sichuan House is a great Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, just off Little Bourke in a laneway. This place is serious for those who like all things chilli and spice. This is not the place for tame plain food as I found out.
Upon entry I asked the waitress what was popular - and then upon her recommendation ordered the Kung Pao. After all - the menu showed only 2 chilli heat rating out of a possible 3 chilli’s. How hot could it be?
And so I dived in to my bowl of Kung Pao, which consists of chicken and nuts interspersed amongst a bowl of chillis. It was like eating a bowl of fire for me. Maybe I’m not used to the Sichuan tradition.
A pot of wonderful green tea couldn’t dull the numbness of my mouth. I actually loved the Kung Pao! Very tasty with great flavours. It was just a little hot. All was explained to me when I returned to the office where the resident Asian expert informed me that with Kung Pao you don’t eat all the chilli. You eat around it. Now I know.
The Kung Pao has an interesting history! It’s a classic dish in Sichuan cuisine , originating in the Sichuan Province of central-western China. Allegedly, the dish is named after Ding Baozhen (1820–1886), a late Qing Dynasty official. Born in Guizhou, Ding served as head of Shandong province and later as governor of Sichuan province. His title was Gōng Bao (宮保), or palatial guardian. The name "Kung Pao" chicken is derived from this title.
During the Cultural Revolution , the dish was labeled as politically incorrect because of its association with Ding Baozhen. The dish was renamed "fast-fried chicken cubes" (hong bao ji ding) or "chicken cubes with seared chillies" (hu la ji ding) until its political rehabilitation in the 1980s.
After eating this dish I have a great respect for the people of Sichuan Province.
Image: Sichuan House Instagram. After a couple of weeks I was determined to return to Sichuan House and “man up” to the challenge of all things chilli! Having learnt my lesson from the Kong Pao I was determined to eat something that was maybe a 1 chilli fire rating.
After much deliberation I went for the twice cooked pork with rice. This dish was an absolute sensation. For me it had the perfect amount of chilli and heat. And the pork was superb cut into thin strips and cooked to perfection. The dish was cooked in quite a bit of oil but it seemed to work! I really enjoyed this dish.
Décor inside this restaurant is modern and the ambience is pleasant. I noticed several work groups and groups of friends.
Staff here are friendly and attentive. And the prices are excellent for the quality on offer.
Highly recommended. Especially if you like food with some kick!
Shanghai Village Dumpling - 112-114 Little Bourke St
Shanghai Village Dumpling House is iconic and has been a Melbourne favourite for years. It is almost synonymous with Chinatown.
I wandered down to Shanghai Village Dumpling House to find a humble yet spacious restaurant. In some ways this is like a “family” restaurant. Mums, dads and kids everywhere! Probably not a place to come for quiet reflection. It’s noisy, alive, and full of action! Bustling waiters flit from table to table and up and down the stairs…
I was struck by the mismatching bright wall colours, the obligatory fish tank, and the dimly lit upstairs area. In fact I was ushered upstairs on arrival even though there were several empty tables downstairs. There must be a special place for single diners, as I was taken to a single chair at a table upstairs. Only problem was I was right next to the free water station and so a queue developed around my table. And when a family sat down next to me I actually couldn’t get out!
The large family opposite me were a collective of aspiring musicians. Several children at the table had taken an interest in drumming. Of course chopsticks on drinking glasses are the natural precursor to a drum kit. The noise was deafening for this office worker looking for some lunchtime respite. Keith Moon would have been proud.
I was amused watching the procession of the drink queue around my table. A dude decided to use the water to wash a couple of things. That was interesting.
I ordered the pan fried pork dumplings because, like, the place is called the Shanghai Village Dumpling House. I understand these dumplings are super popular and I noticed several patrons ordering frozen dumplings to take home. The dumplings are cheap at around $8 for 15.
I asked for Chinese tea but the waitress said they don’t do Chinese tea. That surprised me! Especially in the heart of Chinatown. All good!
It took a little while for the dumplings to arrive but I did really enjoy them! They’re really tasty dumplings – love the broth and the filling. They were all skin intact, which is important! That’s so you get that broth kick when you eat them.
I could have ordered from a large selection of dumpling options or the fried pancake or fried rice – and any number of value items from the menu.
An interesting development was the waitress using my table as a serving station for the whole upstairs area. I had to quickly push my personal effects away as she slid a large tray onto my table with 4 or 5 meals ready to go. At first I thought these guys were really generous – but then realised it was for other tables. She did this several times including when I went to leave – a little awkward.
The most interesting scenario was the family sitting right next to me. The only way I could leave my seat was to push the heavy table back and try to squeeze past the man nursing the small baby on his chest.
I found Shanghai Village Dumpling House a unique and enjoyable experience.
Hutong Dumpling Bar - 14-16 Market Lane (also other locations)
The dumplings at Hutong Dumpling Bar in Market Lane are a class above most others. You can see the chefs preparing the dumplings by hand with fine skill through the kitchen window. The excellence of those Xiao Long Baos is in the fine casing that only takes a little bump or prick to break. Yet these dumplings hold together well. The meat filling inside is tasty and of quality. But the high note is the soup or broth that fills these dumplings. When you eat them they just explode in your mouth with wonderful flavours.
People who say they can find cheaper dumplings nearby – honestly, they need to consider the great quality of HuTong dumplings. Getting 1000 dumplings for $5 might sound great but if they’re average to start with who cares. And the atmosphere here is excellent. The upstairs section has a great ambience with attentive staff.
On my first of half a dozen visits to Hutong I was given a lesson in dumpling consumption by a waitress... Never I repeat never cut a dumpling in half. Always consume in one hit. First dip the dumpling in soy and chilli... When eating those Xaio dumplings the waitress told me to put the dumpling in my mouth then consume the broth in the dumpling - before eating the rest. Absolutely sensational.
Shredded pork here is also great. The twice cooked pork (which I've had twice) is a sensation with rice. People keep asking me what twice cooked means and why it’s necessary – come here and try the twice cooked pork and you’ll find out. Simply, cooked twice means cooked partially using one method then finished off cooking with another method. Or in some places it may mean undercooked the first time and sent back to the kitchen to be cooked properly. Wouldn’t happen here. The noodles also rate at Hu Tong. And I enjoyed the fried rice with good fresh ingredients - and not too greasy. You'll keep coming back.
Shanghai St Restaurants - various
Shanghai Street serves up some of the best dumplings in Melbourne; but not just about dumplings. Located on Little Bourke St (and another on La Trobe) - as well as other venues around Melbourne - these restaurants give the punters what they want with tasty affordable Chinese cuisine.
We love the pan fried pork dumplings – or menu item 18 to be precise. I loved the thin well pleated wrappings of the dumplings – the pan fried element came through with crispiness. For under $10 I got 15 great dumplings – top value for the CBD. Fillings great and juicy but the key is always to have no tears or holes in the wrappings for contents to escape and lose their punch! Also have enjoyed the fried chicken and crab dumplings here; super tasty and quality again.
Image: Shanghai Street Instagram. There are some dumpling houses with cheap dumplings but they don’t have the quality to match. What is the use of 15 dumplings for next to nothing if they’re rubbish? Not so with this wonderful establishment.
Love the simple décor and open ambience. Seats by the window are popular looking out onto Little Bourke. Friendly and attentive staff. You can see the kitchen staff working away inside the restaurant – the open kitchen is small but adds to the excitement.The pleasant surprise is that the Dumpling House is not just about dumplings! Have been here now many times – a favourite “go to” lunchtime haven. The spicy pork sauce and noodles with bok choy dish is tremendous – the sauce is so flavoursome with a pork mince and a real kick with the chilli! Love the arrangement - the sauce is set to one side in the bowl but you can mix it all over the noodles. The bok choy complements the spiciness.
Sat on a stool overlooking Little Bourke and so did the elegant woman next to me – who ordered about 8 dishes – greatly reducing my counter space so I was really hunched eating my meal. I was going to an important function that evening so I was trying to protect my shirt and tie from flying sauce, noodles and bok choy! Was mostly successful although had to visit the men’s at work to wipe off the pork sauce drops on the Van Heuser! Couldn’t believe someone could eat so much – was she another food critic? It’s all good.Keen to try the wontons and buns. Love this place.