We found the best yum cha in Brisbane from the West End to the Valley, and put our feelers (read: chopsticks) out in the rest of the Sunshine State, too.
If you think yum cha without the trollies just isn’t yum cha, Bamboo Basket will make you think twice. For starters, it guarantees the delicious soup inside the delicate xiao long bao is always piping hot, the steamed barbecue pork buns are fresh and fluffy and the egg and chive pancake flaky every time. It also means you can get your fix of the great chicken our buns and duck or prawn dumplings whenever you please – day or night, every day of the week. It’s also an uncommonly serene yum cha experience; apart from the absence of the frenetic trolley procession, the contemporary black-and-red interior is a welcome respite from the South Bank throng. And you’ll never find yourself peering longingly at the trollies just as the last basket of siu mai gets snaffled.
Shop 1003-1004, 199 Grey Street, South Brisbane; (07) 3844 0088
While south-side suburbs such as Sunnybank and Eight Mile Plains now rival Fortitude Valley’s official Chinatown when it comes to food, a few stalwarts remain; Golden Palace has been wheeling out the trollies of Hong Kong-style favourites for more than 20 years with no signs of slowing down.
Level 1, corner Ann and Duncan streets, Chinatown Mall, Fortitude Valley; (07) 3252 8872
King of Kings
Another Fortitude Valley veteran, this bustling barn of a place has been synonymous with old-school yum cha for decades. The décor at King of Kings probably hasn’t changed much in that time, and neither has the menu. And that’s a big part of the appeal. If they ever take the mango pancake off the menu, or change the egg-custard tart recipe there’ll be big trouble in little China.
175 Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley; (07) 3852 1889
Taste Gallery is the pick of the bunch when it comes to Brisbane’s unofficial Chinatown on the south side. The deep-fried crisp duck alone is worth the trip. Flaky shallot pancakes and xiao long bao are also house specialties. And you don’t need to get up early for this one. Yum cha is served all day, every day.
20b/334 Mains Road, Sunnybank; (07) 3423 8483
Sichuan Bang Bang
This Sichuan eatery, tucked away in a tarted-up Paddington worker’s cottage, is tiny, tasty and great value for money. The limitless $38-per-head offering on Sundays at Sichuan Bang Bang includes a beer or a glass of wine and a fresh, fun take on the yum cha experience. Order whatever takes your fancy from the 18-odd dishes available and it’ll be whipped up fresh in the kitchen. It may seem like a good plan to work your way through the entire menu but this eyes-bigger-than-belly approach could result in missing out on the “famous” prawn and tofu-skin spring rolls, the cubes of salt-and-pepper tofu that are crisp outside and pillowy-soft inside, or the sheng jian bao (pan-fried soup dumplings). The unassuming-sounding crushed cucumber and garlic sounds like the dish to skip but once you’ve tried it, you’ll probably order seconds.
167 Given Terrace, Paddington; (07) 3369 1311
It may just be a stone’s throw from Chinatown but this cosy, contemporary dumpling bar is worlds apart. With only a small space and a menu to match, Fat Dumpling has a less-is-more approach. If you like your dumplings plump, fresh and made with love, then this is the place.
368 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley; (07) 3195 1040
Little Red Dumpling
The Soviet-era propaganda mural on the back wall may be tongue-in-cheek, but they take their xao long bao quite seriously at Little Red Dumpling. This pint-sized place offers seriously good, classic dumplings served in cute, contemporary surrounds.
61 Hardgrave Road, West End; (07) 3162 2993
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The Manor Chinese Restaurant
It’s not much to look at from the outside, but don’t be surprised if you arrive at midnight and find this place pumping. The Manor is one of the few places in town where that late-night hankering for bamboo baskets crammed with fluffy pork buns and pan-fried dumplings can be satisfied.
6 Angel Street, Eight Mile Plains; (07) 3341 9506
Out-of-town honourable mentions
Compared to the Gold Coast, options for yum cha on the Sunshine Coast are few and far between. Embassy XO saves the day, with a creative, contemporary menu that includes crab spring rolls with black-vinegar caramel and barbecue duck buns – served with a sea breeze.
Corner Duke and Bryan streets, Sunshine Beach, Sunshine Coast; (07) 5455 4460
When it comes to yum cha, finding something “safe” to eat can be a beastly prospect for vegans. Fear not, plant-eaters of every stripe: Easy House is safe as. Everything on the menu at this friendly, no-frills eatery is either vegetarian or vegan. Even committed carnivores will be converted by the barbecue “pork” buns and sesame “prawn” toast.
8/90 Markeri Street, Mermaid Waters, Gold Coast; (07) 5572 8808
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