Sydneysiders enjoy authentic cuisines from all over the world. And the city has them in abundance. But cuisines are changing all the time. As well as scouring the city for the most authentic pizzas, pho and dumplings, diners are also looking for what’s new.
How is Chinese, Korean and Italian cuisine evolving? We searched the city for restaurants serving food informed by new trends from these countries.
The everything hot pot at Huang Ji Huang
The old adage is: to find good Chinese food, go to a restaurant full of elderly Chinese people. But how do you find a restaurant serving modern Chinese food? Go to a place full of Chinese international students. Welcome to Huang Ji Huang, the Chinese hot-pot chain that’s going to provide you with one of the most confusing and amazing eating experiences in Chinatown.
The menu is a labyrinth and a bit difficult to navigate for English speakers. You can see every ingredient and method of cooking all tossed around under a few confusing titles. But it doesn’t matter – modern Chinese food is about forgetting rules and innovating. Just tick the things you like and it will all come thrown together in a massive two-stage cook-off at your table.
Stage one: A giant, hot-cake tin is placed on your table and a blob of butter is whacked in. It’s heaped with minestrone vegetables and about 30 cloves of garlic and then topped with any kind of meat or fish. It’s then seasoned with an almost glue-like dark sauce and steamed for 15 minutes. The lid comes off and you start eating.
Stage 2: When the majority of your cat fish, beef brisket, Alaskan crab or whatever you’ve chosen is eaten, a waiter will cover everything with boiling water and then chuck in anything and everything you could ever want. We recommend hand-pulled noodles; they’re stretched and shaped in front of you.
345 Sussex Street, Sydney
(02) 9268 0020
Mon to Sun 11am–midnight
Bul dak at Danjee
Despite its reputation, Korean isn’t a particularly spicy cuisine. It has spicy dishes, but chilli is used more for flavour rather than heat. This is starting to change. One of the most popular food trends to come out of Seoul is spiciness – and lots of it. Many can’t always handle the intense levels of heat, though. Which brings us to the other major trend in Korean street food: cheese. Although nothing new to Korean food, after being introduced by Americans during the war, cheese has become particularly popular over the past five years, most commonly as an addition to extremely spicy dishes. The best example is bul dak, which literally translates to fire chicken. The chicken, marinated in chilli sauce, is stir fried with rice cakes, chilli powder, chilli paste, garlic and pepper. While still sizzling in the pan it’s smothered with a buttery, milky cheese.
Danjee’s bul dak is absolutely swimming in both chilli sauce and mozzarella. We tried the calmer of the two heat levels offered and ended up sweaty, panting and euphoric. We can only imagine the hotter variety is pure masochistic catharsis.
1/7 Albion Place, Sydney
(02) 8084 9041
Mon to Sun 11.30am–midnight
Aperitivo at Vinoteca Wine Bar
In Italy, aperitivo was originally a drink before dinner to prepare your appetite. It has since evolved to: buy a drink and you’ve got yourself a ticket to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Between 5pm and 7pm bars all across Italy are bringing out increasingly massive and varied buffets. Cured meat, cheese, bread and olives are the most traditional aperitivo snacks. But now it’s common to have troughs of pasta, several whole pizzas, soup, fried and grilled vegetables and a variety of salads. The quality varies immensely from bar to bar as each venue tries to balance the competition of attracting students with the costs of producing enormous spreads of free food.
Unfortunately, Sydney’s Italian bars haven’t fully embraced the idea, but one Leichhardt wine bar is close. On Wednesday night, Vinoteca does an all-you-can-eat buffet with a glass of wine or beer for $25. Although much more expensive than the price of a cocktail in Europe, the spread here is of a much higher quality than the average buffet in Italy. It’s immense and excellent, with imported Italian meats and cheeses mixed in with a variety of rich pastas, salads and Italian street-food snacks. It varies every week depending on availability of produce and the chef’s whims, and sometimes it matches the restaurant’s occasional region-themed dinners.
134 Marion Street, Leichhardt
(02) 9043 0000
Mon to Thu 5pm–11pm