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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Lisa Rockman

New Chinese restaurant Hao Chi raises the bar in Newcastle yum cha

Hao Chi front of house manager Kent Au on the first day of business on Tuesday. Picture by Marina Neil

A new and exciting Cantonese restaurant has opened in Newcastle that promises to take diners on "a gastronomic adventure".

It's called Hao Chi by Lee's Yumcha and it is located at the former home of Chinois Restaurant at 326 King Street.

The owner, Lee, opened his first store in Parramatta 2004 and two years later opened his first takeaway restaurant. Fast forward two decades and he owns Lee's Kitchen takeaways at Charlestown Square, Westfield Kotara, Stockland Greenhills, Mayfield and Marketown in Newcastle.

Lee also owns and operates Dumpling Story and Lee's Yumcha at Charlestown Square, and Taste of Lanzhou noodle restaurant at Kotara.

"At Hao Chi by Lee's Yumcha we will be offering quality Cantonese food elevated to a level never seen in Newcastle before," front-of-house manager Kent Au told Food & Wine. "Not only will the food be exceptional, but the dining experience in our new funky restaurant is sure to get people talking."

"The dining experience in our new funky restaurant is sure to get people talking," Kent Au said. Picture by Marina Neil

He said the King Street restaurant had been "extensively renovated from top to bottom, inside and out".

"Raymond Chan, the previous owner of the restaurant and building, wanted to retire and put the business up for sale," Kent Au said.

"He was very passionate about keeping a link to his legacy and was very selective of who he wanted to sell to. He had previously knocked back multiple offers from developers to buy the building to put up offices or apartments.

"Lee, who has multiple hospitality establishments throughout the Newcastle region, presented a vision for the site that Raymond loved and knew would continue on as a Chinese restaurant."

In addition to a new kitchen, the fit-out includes large suede booth seats, Oriental-themed decorations, statement ceiling cavities with floral motifs, a new bar with leather Chesterfield-style bar stools, and a private dining room.

Hao Chi's menu is described as a mix of time-honoured Cantonese culinary techniques with a modern touch.

"We'll be offering a dining experience like no other Chinese restaurant in the Hunter has ever offered," Kent Au said.

"We will also be offering classic yum cha dishes such as prawn dumplings, scallop sui mai, pork spare ribs and chicken feet and much more. Our chefs have worked at well-known Sydney Chinese restaurants such as Chinatown stalwart Golden Century and also at one of Merivale group's most successful restaurants, Mr Wong."


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Yum cha has never been more popular in Australia. Kent Au says its "existence is woven into the rich history of Southern China as a social event".

"Literally translating to 'drink tea', it was a time for gathering for people from all walks of life in tea houses dotted around the nation," he said. "As Chinese migrants moved around the world, they brought with them this time-aged tradition, coupling it with small dishes to share between friends while they sipped tea.

"Newcastle itself has always had a prominent Chinese community and throughout the '80s, we have had multiple yum cha establishments, but not too long ago, they slowly died out, due to lack of popularity - and, in my personal opinion, a decline in quality.

"It simply did not match the standard you would get in Sydney.

"In the last decade or more, there has been a boom in Chinese migrants to Newcastle, not to mention a growing student population at the University of Newcastle.

"Lee saw an opportunity to bring quality yum cha back to Newcastle with his restaurant in Charlestown. More and more Novocastrians have now experienced good yum cha and are yearning for more."

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