If you take a visit to Haymarket over this week, you’ll find yourself engrossed in the rich culture and traditions circulating Chinese New Year. Amongst the loud beating and clashing of cymbals and drums tailing behind the dancing lions; restaurants along Dixon Street in Chinatown are excited to welcome customers into their establishment to give them a taste of Chinese cuisine. Nine Dragons Restaurant is just one of these places pushing their trolleys for their daily Yum Cha lunch service.
Inside Nine Dragons Restaurant
Nine Dragons prides itself on being one of the first Chinese restaurants in Sydney’s Chinatown to serve Yum Cha. The quality of the food on offer serves as a testimony to their commitment in living up to their expectations and standards set by their regular customers 30 years ago. The name behind the restaurant also serves a significant purpose to the success of the restaurant. The dragon appears as a symbol of power and strength, and the number nine as a symbol of longevity.
Walking past the small outdoor seating, a flight of stairs at the entrance of the restaurant leads up towards the main dining area, where waiters and waitresses greet customers and seat them at a prepared table. White linen table cloths and wooden Lazy Susans are placed on top of the many round tables, along with clean white plates, small bowls and a pair of chopsticks.
Nine Dragons' menu. Customers are also welcome to order from the kitchen during lunchtime.
The ambience of the restaurant is very elegant and warm, with shades of brown and wood surrounding the entire dining area. Golden dragons are pressed up against the wooden pillars, and light lanterns hanging are also decorated with intricate golden bamboo patterns. Trolley carts filled with favourite yum cha dishes are pushed along the pathways, stopping at each table to serve the hungry customers eyeing the delicious plates and steamers in front of them. Nine Dragons offers four different sized yum cha dishes – M, L, SP and KIT.
Fried Prawn Toast - incredibly crispy and golden.
A wide selection of fried dumplings and dishes are available, such as the Fried Prawn Toast. Sliced into four small triangles, this particular dish will easily please any prawn lover. The outer crust gives an extra crispiness and texture along with the generous coating of sesame seeds that completely cover the layer of prawn mince on top of the toast. There is no oily aftertaste, and the prawn toast tastes even more delicious with a good dipping or drizzle of sweet and sour sauce.
Fried Prawn Dumplings - another crispy and crunchy dish.
Encased in a small pastry pouch and presented on a white plate topped with a paper doily, the Fried Prawn Dumplings are a twist on those traditionally steamed. It’s worth noticing the simple presentation of the dumpling, admiring the small gathers that are pinched together evenly at the top to hold the filling tightly inside. As another beautifully golden and crispy dish, the outer exterior and gathered pastry adds a delightful crunch to accompany the inner juicy and succulent prawn filling.
Fried Wontons - very thin, delicate and extra crispy.
If you are a big fan of the pastry crunch, there’s no escaping the Fried Wonton. The thin pastry unfolds from its usual position and becomes a delicate chip that you can easily break off, dip in sweet and sour sauce, and pop into your mouth like a snack. The end of the wonton is where you’ll find a little money-bag-shaped pork pouch, also cooked well enough to retain its juices.
Steamed Prawn Dumplings - the other side to the fried option.
Take a break from the fried dumplings and peek inside the bamboo steamers. If you loved the Fried Prawn Dumpling, you will surely equally enjoy its other half, the Steamed Prawn Dumpling. The translucent pastry encasing the filling is very soft and glutinous, appearing to be quite sticky as you first pick up the dumpling. Yet breaking the barrier to reveal generous prawn filling proves it to be a delicate dumpling. Enjoy each bite with a little drizzle of soy sauce to heighten the flavour.
Steamed Pork Shui Mai - there's a little something extra inside the pork.
Yum Cha isn’t complete without also having a serve of steamed dim sums. The Pork Shui Mai is moulded with a yellow egg pastry, revealing a pale pink pork mince filling. A surprise waits as you cut through the shui mai, where a prawn is hidden inside the tightly pressed pork. The mini cylindrical dim sum is very tender and juicy, full of flavour and texture from the mix of pork and prawn.
Salt and Pepper Calamari - a lovely, special Yum Cha dish.
Something a little different from the usual dumplings and dim sums is the Salt and Pepper Calamari. Unlike many of the yum cha dishes which are pushed around inside trolleys, this particular dish is brought to the table upon request. Small pieces of calamari and baby octopus are deep fried to a crisp, served on a bed of thinly slices carrots and cabbage and garnished with a few shallots and chopped chillies. The dish had a good amount of salt and pepper flavour, with the seafood itself cooked just right to avoid a rubbery texture.
This Chinese New Year, immerse yourself in the Yum Cha dining experience, and find yourself salivating at the plates and steamers Nine Dragons has on offer that circulate your table. The restaurant is located in the heart of Chinatown, giving you the perfect opportunity to take a detour up the stairs after viewing the lion dances that pass by.
Where: Nine Dragons Restaurant, First Floor 39-45 Dixon Street, Haymarket, Sydney NSW.
Why: Reasonable prices for Yum Cha, especially being within Sydney's CBD. Variety of options for Yum Cha. Very spacious restaurant, lovely interior.
Cost: M size $4.80, L size $5.20, SP size $7.00, KIT size $9.00.
When: Yum Cha Lunch Mon-Sat 11am-3pm, Sun 10:30am-3pm. Dinner Mon-Thurs 5pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-12pm, Sun 5pm-10pm.