If you haven’t known already, I love Melbourne. I have no shame of repeating it over and over. It was crowned as the mostlivable city for 7 consecutive years for many reasons. And one of them has to be the food.
Ask around and many will tell you that Melbourne is the unofficial foodie capital. Being a melting pot of cultures from all over the globe, Melbourne is jam-packed with ethnic restaurants that offer cuisines from every corner of the world. From that award-winning Spanish paella to the freshly-made Ethiopian injera bread, Melbourne has it all.
My Top 13 Ethnic Restaurants
There are many restaurants in Melbourne and I certainly have not tried them all. However, I have come out with this list of my top 13 ethnic restaurants by how likely I will go back to dine in that restaurant again.
Of course, this list is nowhere near the Michelin guide; it’s better than the Michelin guide. Let’s start!
Ali Qapu Persian Restaurant
I fell in love with the Persian cuisine after my visit to Iran with my mum in 2016. It was one of the best destinations I have been to in my life. Prior to visiting Iran. I have no idea what is Persian cuisine and I presumptuously think that everyone there just eat bread with curry (and daal). That was a huge mistake.
I bet many of you do not know what’s Persian cuisine as well (balls to you if you know it)! Let Ali Qapu Persian Restaurant tell you what the real Iranian cuisine is. This restaurant was introduced to me by my Iranian friend and she said that it was pretty authentic. I mean coming from an Iranian, how wrong can it be?
Order a serve of Ghormeh Sabzi (meat stew with herb and beans) and Fesenjan (meat stew with pomegranate sauce) to share with your friends. Have some Shiish kebab (kebab marinated in onion water) and polow (Iranian rice) to go with it. I guarantee that you will have an eye-opening experience of how good Iranian food taste.
Little Africa Restaurant
Little Africa specialises in Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine. Located at North Melbourne, it’s not exactly the closest place for me to go to. However, their freshly-made injera bread never fails to attract me (and my wallet) to go again every now and then.
Basically, injera is sourdough-risen flatbread with a unique, slightly spongy texture. It has a mild sour taste to it. In an Ethiopian restaurant, the star is usually the injera bread and how well it’s made.
The spices used in the dishes are not too different from the spices from the Middle Eastern or the South Asian region. However, the way of preparing / pickling these dishes are different. If you haven’t been to an African restaurant, this will be an experience for you.
The way Ethiopians plate their food is really interesting. They have a huge serveware which is made of bamboo or rattan (I am not too sure about it, correct me if I am wrong). They will place a piece of injera bread on it and top the injera with different condiments and meat dishes. And then, you eat using your hands. You can ask for cutlery if you prefer so.
Order the meat combination or the vegetarian combination and you’ll get 6 dishes and a piece of injera bread. I had the meat combo and I got fish, chicken, lamb, beef and two veggie dishes. Everything was perfect, except the beef is always on the woodier side.
Reservation is essential as this is a small restaurant (and they always have a full house). Cash-term only so bring enough cash and an empty tummy!
Okay, you can say that I am a little biased because I’m Malaysian. But hey! I get homesick once in a while okay?
Skip nasi lemak and rendang, laksa is the new trend now. Laksa is a typical Malaysian dish that can be found in many parts of Malaysia. Different cities in Malaysia have their own renditions of laksa (the Penang laksa looks like this). Laksa king offers the one that is originated from where I lived (the beautiful part of Malaysia – East Malaysia). People also call it curry laksa because of the coconut milk and the subtle curry flavour.
Although laksa is a pretty strong dish, people normally have it for breakfast or lunch in Malaysia. The most important component of laksa is definitely the broth. While the process of making the broth is pretty sophisticated, the hardest part is to actually gather those essential ingredients in a foreign land like Australia. So I am very glad that Laksa King mastered that.
Order yourself a hearty bowl of laksa and you might just realise that you found your new love.
Don’t have the bucks to dine in at Jinda Thai? That’s okay! Along the same street, Jaidee Thai has more to offer at a much cheaper price!
When I dine in at Jaidee Thai, it brings back a lot of memories while I was travelling in Thailand. The food is not as sophisticated as those you can find in other upscale Thai restaurants. Dishes are rather humble and authentic, just like how they are like in Thailand.
Please do not only order the Pad Thai (although it’s really good). There are other dishes that you can try out there like massaman curry, red duck curry, crying tiger (beef marinated with garlic and pepper sauce) and also the somtum!
Pho Hung Vuong
Although I am not from Vietnam, pho has become my comfort food since my first year living in Melbourne. It’s delicious, healthy, quick and most importantly, cheap! I have tried many pho places and Pho Hung Vuong is by far the best.
Located in Springvale (the Vietnamese/ Cambodian neighbourhood), Pho Hung Vuong is a bustling, small restaurant that is always jam-packed with pho lovers. Don’t be discouraged by the long line as it moves really quickly.
Rated 4.5/5.0 on Zomato, I have nothing to add. This place might just be as good as those I had while in Vietnam (except that they don’t have the crunchy dough).
Nicosia Turkish Restaurant
When I dine out, I always look for a few things: Cheap, big portion, hearty and delicious. I reckon Nicosia Turkish Restaurant has ticked all those boxes.
Located in the heart of Malvern, Nicosia serves authentic Turkish food. The servings are gigantic so you can share two dishes between three.
Order the Turkish Pizza and the lunch plates (Lamb or Chicken Doner off the spit). If you want something different, go for the stuffed capsicum dolma. They also serve other western delights such as scotch fillet, calamari rings and chicken schnitzel.
Wash down your scrumptious meal with a cup of authentic Turkish tea (or coffee)!
My trip to Japan was a life-changing one (I transformed from not liking ramen to a constant-ramen-craving lunatic). Just a few weeks after coming back from Japan, I had to satisfy my craving and Hakata Gensuke was the restaurant that answered my prayers.
To be honest, I would say the ramen here can be as good as those I had in Japan. Fortunately for you guys who are not based in Melbourne nor Japan, they have many outlets in Australia as well as other parts of the world.
The line is always a little long but after 10-20 minutes wait, you will be served with one of the best ramens you can find in Melbourne. When visiting Hakata Gensuke, I like to have my noodles a little firmer so that it won’t get too soggy towards the end of my meal. The rich broth of the tonkotsu ramen paired with succulent pieces of chashu (stewed pork), how else can true love look like?
Changgo is a Korean restaurant that features Korean-styled BBQ and its exclusive Palsaik, which is otherwise known as 8-flavoured pork.
It’s really crowded at times and you cannot make a reservation in advance. The only thing you can do is just to get a number there and expect to wait up to 45 minutes if it’s a busy night. Bear in mind that your clothes will smell like Korean BBQ (which is not exactly a bad thing to me) after leaving Changgo.
But let me tell you what, all of these are gonna be worth it after you bite into that juicy piece of grilled pork wrapped in crispy lettuce. And that kimchi. And that peach shoju shot.
Yes, everything is gonna be worth it.
As table reservation is not possible, Changgo is best enjoyed if you come in a group of 4-6 as it’s pretty hard for them to accommodate a larger group of people. Be there early and happy BBQ-ing!
Naked for Satan
Naked for Satan is a Basque/Spanish tapas restaurant located in the heart of Fitzroy. The owner owns the whole building so there’s the ground floor and the sky bar, called Naked in the Sky. As much as you want it to be, all the waiters and waitresses are dressed appropriately, unfortunately.
The absolute must-have dishes here are the pumpkin ravioli and the grilled octopus! Don’t leave without trying those! Go for the weekday lunch special and you can enjoy all the mains there for just 9 AUD! We ended up ordering 5 mains for both of us and we were really full. Unless you eat a lot, don’t order more than 2 mains for yourself.
Lunch special happens from 12pm – 2pm every weekday and dinner on Sunday. You have to make a table reservation before going. If you can, dine upstairs at the sky bar where you can earn yourself a fantastic cityscape of Melbourne CBD.
Don’t worry if you didn’t make a reservation. You still can have the pintxos for 2 AUD each (or 0.50 AUD if you dine in during lunch special)! I know, you’re welcome.
This is another restaurant that I can keep raving about. Peko Peko is a Taiwanese restaurant that is located at South Melbourne.
In my humble opinion, Peko Peko offers the best Taiwanese food that I have tried so far in Melbourne. And the thing is, it’s not even that expensive! We spent around 16 AUD per person and we had 5 dishes to share among 6 of us..
If you have been to Taiwan, you will notice that the dishes here at Peko Peko are as good as the those you would have in Taiwan. Order the spicy calamari with TW sausage and big boss fried ribs when you are there. Apparently, the Pop chicken is the hit here but I personally prefer the Ma Ma custard fried chicken.
I was introduced to this restaurant when one of my friends celebrated his birthday here. He absolutely loved this restaurant and I see the reason why. Kedai Satay is located in the CBD and it offers pretty authentic Indonesian cuisine.
But the main hit here? The grilled ribs that melts in your mouth! These bad boys were marinated in ginger, garlic, lemongrass, five spice, palm sugar, soy sauce and dry sherry for a few hours before they are grilled in their own fat. The ribs are then served with thick peanut sauce.
As Kedai Satay is sort of like a fast food restaurant (you order at the cashier and pay right away), service here is really quick. You can see them cooking those succulent ribs and satays (skewered meat) right in front of you.
It might not aesthetically pleasing but don’t be fooled, the meat is freaking tender and juicy!
Indian cuisine is one of my favourite. I once told a friend that if I can only survive on one cuisine, it would be Indian. My answer to that has changed now but Indian cuisine has got a special place in my heart.
Located strategically in the heart of Melbourne CBD, Chilli India serves up traditional Indian food with a twist of modern cooking.
Enjoy the chef recommended Palak Paneer, Rogan Josh and Briyani before washing them down with an authentic mango lassi. If you want something lighter, go for the Roti Canai, which is crispy and flaky on the outside and incredibly soft in the inside. Dip it in the Butter Chicken sauce and you’ll realise that everything in the world suddenly becomes perfect for a moment.
Shanghai Street Dumplings
I know you have been waiting for me to tell which one is the best dumpling place. It has to be Shanghai Street Dumplings.
This place does not need more advertising. You can tell how good it is by just looking at the length of the queue. It moves pretty quickly so you’ll be in the restaurant in no time.
Please get the Xiao Long Bao (mini juicy bun). Your taste buds might just have the best day of their lives. They are really juicy so be careful not to let it burst (which happens to me and the unfortunate diner sitting next to me).
Apart from that, you can also get the noodles with spicy pork sauce (dry). It is so flavourful and we had to order another serve of that.
So what are you waiting for? Make that reservation and head straight to any of these ethnic restaurants! You can thank me later.
Planning a trip to Australia?
Make sure you check these articles out!
Have a self-guided walking tour around Sydney! It’s free!!
Visit South Melbourne Market! It’s another foodie paradise!
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Born and raised in Malaysia, Aaron is a medical school student that is deeply in love with travelling. He loves to inebriate all his readers with the crazy travel stories and personal travel tips that he has gathered throughout years of travelling experience. Learn more about him here!