Sydney harbours a plethora of amazing experiences.
Some are well-known, others are truly hidden away and known only by the initiated, and there are those in plain sight yet missed by most.
Sea Bay is a little treasure, hidden away on Pitt Street, on the edge of Sydney’s China Town. This simple-looking, down to earth eatery will surprise you, and have you coming back for years. We have been regular visitors for almost 18 years, and it is one of our favourite ‘cheap and cheerful’ spots in Sydney. There is no website, just fantastic, rustic food.
Although the word has got around about this little gem and it has become a busy spot, there are still many who are surprised to walk through the clunky sliding door to discover a little foodies’ paradise offering unique north-western Xinjiang cuisine, with some distinctive differences from your average suburban Chinese restaurant.
First things first. This is a cash only restaurant, so make sure you have cash in your wallet. You won’t need much of it though, as two people could eat here till they burst for under $100. If you share about four dishes, you are still likely to pay only around $70 at the most. Cheap and cheerful, as I promised!
Next, make sure to book. It’s a smallish place, and it had become very popular over the past few years. While you might get lucky with a table for two, if you turn up with a larger group, you will definitely end up waiting without a booking.
With all that out of the way, let’s talk food – it is authentic, homemade and delicious. Over the years we have tried just about every dish on the menu and never have been disappointed. Here are some of our favourites …
The chicken soup with wontons is a steamy delight. The broth is full of flavour, and it is loaded with tender chicken pieces, and silky wontons that pop with flavour.
The fried pork dumplings are delicious, meaty, and beautifully complimented by the spicy chilli served to every table. Be careful, as they come piping hot and are full of juicy minced meat combined with herbs and spices. Make sure you try some of the Chinese black vinegar with this dish, which will also be on your table.
The deep-fried pork with pepper is another sensation. Tender pieces of pork fried in crunchy batter, served with fresh ground pepper and chilli slices – another dish that will make your taste buds dance.
The fried eggplant with special sauce is the best eggplant dish I have ever tasted, with the flavours of caramelised sugar and garlic, and crunchy pieces of Chinese greens, capsicum and tomato complementing the buttery eggplant. A word of warning: be patient with this dish, because it usually arrives with the eggplant hot as molten lava, so give it some time to cool.
The spicy chicken salad is a deceptively simple looking dish. I say that because I tried to recreate it at home, without much success. It’s delicious tender chicken, crunchy cucumber pieces and spring onions, with chilli oil, pepper and salt. While it’s a cold dish, its spiciness makes it perfect for the colder months too.
And then there are the roast lamb buns, which is one of the dishes where the unique taste of Xinjiang shines through perhaps the most. You can practically taste bordering India and Pakistan in this dish, a simply striking combination of lamb, onion, and spices in a doughy, rich pastry pocket.
And those dishes are just a start to the many taste sensations you will discover at the Sea Bay.
Sea Bay Restaurant
372 Pitt Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Monday to Saturday 11.30am till 10pm
Phone: +61 (0)2 9267 4855