Sydney’s Chinatown claims to be the oldest continuously operating Chinatown outside of China. True, San Francisco’s Chinatown was established earlier, but due to a fire that destroyed it, Sydney feels it has the claim. It has the expected array of Chinese restaurants (including the very popular, very good Century seafood restaurant), traditional shops and tourist venues, and of course, its arches and lantern-covered street.
It is also home to the Powerhouse Museum (an interactive, participative science and technology museum).
Overall, however, we were most impressed by the large, tranquil and beautifully designed and maintained Chinese garden. The garden is laid out in several sections that are all combined into in a single, harmonious whole via a path that winds through all the primary sections and views.
The garden contains several courtyards, pavilions decorated with carved wooden panels, ponds filled with lily pads and lotus flowers, waterfalls, bamboo groves, exotic, naturally-carved limestone rocks and rock arches, all connected with a network of paths, stairs and bridges. Some of the paths are intricately constructed designs created out of thousands of small, hand-laid stones.
Its colorful ceramic dragon wall, a centerpiece of the garden (a gift from Guangdong) portrays two imperial dragons playing with a pearl of friendship. The entrance/exit, meanwhile, is graced with about a dozen old, well-trained, meticulously trimmed bonsai trees.
A large, lovely garden that must be lingered in to be full appreciated. And what better place to do so than in the tea pavilion, with its lovely view over one of the ponds.
- Golden Century. This is a very good, very popular, and from our experience, incredibly professionally run Chinatown Chinese restaurant that specializes in seafood. This specialization is evidenced by the dozen or so large fish tanks that are stuffed with many species of fish and some of the largest lobsters, king crabs and abalone we have ever seen. We were somewhat disappointed by the crabmeat and sweet corn soup which had too much corn starch and too little taste. Our initial disappointment was more than compensated by our two main courses. The salt and pepper fried squid was very good and the braised abalone with Chinese mushrooms, with its super-tender abalone and tasty sauce was downright delicious. And amazingly, after eating these dishes, even the soup tasted better. We had dinner with one of the wines we brought back from McLaren Vale—a 2016 Corriole Chenin Blanc. We returned for a take-out meal of an expensive, but quite good Peking duck.
- Mamak, a Malaysian restaurant in Chinatown where we met some Sydney-based travel acquaintances for dinner. After a short wait in what appears to be a perpetual evening line (even on Monday, when we were there), we shared six dishes: There were two rotis (one plain egg and the other with egg, onions, cabbage and spiced lamb and chicken)—both served with curry and spicy sambal dips. Then a combo of chicken and beef satays with spicy peanut sauce and two main courses: chicken curry with potatoes and spices and stir-fried prawns with a toned down (less spicy than normal for Joyce) sambal sauce. We ended with a dessert roti—richer and sweeter than the others, with an apple filling, Although almost all dishes were good, the rotis and prawns were our favorites. The only real disappointment was the beef satay, which was tough and had little taste—even this, however, was somewhat compensated for by the tasty peanut sauce. This very filling, inexpensive meal ($55 per couple), along with a bottle of one of our favorite Eden Valley Rieslings, was a nice way of catching up with a very nice couple we once met in Bloise, France.
- BBQ King, where we got a dinner’s worth of take-out food consisting of BBQ spare ribs and Peking Duck, supplemented with vegetables and wine that we had at home. The take-out/eat-in restaurant does big business quickly, with an incredibly efficient system for fulfilling orders. We were less impressed by the food. The duck meat was good, but the skin was fatty and we ended up giving up trying crisp it at home. The pork dishes were better, although the ribs had little meat on them.