There are few better ways to spend Sunday afternoon than cherry-picking from trolleys of steamed dumplings, sesame prawns and shallot pancakes. Here’s where to find the best yum cha in Adelaide.
In a street littered with Chinese restaurants ordering yum cha and other temptations, the queue outside Ding Hao on a Sunday morning tells its own story. Chef Leung may have something to do with it, having cooked in this kitchen (in its current incarnation and under previous owners) since the mid-1970s. His weekday list of about 50 dishes – not counting desserts – grows by at least 15 more on Sundays, when he feeds up to 600 diners in four hours in a mêlée of families, children and steaming trolleys. Leung is a dumpling specialist – don’t miss his snow pea dumplings – but his siu mai dim sum, chicken feet and barbecue pork buns are equally prized.
26-28 Gouger Street, Adelaide; (08) 8211 7036
This is Chinese culinary theatre in full swing. Located just across the road from Ding Hao, there’s fierce competition here for the yum cha crown but with more than 90 choices for lunch during the week, including noodles and congee, it’s little wonder that Star House is always packed. Weekends are even more frantic, with three daily sittings and dishes served from steaming trolleys. The dumplings are excellent (the king prawn ones are a must) but spicy chicken feet, barbecue pork buns and freshly baked custard tarts are also in demand. While Ding Hao radiates tradition and old-world charm, Star House cuts a more contemporary path – fast, cheap and cheerful.
31 Gouger Street, Adelaide; 8221 6303
Located in a former Irish pub and a little removed from the (steamed) bun fight on Gouger Street, Citi Zen’s style is more upmarket than most of its nearby cousins but its offerings are no less popular with the Sunday yum cha hoard. Its weekday menu expands considerably at weekends with trolley service providing more than 90 yum cha dishes at two daily sittings. Chef Wing Ho Au, who has been with Citi Zen since it opened 20 years ago, has built a strong following with salt and pepper squid, steamed pork buns and scallop, prawn and chive dumplings among his specialities. His desserts, too, are highly recommended – Citi Zen’s custard tarts are some of the best in town.
401 King William Street, Adelaide; (08) 8212 8383
Decorated with style and restraint, Eastern Garden is one of Adelaide’s best-looking Chinese restaurants. Buried deep within a suburban cinema complex, at weekends it’s hopping with activity as local families pile in to enjoy trolley service with more than 60 traditional yum cha dishes, plus daily specials. Top-of-the-list offerings include spicy chicken feet in black bean sauce and tripe with ginger and shallot sauce, while all-time favorite yum cha staples such as king prawn dumplings, salt and pepper squid and crisp wontons filled with prawn and lobster are quickly swept off the trolleys. Eastern Garden claims their egg yolk-rich steamed custard buns are best in show, and few would argue.
Hoyts Cinema Complex, 185 The Parade, Norwood; (08) 8332 8606
Payneham Chinese Restaurant
Set in the middle of an anonymous-looking, grey suburban shopping centre, Payneham Chinese Restaurant isn’t a place you go to for its décor or location. But as local yum cha aficionados know, you do come for the food – without the premium prices required to pay for fancy furnishings. Yum cha staples such as shui mai and har gow dumplings are exemplary, along with the usual shallot cakes, tofu rolls with chilli oil, and custard tarts. This no-frills diner is too small for trolley service, but service is fast and friendly. Bookings are essential on weekends.
307 Payneham Road, Royston Park; (08) 8363 6883
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