The dining scene in Sydney has become so vibrant in recent years and with so many new restaurant openings, food lovers are truly spoilt for choice.
Multiculturalism in Australia has given us food choices from an entire spectrum of world cuisines – from ocean fresh Japanese sushi and seafood, Korean bibimbap, Italian pizza and pastas, delightful French croissants and pastries to fiery Indian curries, moorish Mediterranean fare and fine Cantonese dining just to name a few.
When it comes to price, Sydney dining can range from delightful cheap eats to gastronomic feasts at world-class fine diners. One can go cheap on takeaway sushi while watching the ferries on Sydney harbour or move up to middle tier in cafes and restaurants offering good, honest food for between $20 – $40.
On the top end of town, Sydney has some of the finest restaurants in the world that come with spectacular views of Sydney harbour and of course, the price tag as well. To further complicate this food equation, the concept of mobile food truck which became so popular in California has now hit the streets of Sydney, offering anything from burgers, dim sims and kebabs to chargrilled satays and gourmet pies.
This blogpost is dedicated to finding some of the best value meals in town and we have started a list of cheap eats. If you have a favourite of your own, please add a comment below and share your experience with us.
So where do we find all these delicious eats that are not going to bust the hip pocket?
Follow me on this journey where I will show you a few wonderful eats right in the heart of Sydney’s CBD to hidden gems tucked away in obscure corners of town.
For a shortcut of this tour, click on the piece of delicious salmon below and it will take you to our on-going list of cheap eats under $20.
Click on these food images and they will take you to the restaurant review.
Laksa has now become as mainstream as a plain old sandwich or a slice of pizza if you happen to be in Sydney CBD.
There are so many Malaysian, Thai and Indonesian cafes and restaurants serving up their own version of this delectable bowl of noodles in a spicy, coconut curry soup.
Laksa is not only tasty, it is bound to restore some body heat and clear the sinuses on a cold day. The chicken laksa at Malay-Chinese Takeaway is definitely one of my all-time favourites around Sydney CBD. Check the menu here.
Why are these cheap eats so popular? Do they compete just on price to attract diners looking for a cheap feed?
I believe the equation for success is a little bit more complex than just price.
Multinational fast food chains such as McDonalds, KFC, Hungry Jacks and Red Rooster are traditional cheap eats. However, many of these fast foods have a stigma of serving calorie-fuelled meals that are less healthy.
Since Mamak found a great niche in serving traditional Indian-Muslim fare from Malaysia, the queues for getting into this Malaysian eatery are legendary.
The menu at Mamak is short and precise. Street foods of Malaysia such as chargrilled satays, mee goreng and a range of roti breads with delectable curries and sambals are executed well and hit the spot with both Malaysians and food lovers alike.
These kind of cheap eats are packed with taste and flavour sensations that are difficult to resist when hunger pangs strikes.
What’s more, they offer a point of difference from generic fast foods like fried chicken and hamburgers.
Sydney – North Shore
Wander over to the North shore’s wealthy and affluent suburb of Mosman and you will find weekday and weekend lunch deals at Hotel Mosman located towards the corner of Military and Spit roads.
A hearty piece of 300gm Porterhouse steak with a choice of bernaise, creamy mushroom, pepper or red wine jus will set you back $7.90. Yes, you read correctly, $7.90 for that piece of steak. Check the menu here.
Is this 300gm chunk of red meat really cheaper than the bowl of laksa above? Most definitely.
Because bars and pubs in Sydney have been doing it tough of late due to intense competition from so many restaurants. These pubs have little choice but to clean up their act in the kitchen and come up with more enticing menus to complement their cocktails and drinks at the bar.
Many pubs in popular suburbs around Sydney have joined forces with chefs and restaurants to provide patrons with more than just a destination to have a drink.
The food in many of these “pub restaurants” are now fighting to win back customers from regular restaurants with a casual menu offering favourites like hearty steaks and burgers, seafood and gourmet pizzas – food that would go down well when you having a few drinks. Prices are often very competitive since alcohol licenses supplement the coffers with higher margin alcoholic beverages.
Moving towards the western part of Sydney will uncover a multitude of cuisines where multicultural enclaves are teeming with exotic food culture and restaurants.
There is no shortage of choice for different cuisines which include Lebanese, African, Italian, German, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian and Loatian to just name a few.
Eastwood has a predominantly Korean community where there are at least twenty Korean restaurants to choose from.
However, Korean is not the only cuisine on offer. Wander around Rowe street in the heart of Eastwood and you will find cheap eats for Japanese ramen, northern Chinese fare like Peking duck and Shanghainese noodles as well as a hearty bowl of Vietnamese pho.
At Ginger & Shallots Chinese Cuisine, not only can you get a salt & pepper flounder for $18, this restaurant also has a full range of northern Chinese and Cantonese dishes ranging from congee, classic stir-fries to Peking duck.
In the predominantly Vietnamese suburb of Flemington, you will find one of Sydney’s largest wholesale fresh food market in the Sydney Markets.
Cheap eats here include classic Hong Kong style food such as stir-fried noodles with beef, Chinese, Vietnamese and Indian food.
There is also no shortage of Asian grocery stores that stock every essential ingredient from fresh herbs such as Thai basil, Vietnamese mint to Malaysian belachan and Indonesian curry pastes.
These dishes are just the tip of a gigantic cheap eats iceberg in Sydney because options are only as extensive as your appetite and sense of adventure.
For more cheap eats, click on the piece of delicious salmon below and it will take you to our on-going list of cheap eats under $20. (Please note prices for these dishes may have changed from the date of our reviews.)
To top off this blogpost on cheap and delicious eats in Sydney, I am featuring one of my favourite cheap eat restaurants that serves good, honest food at prices that are hard to beat.
Restaurant: Jonga Jip BBQ, Eastwood
(Dinner bill: $44 for 4 people = $11/person)
Korean BBQ restaurants are plentiful in and around Sydney. They are clustered around Korean enclaves such as Campsie and Eastwood in Sydney’s inner west. Many of these restaurants are also located around Sydney CBD to attract city diners during lunch and after work hours.
But the dining scene in Sydney is continuously evolving and the traditional hubs that are close to the CBD such as Chinatown are no longer the mainstay of food although it is still a notable destination by virtue of its location.
Many suburban restaurants are doing roaring trade because rental and overheads are far cheaper than their city counterparts. If they can provide diners with good food and value for money, it is certainly a good ingredient for success.
There are so many Korean BBQ restaurants to choose from in Eastwood. How do you know which one is good?
Just check out this photo below.
Unlike its city counterparts such as Mamak, Jonga Jip BBQ is located in Eastwood in Sydney’s north west. It is a Sunday night and we are in a queue to get into this restaurant. Once inside, you will not be at fault thinking that you might be in the heart of Seoul.
Jonga Jip BBQ is competing against at least twenty Korean restaurants in Eastwood most of which we have also frequented.
Since my first review of this restaurant, it is still one of my favourite recommendations to Korean BBQ fans and food lovers.
1. Food - As far as Korean BBQ is concerned, this is the real deal because the range and variety of complimentary and unlimited banchan or small entree dishes total more than ten dishes. The vegetables are fresh and crunchy and if you fancy a particular banchan, eat as much as you like and it will be gladly topped up upon request.
Unlike some Korean BBQ which are cooked on a skillet, this restaurant uses charcoal which gives the BBQ meats a wonderful smoky and charred aroma.
My recommendation for the BBQ meats is marinated chicken thigh fillets, marbled short ribs and beef short ribs. If you like offal, the beef tongue is also quite tasty. Grill the meat until it is slightly charred, then smear some bean paste, raw garlic and green chilli on a lettuce wrap for a tasty mouthful.
2. Service - There is an electronic service bell on each table which you can ring whenever you require service. Prompt and efficient wait staff will refill water, top up banchan and most importantly, change the grill plate of your BBQ for a fresh one whenever it becomes too oily or dirty.
3. Value - On our last visit here this week with a total of four diners, we ordered the marinated chicken thigh fillets and beef short ribs and some steamed white rice. Our bill came to a grand total of $44 for four people.
A hearty meal with delicious BBQ meats, copious amount of fresh vegetables in a full service restaurant for $11 per person, why would you go anywhere else?
Well, because you do need to have a shower after this dinner to get rid of all the BBQ fumes and aromas.
L to R: Firm tofu strips kimchi, Korean potato jelly, cucumber, onion and carrot kimchi
L to R: Classic cabbage kimchi, beansprouts, and Korean potato mash
L to R: Potato kimchi, lettuce salad with black sesame dressing, seaweed salad
L to R: Stainless steel utensil & service button, charcoal grill, changing hot plate
Marinated chicken thigh fillets grilling on the hot BBQ
So dear readers, what food is your favourite cheap eat in Sydney and do you have a favourite cheap eat restaurant to share with us?
Jonga Jip BBQ
87 Rowe street
Sydney, New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9858 5160