Nine Dragons

Jackie McMillan
16th Jul 2023

The Dixon Street pedestrian mall hasn’t really recovered from the global pandemic. Visiting for a Sunday lunch with friends, it’s largely devoid of outdoor tables: even the touters are gone. This is despite City of Sydney finding, late last year, that 83 per cent of people interested in the future of Haymarket want more outdoor dining. The only venue that still boasts a queue is Emperor’s Garden Cakes and Bakery for their cream puffs. It all feels a bit sad as we climb the stairs into an empty Nine Dragons, an area stalwart that opened when I was three. 

Bar for a roving robot waiter, the dining room retains a traditional look with golden dragons, patterned circular shades, private rooms and plenty of large circular tables draped in white tablecloths with lazy Susans and high-backed chairs. The room slowly fills around us, with most eating yum cha ordered from a laminated card marked up with an erasable pen. Prawn toast ($12.80/4) eats like a childhood memory, though you might prefer dragging it through hot rather than sweet red chilli sauce. Rice noodles perform well across char siu ($11.10) and king prawn ($12.80), punctuated by XO green beans ($15.30). Char siu also scrubs up nicely in pillowy soft BBQ pork buns ($9.80/3). 

We load our lazy Susan with layers of bamboo steamer baskets, including beef ($10.10), pork ($12.80) and scallop-topped prawn and pork siu mai ($12.80). The standouts are crescent-shaped king prawn and chive dumplings ($11.30). Fried almond prawn balls ($12.80/3) are an interesting innovation, as are silky beancurd rolls filled with tenderly cooked vegetables dripping in a starch-thickened sauce ($9.80). While I finish on radish cakes ($10.10) slathered in hot chilli, the rest of the table enjoys bright orange mango pancakes ($11.80/3). Jasmine tea ($3.50/head) felt weak and uninspiring, so opt for TsingTao ($9.30) on this trip down memory lane. While Nine Dragons is not the best yum cha I’ve visited in Sydney, it does the job in the heart of town for a (slightly inflated) sixty bucks each.