Sydney will light up to usher in the Year of the Pig in 2019. From February 1 to 10, representing each of the 12 animal signs of the Lunar Zodiac, a series of illuminating large-scale ‘Lunar Lanterns’ will line Circular Quay. In Chinatown, magnificent lion dancers will take to the streets at 6pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the festival. And, on the weekend of February 9 and 10, Darling Harbour will host the biggest dragon-boat races in the Southern Hemisphere.
The City of Sydney’s celebrations for Chinese New Year started as a community event in Chinatown 22 years ago, and has evolved into a celebration engaging a wide range of local communities. This year the Sydney Lunar Festival celebrates Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indonesian, Malaysian and Korean cultures, and will feature more than 80 associated events.
Here are Broadsheet’s picks for eating, drinking and shopping this Lunar New Year.
Hong Kong Diner
Proving the adage that good things can indeed come in small packages, Hong Kong Diner is a petite eatery tucked between its neighbours along Spice Alley – a clandestine courtyard in Chippendale, where Asian street food abounds. Red lanterns hang from the ceiling in this narrow, wooden locale, where the scent of Cantonese cuisine emerges from the bustling kitchen. But, don’t let its size fool you – the flavours of the hawker-style eats here are by no means diminutive. Soft, handmade noodles join the table with reviving bowls of congee, steamed dumplings and wok-tossed greens. Just be sure to get in early – space is at a premium in Spice Alley, which fills up fast on a balmy summer’s night.
18-20 Kensington Street, Chippendale
(02) 9281 0822
Mon to Wed 11.00am–9.30pm
Thurs to Sat 11.00am–10.00pm
Chaco Bar, a compact Darlinghurst eatery that seats 25, has been serving up some of Sydney’s best yakitori since 2014. Chef Keita Abe, who wanted to offer Sydneysiders an experience of Japanese cuisine beyond the ubiquitous shopping centre sushi joint, modelled his restaurant on the yakitori eateries found in his hometown of Fukuoka. Leave your squeamishness at the door: at Chaco, you’ll find heart, liver, gristle, gizzard and tongue skewered on yakitori sticks as well as more common cuts of meat such as pork belly and chicken thigh. Vegetarian options include miso eggplant and okra with bonita flake ponzu. Lunch diners and early birds at dinner can slurp on ramen, limited to 30 bowls each seating.
38 Crown Street, Darlinghurst
(02) 9007 8352
Wed to Sat 11.30am–2.30pm
Sun 11.30–2.30pm, 5pm–9pm
Tue to Sat 5.30pm–10pm
Sáng by Mabasa
Sáng is a tiny family-run Surry Hills eatery from the team that ran Mabasa, a popular Korean restaurant in Balmain. Korean classics such as bulgogi, bibimbap and KFC – Korean fried chicken – appear on the menu alongside lesser-known dishes such as janchi guksu (noodle soup with carrots, zucchini, egg, seaweed and napa kimchi) and yuk hwe (raw beef served with nashi pear, cucumber and toasted almonds). The food is authentic and beautifully presented at the same time – among the most visually striking dishes is gu jeol pan, a platter of nine colourful “delicacies” arranged around a stack of pancakes.
98 Fitzroy Street, Surry Hills
(02) 9331 5175
Tue to Sat 11.30am–3pm, 5.30pm–10pm
Sun 11.30am–3pm, 5.30pm–9pm
There’s no flashing neon sign to announce your arrival at Uncle Ming’s, just a shabby bicycle, a bouncer, and the smell of incense wafting up the stairs. Named after a colourful Shanghai émigré who arrived in Sydney in the 1920s, Uncle Ming’s is a modern-day take on a 19th century opium den – minus the opium. Instead, you’ll find a dimly lit space decorated in sumptuous red, and a drinks list featuring sake, liqueurs, beer and an extensive range of Japanese whisky. Cocktails feature Asian flavours, such as the Jiang Tini (Ketel One Vodka, ginger liqueur, pineapple juice, fresh ginger) and the Paper Moon (Gekkeikan sake, Cointreau, yuzu and lemon). Bar snacks come in the form of dumplings, spring rolls, pork buns and edamame.
Lower Ground, 55 York Street, Sydney
Mon to Thu 12pm–midnight
Let’s face it – there’s time for a bit of shopping between meals. Homewares emporium Muji epitomises the simplicity of Japanese design. Founded in Japan 1980, the name muji translates as “no-brand quality goods” and the retailer has stayed true to its founding principles, offering quality functional furniture, homewares, stationery, clothing and accessories. Muji’s first Sydney outpost opened in the CBD in 2015, with a second opening its doors in Chatswood early in 2018.
Level 1, The Galeries
500 George Street, Sydney
(02) 8036 4556
Mon to Wed, Fri to Sat 10am–7pm