Yum Cha was first introduced to Sydney in the mid-70s but has since evolved to be synonymous with that dim-sum trolley cart we’ve all come to know. The weekend fixture can be found in every major suburb, but only a handful of restaurants can be crowned the cream of the crop. So if you’re looking for pillowy-soft dumplings, steamed baskets filled with aromatic dishes, and a buzzy atmosphere, here are Sydney’s best yum cha restaurants.
You can’t beat a yum-cha experience at Mr Wong. This vibrant, fun and fresh Cantonese restaurant is known for its stellar dishes, which can cost quite a lot but is worth every dollar. Steamer baskets are filled with umami-rich dishes, plump dumplings, chewy steamed buns, and more. The seafood is definitely a highlight, including the char siu toothfish and crispy fried Balmain bugs. The duck pancakes are a must-try. Prices can range from $88 to $108 per person for a banquet meal.
Golden Century shut its doors post-pandemic and Sydney panicked. Luckily it’s back and has since taken on many forms, including Golden Century BBQ. For those who miss its iconic yum cha experience, don’t fret, XOPP by Golden Century has all your favourites. Available from 12 pm to 3 pm, drop into XOPP for the best yum cha in Sydney. Dig your chopsticks into a steamy, fluffy pork bun, or pick up a perfectly packed prawn dumpling.
If Dan Hong says this is his go-to, yum cha. We listen. Royal Palace has taken over the former Golden Century spot, and it has big shoes to fill. Which it has. This restaurant seats 400 diners over two levels and brings the same rush, the buzz of diners clinking bowls and plates with chopsticks. There’s even a seafood tank. As for the yum cha, it focuses on seafood, with har gau prawns dumplings, siu mai, and honey king prawns wheeled around on trolleys.
You won’t find trolleys here; instead, tick as many boxes on the menu as you want, and wait approximately one minute before plates of steamed rice noodles and steaming baskets of dumplings are whizzed to your table. It’s fast, it’s tasty, and it’s reasonably priced. The tables have those quintessential lazy Susan spinners and high-backed chairs. It’s a classic yum cha experience without the trolleys.
Emperor’s Garden Restaurant, Haymarket
Emperor’s Garden is an icon. Having been around since 1979, this neon-lit restaurant serves some of the best Cantonese dishes, and not many people know it. There’s nothing fancy about the restaurant, instead, the spotlight is on the food. Think pork ribs with pickles, succulent lobster, and braised king prawns.
After you’ve consumed enough dim sum, head next door to Emperor’s Puffs for dessert. They’re gooey, custardy puffs, served piping hot, and only cost 60 cents each.
Technically yum cha is served from morning to afternoon tea and, sometimes, dinner, but you’ll find most yum cha in Sydney is served between 11 am-to 3 pm. Nine Dragons decided that wasn’t enough. Served all day, this yum cha hot spot is a must-try. There’s a handful of seats outside, but the main dining area is where the action is. A traffic jam of trolleys can be found hovering around tables, weaving in and out, flinging bamboo baskets and plates onto lazy susans. Rip into fluffy BBQ pork buns and fight over the last dumpling, or order more.
The southwest is home to a Cantonese-speaking population, resulting in the birth of Golden Sands, also known as the king of yum cha in the southwest. Here, white tablecloths adorn tables, and rolling carts are stacked with steam baskets cooking everything from seafood-jammed dumplings to chicken feet and stewed pork ribs. The silky rice noodle rolls are a must-try according to anyone who has ever eaten here.
The palace dining room is always full of hungry yum cha goers, shouting for more dumplings and scanning the room for trolleys weaving between tables. Dining here is a thrill, but the food is why people return. Whether it’s gelatinous chicken feet or XO kangaroo, the food is unbeatable at the palace. Bear in mind it’s definitely not one of the cheaper spots for yum cha, especially in the city, but it does offer quality cooking. In the end, you get what you pay for.
The Eight brings a modern approach to yum cha, offering a rarefied experience focusing on fine food. The dining room stays true to any Chinese restaurant, but the menu offers time-honoured recipes, including stir-fried lobster and live mud crab tossed in salted egg. As for the dim sum, expect plump parcels stuffed with pork and seafood with that perfect chewy texture. For dessert, you can’t go past the mango pancake or baked custard bun. As you would expect, the price is a little higher here than most yum cha experiences, but the quality is well worth it.