Every time we visit a new city, I always look to see if the area has a Chinatown. In the US, we’ve seen a few cities with Chinatown’s that have really stood out, most noticeably Oakland’s Chinatown. With that said, we were excited to go through Chinatown Melbourne to try as much food as we possibly could.
One thing that made Chinatown Melbourne different was the lack of bakeries and stalls versus sit-down restaurants. There were a few, but it wasn’t nearly the volume I was expecting. Chinese bakeries are the perfect solution for finding quick and cheap meals, so Jess and I had to improvise a bit to make sure we didn’t stuff ourselves at the first restaurant we visited.
Our plan going into our food tour was to research what dishes each restaurant was known for, and then share that single dish before moving onto the next one. That way, we were able to experience the best of what the restaurant had to offer while still having room for the next one. Here are all of the places we visited and recommend!
Jess found ShanDong Mama when we were looking for somewhere to get dumplings. While their menu contains many items, everyone seemed to be talking about their dumplings online. When we got there, we saw their long menu of various potstickers, and we opted to get chicken potstickers to share. Paired with soy sauce and chili oil, these were some of the most delicious potstickers that I’ve ever had. Jess and I both had to control ourselves to stop from ordering another round.
Royal Custard Puff
While we were waiting for a table at ShanDong Mama, we found a small corner booth in the arcade called Royal Custard Puff. This shop sells fresh donut-like puffs filled with a sweet custard. We bought 4 custard puffs for $2.50, which seems a bit high, but when you think of it like buying a donut, the price isn’t too bad. The custard puffs were delicious and not overbearing, which made for the perfect snack before a meal.
After ShanDong Mama, we were on our to another restaurant when we passed a shop called Curry Corner with samosas in the window. I had never had a samosa before, but the smell of the spices immediately drew us in. Jess loves samosas, and ordered a vegetarian one. It was filled with curried potatoes and vegetables, and was packed with flavor. Highly recommend this as an on-the-go snack while in the area.
I knew that if we were going to do a food tour in Chinatown, we had to find a great place for ramen. Jess and I both looked up some of the most highly recommended ramen in Chinatown Melbourne and both landed on Hakata Gensuke. I really enjoyed the way we ordered. You order by checking off different options from a sheet of paper, and hand your completed order to your waitress. There were four different ramens available, and I ended up choosing the Signature Tonkotsu. I paid $1 extra for a soy marinated egg.
One thing that stood out from Hakata Gensuke was their use of thin, straight noodles versus thicker, wavy noodles. I’m sure this isn’t uncommon, but it’s the first time I’ve had ramen with this type of noodle. I really enjoyed the texture of the noodle, but I think that the thicker noodles absorb the broth a bit more.
Nam Loong Restaurant
After getting ramen, Jess and I were nearing our limit on how much we could eat. But like I said earlier, I can’t imagine going to Chinatown without visiting a bakery. We found Nam Loong Restaurant just a block from the ramen shop and went in for a couple buns. I had a steamed pork bun and Jess had a steamed red bean bun. If I’m being honest, my pork bun wasn’t anything special, and I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t sell baked buns as well. However, Jess really loved her red bean bun because it tasted like dates, so I’d still recommend checking it out!
There is one place not on this list that we really wanted to visit called Juicy Bao. There was a long line out the door when we passed it, so we knew it had to be good. Unfortunately, by the time we finished all of the places above, we didn’t have any room left for it.