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7 Best Asian Fusion Restaurants in Melbourne, Australia for 2024

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3 weeks ago

With every visit back home to Melbourne, I always insist that my first meal back is at one of Melbourne’s iconic Asian fusion restaurants. This may not seem strange: Australia is famous for its high-quality produce and world-class dining scene. But, for many years, I was returning to Melbourne from my home in East Asia. And, yes, I would fly directly from Hong Kong or Beijing to Melbourne and my first bite would always be one of the best Asian fusion restaurants in Melbourne. Let me explain why.

In my opinion, there’s something completely unique about Asian fusion dining in Melbourne. I often like to think of contemporary Australian cuisine as being twofold: our excellent brunch (you can thank us for the global trend in smashed avo) and, most importantly, our Asian fusion cuisine.

tram in front of flinders street station melbourne australia

In this article I’ll be sharing what exactly you can expect from the best Asian fusion restaurants in Melbourne. And, even better, my top 7 Asian fusion restaurants in Melbourne – many of which are, in my opinion, among the best restaurants in the world.

What is Australian-Asian fusion cuisine?

It’s no secret that Australia is a multicultural melting pot. For much of the last century, waves of immigrants (including my own family) arrived on Australia’s shores escaping war or conflict, in search of fortunes, or a better future for their children. To learn more about this history, I strongly recommend visiting Melbourne’s world-class Immigration Museum. Better yet, immerse yourself in Melbourne’s Asian fusion food culture by joining a multicultural Melbourne markets food tour or Melbourne dumpling tour.

From the 1970s onwards, immigration to Australia was increasingly characterised by immigration from our Asia-Pacific neighborhood, including waves of immigration from Vietnam, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and India. As these immigrant groups integrated into the fabric of Australian society, in true Australian fashion, the flavors and cuisines of their home countries entered the canon of Australian dining.

Today, most Melburnians have their local pho shop (I even had one friend refer to pho as a ‘Melbourne dish’). And you’ll often find staples like gyoza or curry on the most pan-European pub menus.

In my opinion, this process of cultural integration and synthesis really crystallized in the late 2000s – contemporaneously with Melbourne’s maturation into a major world city. All of a sudden restaurants were popping up (particularly in Melbourne CBD) not simply drawing on the cuisines of East and Southeast Asia, but rather merging them with the fresh produce and flavors of Australia. And, most importantly, under the increasingly fun rubric of Australian cheekiness.

Asian fusion restuarants are often among Melbourne’s most popular. It goes without saying: always try to reserve in advance.

Across all of these restaurants, you’ll find common themes: sharing plates, comical play-on-word dishes, a strong emphasis on vegan or vegetarian options. You’ll generally find some classic dishes across menus in the best Asian fusion restaurants in Melbourne.

Such dishes I can increasingly only associate with Melbourne: cured kingfish, playful bao buns and roti with peanut sauce. You’ll work it out after a few dining experiences at Melbourne’s Asian fusion restaurants.

Brunch… but make it Asian Fusion

In this article I focus on lunch and dinner restaurants. However, it’s worth mentioning, in recent years, many of Melbourne’s iconic brunch restaurants have started fusing Asian flavors into their menus.

If you are interested in experiencing the ever-common merging of Melbourne’s two great food cultures (brunch and Asian fusion), don’t miss: the breakfast congee at Juniper (one of my favorite South Melbourne restaurants), the okonomiyaki waffles at Convoy (Moonee Ponds) or literally any dish at the remarkable Terror Twilight (Collingwood).

7 Best Asian fusion restaurants in Melbourne

These days, Asian fusion restaurants are a feature of pretty much every Melbourne neighborhood. This list is by no means exhaustive but rather a list of my favorites which I recommend every visitor try. However, I acknowledge the countless high-quality Asian fusion restaurants which are worthy of your time, including: Cookie (CBD), Cha Ching (CBD), Lucy Liu (CBD) and Firebird (Prahran).

7. BAMBU Asian Eating House (South Melbourne)

Set on the edge of South Melbourne market, BAMBU leans towards the more casual side of Melbourne’s Asian fusion scene. With outdoor dining and a suave interior, BAMBU easily ranks as one of the best restaurants in South Melbourne.

Looking at this menu, you would think you’ve reached a standard pan-Asian restaurant anywhere in the world. But in every single dish you will find that Melbourne touch – and that is exactly what makes dining here such a pleasure.

A spicy Thai papaya salad, topped with a generous dose of smashed avocado; Japanese style okonomiyaki, influenced by Melbourne brunch-style fritters. If you’re looking for Asian fusion on a more affordable budget, BAMBU is the place to start.

6. Ho Chi Mama (Richmond and CBD)

Ho Chi Mama encapsulates the best of Asian fusion cuisine. With a star-studded menu, you’ll want to go heavy on the starters here. If you’re new to Melbourne’s Asian fusion dining, don’t miss the lime, chilli and coconut infused Kingfish sashimi. You’ll also want to try the banh mi sliders, a Melbourne take on Vietnam’s favorite sandwich (featuring mushroom truffle pate, sriracha mayo and a brioche bun).

Every Melbourne foodie knows you are at Ho Chi Mama for one reason, and one reason alone: Melbourne’s best bao bun.

Ho Chi Mama’s green tea tofu bao is the stuff of legend with a simple – yet masterfully crafted – combination of fried tofu, fresh cucumber and sriracha mayo all stuffed into a green tea-infused steamed bao bun.

‘Feed me’ options (some kind of set menu) are extremely popular at Asian fusion restuarants in Melbourne. I generally prefer ordering a la carte. However, Ho Chi Mama’s AU$49 per person (US$33) option offers great value for two starters, two mains and a side.

5. Hawker Hall (Windsor)

Nowhere quite captures the ‘fun’ element of Melbourne’s Asian fusion dining scene as well as Hawker Hall. With mock neon street signs, a grainy film being projected onto the wall and Thai-language audio lessons playing in the bathrooms, Hawker Hall is one of my regulars.

While Hawker Hall’s starters are excellent, I’d go light on the dumplings and rather concentrate on their mains. The CKT (because obviously Aussies have abbreviated char kway teow) will quickly transport you to the backstreets of Singapore. In true fusion fashion, don’t miss the roast Barramundi fillet – one of my favorite Australian fish – glazed in a spicy sour tamarind sauce.

While most of my comments are recommendations, this one is not: order multiple servings of the roti canai, served with a powerful smoked pickled eggplant dipping sauce and, of course, the house satay sauce.

forever independent sign on hawker hall restaurant dining hall  - - one of the best asian fusion restaurants in melbourne

If you enjoy a drink with your dinner, Hawker Hall offers the usual selection of Asian and Australian beers. However, Hawker Hall is also home to one of my favorite cocktails in Melbourne: the ‘Monkey See Monkey Do’ – self-described as a coconut, dragonfruit fizz.

On Saturdays and Sundays, Hawker Hall offers a ‘boozy yum cha’ with fusion dim sum and, you guessed it, free-flowing drinks.

Hawker Hall’s ‘banquet’ starts at AU$69 (US$46) per person and pretty much guarantees you’ll be rolling out of the restaurant. I generally opt for a la carte, but that’s because one of my favorite desserts in Melbourne – Messina – is just across the road.

4. Supernormal (CBD)

Flinders Lane offers, in my opinion, the highest concentration of the world’s best restaurants in one block.

With a prime CBD location, Supernormal stands apart from the rest of the list. Supernormal somehow manages to indulge the playful side of Asian fusion dining in Melbourne, while also taking things one step up. In short, Supernormal offers one of the fanciest Asian fusion dining experiences in Melbourne. Be warned, there is a little price increase to match this more upscale experience.

The menu here is split between snacks, the raw bar, small plates, dumplings & bao, large plates and sides. I’d come hungry, as you’ll probably want to order at least one or two dishes from each section. You won’t be able to miss Supernormal’s Asian fusion credentials with dishes like stracciatella, yuzu kosho marinated mushrooms and nama togarishi (yes, that’s one dish) and pot sticker dumplings.

Lastly, make sure to save room for dessert. Supernormal’s peanut butter parfait is our second-favorite dessert in Melbourne and epitomizes the drawing together of cultures and delicate flavors.

3. Rice Queen (Fitzroy)

On busy Brunswick Street, Rice Queen stands out as an iconic feature. The overtly aggressive kitsch interior (low hanging lanterns, golden cats) hides one of Melbourne’s most loved Asian fusion menus.

I have a few regular dishes, so let me share a local’s favorites. The Bang Bang dishes offer a tongue-numbing take on the Sichuanese classic, perfectly balanced with fresh cucumber. I’m extremely passionate about the Crispy Szechuan Eggplant. However, this gets a little awkward as it is almost identical to the standout dish at the next restaurant on our list. Order it at both restaurants and get back to me with your verdict?

crispy sichuan eggplant at rice queen  - one of the best asian fusion restaurants in melbourne

For a really fun night out, reserve a space in Rice Queen’s karaoke room.

You can order snacks and drinks in the room, or alternatively eat dinner beforehand and continue on for some singing.

In true Northside fashion, the staff at Rice Queen will gladly advise on what you should order – and I would listen to them. Rice Queen’s menu is among the most dietary friendly in Melbourne. Here you’ll find clear guidance for not only our vegan and gluten-free friends, but even those on fructose-friendly diets.

2. Tokyo Tina (Windsor)

While most Asian fusion restaurants offer a pan-Asian spread, Tokyo Tina generally focuses on Japanese-fusion cuisine. Only a few doors down from Hawker Hall, it’s no secret that many of Melbourne’s best restaurants are located here on the quieter end of Chapel Street.

Tokyo Tina’s menu is a masterpiece in food curation. You’ll want to make sure you come with a big group – there are simply too many high-quality dishes to try. As suggested above, the standout here is the Crispy Sticky Eggplant with a red vinegar sesame sauce. No matter how many times I’ve tried to replicate this dish, I simply cannot compete with Tokyo Tina.

You’ll also want to make sure you start with their small ‘snack’ items. In particular the crispy corn fritters and tuna nori crisp bites are always a crowd favorite. Every time we eat at Tokyo Tina we order seconds of both dishes. But I’ll let you be the judge of that decision.

If you’re coming alone or with one other friend, I’d try to get a seat at the bar. I love Tokyo Tina’s interior décor, effortlessly transforming Japanese kitsch and anime into one of Melbourne’s classiest dining venues. Tokyo Tina also has a strong offering of Japanese whiskeys, including Nikka, Ichiro and Suntory classics.

1. And the best Asian fusion restaurant in Melbourne is…

If you know Melbourne’s dining scene, it will be no surprise to see Chin Chin take the top award. Chin Chin is one of the pioneers of Asian fusion cuisine in Australia and easily one of the star restaurants of Melbourne’s Flinders Lane.

There used to be a local saying that ‘Chin Chin has had a line out the front since opening in 2011’. Everything changed with the pandemic and Chin Chin were reluctantly forced to start accepting reservations – and we’re grateful for that. Chin Chin epitomizes the Melbourne Asian fusion dining experience. Think loud music, tongue-in-cheek branding and a film projector facing the adjacent alleyway.

street art in melbourne alleyway

Chin Chin is often attributed with starting the trend behind many of Melbourne’s iconic dishes. Given that, this really is the best place to try Kingfish sashimi and, of course, other Asian fusion classics like son-in-law eggs, corn fritters with chilli jam, roti baskets and every type of curry you can imagine.

If you can only get a late evening table, Chin Chin’s GoGo bar downstairs offers a vibey atmosphere for a pre-dinner drink.

I should warn: Chin Chin can be very loud, with music and not the greatest acoustics. I find it to be part of the charm and experience. However, if you are looking for a soft-spoken relaxed dinner – Chin Chin may not be the place.

And if you’re in the CBD and looking for something sweet, you’ll be pleased to know our favorite dessert in Melbourne also happens to be an Asian fusion masterpiece.

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