A freelance writer who can't resist good food and exploring new places. Visit my blog at www.travelchook.com
Published September 15th 2013
Tramping the streets of Chinatown in Melbourne looking for a good yum cha starts off as fun. Chinatown offers a variety of fabulous places to dine, but not all restaurants do Yum Cha. Those that do though, have such mixed reviews it's difficult to know where to begin. While I certainly haven't been to every place in town, I have been to a few in search of the perfect Yum Cha. But does it exist? My answer to that depends on what kind of food you like and the kind of service that suits you.
If you have discovered a fabulous Yum Cha place in Melbourne, please post a comment at the end of this article telling us what makes it so great. There are many people struggling to find their Yum Cha paradise amongst the many offerings, and a little help would not go astray.
I have made a list of places that may potentially provide your Yum Cha dream in Melbourne's Chinatown.
Shark Fin House Shark Fin House is always busy, even when many other places are empty. The decor is elegant, inviting and comfortable. The Yum Cha cart is filled with inviting plates containing a variety of dumplings representing tasty morsels of China. There were also a few delicious vegetarian options such as the Sesame Balls filled with red bean paste - scrumptious. For those that enjoy their seafood, the Shark Fin Dumplings come highly recommended.
What I love about this place is that the Yum Cha is fantastic, very good quality food at cheap prices in a clean lovely restaurant lying in the heart of Chinatown. Be aware though, that service can be painfully slow or non-existent if you want to place an order for a specific item (especially chicken or vegetarian items). Large groups are attended to quickly, but for small groups of 2-4 the service is very slow.
Westlake Westlake offers a great variety of decent quality dumplings and the two times I have been there, service was fast and efficient. I know of people who have been going to Westlake since they were kids and still frequent the place. It really is a Melbourne institution and one of the reasons is that they deliver good dumplings and great service. They are open for Yum Cha seven days a week.
Shanghai Village This is a no-frills place you may either love or hate. But Shanghai Village has a large and loyal following due to its massive variety of dumplings and very cheap prices. The dumpling list is so extensive that it is difficult to resist. Some may wax lyrical about the dumplings here, and others say you get what you pay for.
Either way, no one can deny that Shanghai Village is a force to be reckoned with, a very popular place with truck loads of repeat customers. If the most extensive Yum Cha menu available is your ultimate goal, then Shanghai Village may be the perfect Yum Cha destination.
A quality popular place, especially for those who love their seafood, Crystal Jade offers a diverse and fresh menu. They also do Yum Cha during the week as well as weekends.
Crystal Jade A quality popular place, especially for those who love their seafood, Crystal Jade offers a diverse and fresh menu. They also do Yum Cha during the week as well as weekends.
Shark Fin Inn Owned by the same people that own Shark Fin House, Shark Fin Inn also offers daily yum cha. Restaurant decor is a bit more sparse and plain compared to its younger brother, but Shark Fin Inn is a popular place with many vouching for its food and affordable prices.
Sesame Balls with red bean paste from Shark Fin House at 131 Little Bourke Street
It is difficult to state the best Yum Cha Restaurant in Chinatown, Melbourne, as it is heavily dependent on individual tastes. Seafood lovers will want the freshest seafood stuffed into their dumplings, while those that loathe seafood will want to seek out a Yum Cha place that focuses less on seafood and offers more variety in vegetarian, chicken and pork dumplings.
The style of cooking is also important and can vary notably. Certain flavours may be favoured by some and disliked by others. Service and decor can vary dramatically from place to place. All in all, I believe these are some of the main reasons for the existence of such consistently mixed reviews of Yum Cha places in Chinatown. This is why I have come to the conclusion that what might be one person's Yum Cha heaven could be another person's Yum Cha hell.
Pork Buns (fluffy buns filled with a tasty pork mix)
So where is the best Yum Cha in Chinatown Melbourne? That is a personal decision which each individual will need to make for themselves. By reading articles, reviews and restaurant websites, you can get a good sense of which Yum Cha restaurant might be the best Yum Cha place for you. Even better, make a list of the ones you believe could potentially be right for you, then schedule a Yum Cha lunch once a month at each restaurant on your list until you find your very own best ever Yum Cha. Then please report back here to assist others in finding their own Yum Cha paradise too.