Shy John is an impressive 500-capacity two-storey venue located in the lesser-spotted second Yagan Square building. It’s the second venue in the complex for owner Ian Chin, who also operates Japanese teppanyaki restaurant Hiss & Smoke in the main precinct. Named after Australia’s first Chinese settler, who arrived in 1818, Shy John brings together two of Chin’s passions.
“I’ve always been in love with dim sum, and beer has been a curiosity of mine for a long time,” says Chin, who also owns Noodle Forum and Ramen Boy. “The idea to combine the two concepts together, as crazy as it sounds, was a natural thing for me.”
The four menus – lunch, dinner, dim sum and bar snacks – feature updated versions of Cantonese classics; perhaps you’ve seen the gold-tinted “signature prawn” and truffle and scallop dumplings pop up on your Instagram feed? (The prawn dumplings, incidentally, are also served after 3pm as part of the “beer mates” bar menu.)
Chin says he was lucky to engage two creative chefs with a knack for combining unlikely flavour combinations (“Both of them are completely bonkers and hate cooking the same thing twice,” he says). The menu, though, is still grounded in dim sum tradition, as evinced by the offer of traditional ingredients such as chicken feet and tripe.
As the restaurant’s name would suggest, beer forms a substantial part of Shy John’s offering. It was originally intended there would be a brewery on-site, but things didn’t go to plan.
“Two months into the plans being drawn and equipment being manufactured, the structural engineer came back and said that we would punch a hole through the floor onto the train tracks,” says Chin.
Chin hopes to find an alternative site for a new brewery within the next 12 months and will be working with Singapore microbrewery Red Dot Brew House. Meanwhile, customers can still enjoy craft beers (brewed, for now, in Melbourne) and a selection of house cocktails.
Horseshoe Lane, Yagan Square
Sun to Thu 11am–10pm
Fri & Sat 11am–late
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on September 18, 2018. Menu items may have changed since publication.