asian cafes and restaurants

Are There Asian Cafes And Restaurants In Melbourne?

It’s no surprise to walk down the streets of Melbourne and find plenty of delicious Asian food. However, having tried so many cuisines the traditional way, it can get a little monotonous to have your Korean beef bulgogi or Thai curry cooked in the same way, served in different restaurants.

There are a surprising number of Asian cafes and restaurants in Melbourne, given the city's reputation for Italian and French cuisine. Whether you're in the mood for Chinese, Vietnamese, or Thai food, there's something sure to satisfy your taste buds. 

Considering the city's population is only 33% Asian. Whether you're looking for Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, or Japanese food, there's something for everyone. Some of the best-rated establishments include Chin Chin, Red Lantern, and Kisso. So if you're feeling adventurous and want to try some authentic cuisine from another part of the world, Melbourne is the place to be!

Best Asian Food In Melbourne

Brunch is a fairly western affair, but our stubborn love for mid-morning meals has managed to convince a few authentic Asian restaurants and cafes into serving us brekkie. Put down the avo and throw away your sourdough. Here’s where to find the best Asian food in Melbourne.

Chin Chin

Boasting long queues that snake past its neighbouring restaurants during its peak periods, Chin Chin is famous for its modern Thai food designed for sharing. This contemporary Thai restaurant is furnished with a rustic interior and customised prints that adorn its walls, inspired by the dining halls of Bangkok. 

Chin Chin is the perfect casual dining place for many friends to share a couple of dishes and cocktails. If dinner isn’t enough time spent, go downstairs to Go-Go Bar, which offers a menu divided into four seasons, each featuring several different cocktails, beers and wines.

Those who share a love of Thai food and are adventurous with Thai street food with a modern twist, don’t forget to try their son-in-law eggs, kingfish sashimi, crispy barramundi and green apple salad, chilli-salt chicken wings and their pork roll-ups. 

Supernormal

Supernormal is a sleek Japanese-fusion restaurant that features a sharing menu. Located in a glass-fronted large space, this restaurant features Japanese inspired décor and has unique Japanese snack vending machines that play up the restaurant’s novel design

The concept of an open kitchen and a long dining bar emphasises the large space to accommodate the crowd accompanying the restaurant’s popularity. The contemporary Japanese restaurant features a menu that is Japanese food fused with other cuisine influences, boasting of delectable dishes such as its duck bao, dumplings and, Korean bbq pork shoulder. 

If you haven’t been there yet, the Golden Field classics such as the lobster rolls and peanut butter parfait dessert are a definite must-try. A restaurant that is anything but normal. 

  • Address: 180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 3000 VIC
  • Website: http://www.supernormal.net.au
  • Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday 11 am to 11 pm, Friday and Saturday 11 am to late

Sake Restaurant & Bar

A two-level dining space located on the banks of the Yarra river, Sake Restaurant & Bar brings you a gastronomic dining experience with a contemporary Japanese menu of classic and modern dishes; not to mention their broad range of top quality sakes that can be recommended to you by their sake and shochu sommeliers. 

From booths to private dining rooms, bar stools and outdoor tables, diners have various choices to suit the occasion. Unlike other fusion restaurants, Sake’s menu still focuses on Japanese cuisine while allowing its executive chef, Shaun Presland, to put his unique touch to it. Personally reckon that most dishes are unforgettably good and should be picked according to your palate. 

However, if you want to try some of their popular dishes, remember to order their miso-cream scallops, pork belly with spicy sauce, wagyu teriyaki and fresh and beautifully plated sashimi platter. Other delicious dishes with a heavier fusion influence include tuna ceviche, popcorn shrimp, and sashimi tacos with kozaemon junmai sake shots. 

Kong

A compact restaurant with a no-reservations policy assures you of a long queue outside the bustling restaurant seats only 60 in its dining space. Before opening, the Kong team cooked for a year to perfect their dishes, and it shows. Opened by the head chef of Chin Chin, Benjamin Cooper, Kong is the younger sibling of the aforementioned successful restaurant.

Kong serves contemporary Korean dishes designed for sharing. Interesting dishes with a twist include rice crackles with edamame salsa and walnut jam, steamed buns with pork belly and soft shell crab and peanut butter tofu with fresh coriander. 

It is a perfect place for a gathering amongst friends to partake in honest and delicious food and knock back a couple of drinks. Some highlights of the menu are their wood-roasted salmon with crispy skin and seaweed salad and their 16-hour smoked brisket, and some barbecued corn with chilli salt and miso butter. 

If you have space for more, try their barbecue corn with chilli salt and miso butter and pass your verdict against Mamasita’s famous Elotes Callejeros – their undoubtedly famous corn on the cob.

Saigon Sally

This modern Vietnamese restaurant boasts rustic yet contemporary décor, featuring graphics of beautiful Asian women on their walls and soft linen hangings that adorn the place. Saigon Sally is a popular restaurant that offers a fine selection of Vietnamese favourites at affordable prices. 

Designed for sharing, the menu offers interesting choices such as Banh Xeo (a DIY taco version of the Vietnamese pancake), Bun Rieu, a tomato and spanner crab broth with enoki and rice noodles, a grilled quail stuffed with sticky rice and Chinese sausage.

Saigon Sally’s head chef Adrian Li has also put a twist to the modern day to day's tiramisu and serves a dessert called the tira-misally, a Vietnamese coffee ice cream in a coconut macaroon sandwich that leaves you wanting more. Another popular dessert is the Banh Bo, the restaurant’s traditional Vietnamese sweet and chewy sponge cake. 

If the night is still young, you can head over to the bar to enjoy a selection of Asian-inspired cocktails and fifty varieties of wine. 

Thaiger

Firstly, to clarify, Thaiger is not a restaurant. It is a humble Thai eatery that gives a unique spin to your everyday burgers. While not a restaurant per se, the popularity of their Soft Shell Crab Black Burger earns this place a spot on the list. 

This simple eater seats three people at most hence it is more practical to order a take-away. Their famous Soft Shell Crab Black Burger uses a bamboo charcoal bun with a slice of Granny Smith apple, Asian slaw and a tangy dressing. 

Another hit would be their Crying Thaiger – a burger with a piece of grilled, medium-rare steak with mixed leaves and a Thai dressing. This place is perfect for your lunch take-away (if you work in Melbourne CBD) or for a snack in the afternoon.

  • Address: Shop 16, The Walk Arcade, 8 Causeway Lane, Melbourne, 3000 VIC
  • Website: http://www.thaiger.com.au
  • Opening Hours: Daily 11 am to 4 pm

Gingerboy

Serving Southeast-Asian street food with a modern Australian twist since its opening in 2006, Gingerboy has since established itself as the place to go for fusion Asian food. Their menu features dishes packed with spices and flavours and come in smaller portions and larger sharing dishes. 

Their famous son-in-law eggs are a must-try, as are other popular items such as their smashed green papaya salad, crispy chilli salt cuttlefish, red duck curry and a char-grilled lemongrass chicken with a peanut and tamarind caramel. 

 Larger shared dishes worth ordering include grain-fed wagyu and the fried whole baby snapper with fresh mango and lychee salad. 

For those with a sweet tooth, try the dessert sharing plate that is both sweet and salty to end a delectable meal. 

Jardin Tan

Located in a picturesque and relaxing location, Jardin Tan serves French-Vietnamese fusion cuisine, inspired by the food that came about after France colonised Vietnam. The front-of-house kiosk caters to those keen for a quick breakfast or a banh mi (Vietnamese bun) after their morning exercise. 

For those after a more substantial and sophisticated lunch, you can choose to sit at the wooden tables inside or at the back in the beer garden. With a focus on sustainability, Jardin Tan uses only fresh local produce with much produce grown in the kitchen garden.

Chefs take on traditional Vietnamese dishes such as banh mi), pho (Vietnamese beef noodles), and beef ribs. Other popular dishes include the chilli lime squid with pickled papaya, flinders island lamb ribs and crispy pancake with pork and shrimp. 

Rice Queen

Step into Asia without booking a flight – that’s what a dining experience at Rice Queen feels like. With eclectic and quirky Asian-inspired décor, Rice Queen matches its ambience with a menu offering equally amazing Asian fusion food and cocktails. 

Priding themselves as a diner serving a wide selection of different cuisines from countries across Asia, the restaurant indeed has dishes that are worth boasting about – their DIY slow-roasted Korean style pork tacos served with kimchi, lettuce and ssam sauce are great for sharing. 

Don’t forget to order the dishes that will have you coming back for more – the caramelised pork bites, salt and pepper squid on glass noodle salad and their popular KFC (Korean fried chicken). 

If you are looking for a little entertainment, book the Karaoke Room at the back of the diner, which can accommodate 4-16 pax with a choice of set menu packages. What better venue than to throw an intimate gathering with good food, good drinks and an ambience to match!

  • Address: 389 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, 3065 VIC
  • Website: http://ricequeen.com.au
  • Opening Hours: Weekdays 4 pm to late, Weekends 12 pm to late

Cookie

A versatile venue right smack in the middle of Melbourne’s CBD, one of the city’s most popular bars. Combining a beer hall, cocktail bar and modern Thai restaurant into one venue, Cookie adapts to and serves a variety of customers looking for different dining experiences.

The main beer hall serves the Friday night drinks crowd, while the opera-style balconettes offer city views for those on dates. For those after a sumptuous meal, make sure to book a reservation at the restaurant (which will be packed during peak periods). 

You can’t go wrong with dishes on the menu with an extensive menu that will make you spoilt for choice. Be sure to try the crispy fish salad with papaya and pickled crab and the red curry with pork belly. 

  • Address: First Floor, Curtin House, 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne, 3000 VIC
  • Website: http://cookie.net.au
  • Opening Hours: Daily 12 pm to 1 am

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South-East Asian Restaurants To Ease Your Wanderlust

Now here at Hidden City Secrets, we, unfortunately, aren’t able to change the weather. But what we can do is provide you with a list of South-East Asian venues so that you can at least satisfy those Vietnamese and Filipino food cravings.

Colonel Tan’s

229 Chapel St, Prahran

The first venue we will introduce to you was created by Karen Baston, the head chef responsible for The Toff in Town, Magic Mountain and Cookie.

Located within the ‘infamous’ nightspot that is Revolver Upstairs, Colonel Tan’s is not your typical Thai place. Their affordable offerings are traditional Thai dishes with an American diner twist. Their Bangkok Bolognaise is a popular choice – it’s pork mince, tomato, basil and chilli. They also have a gluten-free menu, so there’s something for everybody!

Although its host venue is a warehouse with high ceilings, Colonel Tan’s is a small, dimly-lit and intimate space. It has colourful furniture, a retro feel, and even a Nintendo 64 that will bring back memories of GoldenEye 007 and Ocarina of Time for some customers.

Nowadays, there are a lot of restaurants exploring and expanding the South-East Asian cuisine through fusion and by putting innovative twists on the traditional dishes. Colonel Tan’s unique take on Thai dishes certainly makes it a must-visit for those who don’t want to stay bound to the familiar.

Makan

360 Collins St, Melbourne CBD

This Indonesian restaurant is brought to you by the 2016 My Kitchen Rules winners, Tasia and Gracia Seger. They offer Melbournians the best of Balinese and Indonesian cuisine.

The aesthetics of the venue is not that of a typical Indonesian restaurant. Purple neon lighting surrounds the space. The tables are decorated with colourful place-mats, creating nice accents to the ribbed hardwood, the light-grey concrete and black steel frames. It has a warm ambience and an intimate atmosphere – it is, indeed, a respite from the bustling CBD.

From their lunch offerings, they feature a $49 set menu (for two people) which includes a selection of one small and one large dish with a side and jasmine rice to share. From the small dishes menu, they have the chicken satay with soy lime marinade and peanut sauce and the fried chicken ribs with chilli and sweet soy glaze.

For larger meals, they include dishes like the beef brisket rendang with killer potatoes and the slow-cooked lamb shank with braised cabbage, roasted vine tomatoes and coconut broth. Their a la carte menu features the popular Mie Goreng with chicken, cabbage, Asian greens, crackers and fried egg.

asian cafes and restaurants

Hanoi Rose

161 Sydney Rd, Brunswick

Located at the heart of the dining precinct on Sydney Rd is Hanoi Rose. This Vietnamese restaurant has a modern look with exposed brick walls, hanging lights and Vietnamese murals. It’s a cosy space with a nice ambience, making it perfect for family outings or dates.

The flavours of their dishes lean toward the North Vietnamese cooking style, which is less sweet than its southern counterparts. Their menu features their signature bun cha. It is a charcoal-grilled pork and meatballs dish, served in light fish sauce with rice vermicelli. 

The menu provides options for different dietary requirements (vegetarian/vegan, halal, gluten-free and dairy-free). They are also MSG-free. They only use fresh and high-quality ingredients to produce a full flavour.

Mamak

366 Lonsdale St, Melbourne CBD

Not all great restaurants are made by My Kitchen Rules winners and chefs with multiple locations worldwide. In this case, three friends named Alan, Clement and Julian started missing their youthful days in Malaysia – when they were eating freshly made Roti Canai, sipping on Teh Tarik and snacking on Satay Skewers. 

They began wanting to open a restaurant of their own, one that stayed true to the foods that they enjoyed when they were younger.

And so the three friends opened their first restaurant in Sydney back in 2007 – and luckily for us, they also took their talents to Melbourne in 2012.

An award-winning restaurant, Mamak (named after Malay street food stalls), is known for its authentic Malaysian flavours. They offer chicken and beef satay grilled over flaming charcoal for that authentic Malaysian taste. 

It is served with a sweet and spicy peanut sauce. They also feature a great selection of roti served with two curry dips and spicy sambal sauce.

The venue is decorated with images of the cooking process. At its busiest, it is a lively space – much like Mamak stalls and other open-air food establishments that you find in South-East Asia.

Rice Paper Sister

15 Hardware Ln, Melbourne CBD

The next venue isn’t what you would expect from a Filipino restaurant. Often, the charm of a Filipino venue comes from its resemblance to a carinderia (local food stalls in the Philippines), with bright-red chequered table covers and sideboards. Rice Paper Sister deviates from this and welcomes you with warm muted colours – giving it a more modern aesthetic.

Their menu also moves away from the norm. Chef Ross Magnaye combines his favourite Filipino flavours from childhood with elements of other South-East Asian cuisines. Thai and Japanese flavours also make their way into his dishes. 

Stand-out items from their menu include the local mushroom ‘sisig’ with fresh herbs and a slow-cooked egg, as well as the ‘Pinoy’ pork belly with scallops and everyone’s favourite adobo sauce. For dessert, there is the Insta-worth ‘Filo-issue, a Filipino twist on the classic tiramisu.

FAQs About Melbourne Restaurants & Cafes

Given Australia's long multicultural history, the country boasts some of the most unique and inventive modern takes on Asian cuisines anywhere in the world (outside of Asia itself, that is). However you see it, it's hard to deny Melbourne has some of the best Asian-fusion restaurants in the country.

The Australian public started eating at Chinese restaurants from the 1930s or brought saucepans from home for takeaway meals. Chicken chow mein, chop suey and sweet and sour pork were the mainstays.

There's a love affair with Japanese food going on in Australia that is driven by the cuisine's seasonality, simplicity and abundance of flavours. Australians are also thinking more about sustainability and the ethical sourcing of ingredients, further driving interest in the cuisine.

Australia's Most Popular Chinese Dishes

  • Sweet Pork Bun. Char siu bao, as it's known in the Eastern part of the world, is a true Chinese classic.
  • Peking Duck. 
  • Dumplings. 
  • Sweet and Sour Pork. 
  • Hot Pot.
  • Pipis with Pork and Shaoxing Wine.

A survey of the country's eating habits has found Thai food is the most popular cuisine in Australia, out-ranking Chinese, Italian and Japanese.

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