The Best Restaurants in Chinatown Melbourne

Updated 5 months ago

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Melbourne’s Chinatown is the oldest in Australia and one of the oldest in the world. Gold was discovered in Victoria in 1851, and enterprising Chinese miners began arriving by the thousands soon after.

New arrivals hopped off the boat at the bottom of William Street, then took a short walk to the short-term boarding houses on Little Bourke Street. Within ten years the area had morphed into an ethnic enclave, thanks to both the language barrier and the outright racism directed at Chinese miners by their European counterparts.

Those early immigrants were mainly Cantonese, and in Melbourne and Australia more generally, Cantonese is still the most widespread and popular of China’s “eight great” regional cuisines. Visit Chinatown today, though, and there are far more thrills to be had: Shandong-style mackerel dumplings, soupy xiaolongbao from Jiangsu, steaming bowls of Gansu-style noodles in broth and much more.

Here’s where to find it all, plus the smattering of Japanese, Thai, Italian and other restaurants along the roughly three-block stretch.

  • If you’re after the gold standard for Cantonese cuisine in the city, look no further. Flower Drum’s been serving it since 1975. Its low-lit, seductive ambience and consistently impeccable service are reasons to visit alone.

  • Its revered xiao long bao has drawn crowds since it opened in 2008. Other favourites include spicy wonton and pan-fried dumplings. A reliable classic for no-fuss, high quality dumplings.

  • A bustling eatery tucked down a city arcade that's part of the growing Hu Tong dumpling empire. Ordering a double serve of xiao long bao (one won’t cut it) via touch screen never gets old here.

  • Bring a group and choose your adventure at this moody, red-lit Sichuan diner. Feast on all-you-can-eat hotpot cooked at your table. Or order go-to dishes like Sichuan lamb ribs, kung pao chicken and dan dan noodles.

  • This double-storey dumpling house is a Melbourne institution. Follow the vast red door to find its iconic pink walls and steaming hot plates of dumplings coming from the kitchen. There’s a sizeable menu of both fried and steamed dumplings, which you might order with Shanghai fried rice and Chinese broccoli drizzled in oyster sauce.

  • Cheap, delicious and fun, as all great malatang joints should be. Fill your golden pot with meat, tofu, noodles and vegetables from the self-serve fridge, then bathe your spoils in hot-and-sour Sichuan-style broth.

  • Fast Michelin-star food without a hefty price tag. This global chain started in Singapore’s famed hawker canteens and continues to churn out high quality classics like char siu, roast pork and crispy skin roast duck.

  • A Chinese institution, West Lake has weathered the test of Chinatown's high turnover rates for decades. There’s excellent all-day yum cha, then tasty classics like scallops in XO sauce and stir-fried vegetables until well past midnight. Late-night cravings? Satisfy them here.

  • Settle in at the north side counterpart to this South Yarra institution. The Chongqing noodles are legendary. Expect elastic, chewy noodles; baby bok choy; and a chicken and chilli broth with an incredible depth of flavour and spice – both numbing and burning.

  • This Shanghai-style restaurant’s recipe for xiao long bao has been passed down through the family for more than a century. Get the black truffle and pork version, plus pan-fried pork buns, chicken wontons in chilli-sesame oil and more.

  • You can’t walk past the live seafood tank – one of the largest in the city – without doing a double-take. This Cantonese joint specialises in fresh seafood and seats up to 150 people. Aside from the seafood, the rest of the menu has the usual dim sum favourites. You might eat Peking duck pancakes, fried rice in an omelette pouch, and steamed buns decorated like piglets.

  • A high-end restaurant serving contemporary Chinese fare in a Melbourne laneway. Though many of these dishes aim to elevate tradition, there’s plenty of nostalgia to be found in xiao long bao and soft-shell crab.

  • You’ll find some of the best dumplings in town in an arcade off Chinatown. Don’t let the long line deter you. The staff at this stripped back, all-day Chinese diner keep the queues moving quickly. Shandong is known for its seafood so be sure to add a plate to the order.

  • Release your inner grill master – or leave the cooking to the pros – at this Sichuan barbeque spot. Your spread might include spicy pork ribs, squid tentacles and, for dessert, matcha tiramisu.

  • Supper Inn is a BYO Melbourne institution. Just ask Melbourne’s top chefs – especially after a closing shift. Cantonese food at its best, and least pretentious.

  • Offering no-nonsense Cantonese dining in the heart of the CBD, Ling Nan has been satisfying Melbourne’s late-night cravings for around three decades. New location, same must-order XO pippies.

  • With 20 locations spread across Asia and Australia, this Hong Kong dumpling chain must be doing something right.

  • At this cool laneway diner, you’ll find many Southeast Asian flavours in thoughtful, nuanced, high-definition dishes. Creations like Sydney rock oysters with tomato sambar and moringa beans add an unmistakeable local accent.

  • Cookie combines rowdy European beer hall with standout Thai food that beckons to be shared. It’s fun, versatile and subtly influential, preceding similar restaurants like Chin Chin. Bring a crew, order the banquet and plan to drink.

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  • Longrain started in Sydney in ’95 and came to Melbourne a decade later. Since then, it’s been at the forefront of contemporary Thai dining here. Order a banquet and try favourites like caramelised pork belly and som tam salad.

  • Scott Pickett’s atmospheric bar above Longrain will transport you someplace else. Enjoy sharp cocktails alongside sharp snacks like prawn toast, smoked duck breast and freshly shucked oysters.

  • A bastion of exemplary Hakata-style ramen in the city centre. Visit for house-made noodles, consistently excellent broths and a creation known simply as the “cocktail draft beer”. If you drink too many, do as the shop prescribes: keep calm, eat ramen.

  • Shujinko is as close as you’ll get to Tokyo in Melbourne’s Chinatown. At this unpretentious noodle house, you can enjoy Tonkotsu-style ramen until late seven days a week. Some gyoza, beer and sake also come recommended.

  • You can choose your own adventure at Bomba. Come for tapas and imported Spanish wines at the restaurant downstairs, or escape to the fifth-floor rooftop for cocktails and DJs every weekend. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

  • This wine-slinging laneway bar was one of Melbourne’s first. Since 1994, it’s developed a loyal following for its expansive wine list, reliable service and Euro-leaning share plates (including an off-menu Portuguese fish stew).

  • Hit up this buzzy restaurant for hip-hop, Vietnamese street food and cocktails bedecked with fairy floss or fire. Order its steaming hot curries, seafood and Vietnamese classics, before finishing with pandan-laced desserts. Or bring a group and feast with the banquet.

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  • A late-trading Greek institution in the heart of the city. Since 1987, it's been serving traditional, uncomplicated food including fresh dips, chicken and lamb giros from the spit and a famous range of souvlaki that punters keep coming back for – regardless of the time of day (or night).

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  • There are nearly 100 ingredients to choose from at this hotpot joint, and you’ll never lose them in the broth again – just press a button and a hotpot lift will bring all your Wagyu, fish balls and veggies back to the surface.