Hong Kong style Ni Hao Bar launches fun new menu, crunchy tacos, Sichauan burrata, pot stickers with laksa and more!

The heritage Civic Hotel has been part of the Sydney drinking scene for decades. It’s not the prettiest destination for a drink, however, like a scene from Upstairs Downstairs, the upper floor restaurant has been transformed, butterfly-like, into an Asian stunner. It’s no surprise that Ni Hao restaurant has established a firm following of fans and we now know why.

The vibe is like going back in time to the 70’s and to another continent- to Hong Kong. The space is buzzing, moody, sexy with black and gold chairs, dark floors with red hues and low lighting. The music is pumping as couples and groups of friends share large jugs of happy hour cocktails from colourful teapots. The outside bar has sections of an old movie theatre with lights and overhead daisy chains of fake hanging peking ducks!

We take our seats and two Tsingtao beers. It’s Wednesday night offering $1 oysters/scallops till they sell out and there isn’t a spare table in sight. We download the Cantonese inspired menu onto our phones. We are here to try the new menu and its one with some wild and wacky new dishes.

Pork Tacos

The first newbie dish is edamame. Yum! These are better than most thanks to a sweet soy dressing, but its balanced with savoury nori and would you believe it – tiny crumbs of crispy potato chips. It shouldn’t work, but it does. Next is the taco equivalent of a Big Mac. Two tacos are filled with spicy pork pieces which is dripping with oodles of oh so naughty American cheese sauce, freshened up with lettuce, tomato and a dip of house made salsa. So much fun in one handful. We try to imagine the next dish but can’t… Laksa Potstickers anyone?

Each dumpling is a work of art. I have to admire it’s structure with symmetrical angled folds. Their should be an Archibold prize for something like this. Six dumplings are fanned out in a windmill shape, placed over a soupy base of in-house laksa. It’s hard to know where to start. Both are calling me, the pretty potsticker and that sauce with shimmering dots of chilli oil glistening under the soft lighting. It’s fabulous. Each dumpling is a flavour bomb of spices, heat, juicy, crunchy and that laksa sauce is so good I want to pick up the bowl and lick it.

Drunken noodles

The only other place we have seen a burrata dish which is more superior than the Italian classic is Soul Dining. Here, an orb of burrata sits on a layered seat of cucumber doused with a dressing of numbing sichuan sauce, sesame and a rich XO paste. Smart, clever and balanced. We head to the noodle section. A tumble of what looks like Maggi noodles arrives on a silver platter topped with a fried egg. A twist of the fork picks up the perfect mouthful, the drunken noodles are dark from a rich chili garlic paste which delivers a heat kick and the thai basil adds an aniseed aromatic whilst the addition of a Korean style chicken amps up the power.

It’s confirmed these new dishes are soooo awesome. We share an ‘mmm’ with a touch of a eye roll of happiness. So. Good.

However, let’s not forget our old friends on the menu. The crispy eggplant is twice cooked with a savoury miso dressing and a sweet soy glaze. It’s a delicious balance whilst the prawn toast is a nostalgic pimped up masterpiece. It’s topped with chilli flakes, garlic, black bean, hot and spicy potato chips.

In True ‘Ni Hao Bar’ fashion, the founder, Howin Chui has upped their game. We leave after trying Jackie Chan, which is one of the best margaritas I have had for a while thanks to the classic combo of tequila and Triple Sec heading East due to additions of kaffir lime, lemongrass, galangal, passionfruit, chili agave. Ni Hao means, ‘How are you?’ – to which we reply ‘Wo hen hao!Xie xie. Ni ne?’ – meaning we are very (INCREDIBLY) good (now), thanks!

Ni Hao Bar, Level 1 , 388 Pitt Street Sydney Top Floor of the Civic Hotel
Hours – Open until 1am on Friday and Saturday and 11pm on Wednesday and Thursday

About the author

Karen’s corporate job back in the UK had included entertaining clients in some of the best restaurants. This ultimately sparked a curiosity 'Just how do they do that?' (she confesses she was brought up on meat and vegetables, so this was all very exciting). Currently a Mr & Mrs Smith 'Tastemaker', she’s flashpacked around the world, learning about wine, experiencing different cultures and cuisines and had a two- year love affair with it all. Originally from England, she finally settled in Australia and continues to be besotted by food, wine and travel preferring to focus on the luxury end of town (thread count does matter).


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