Before heading out to York Street's latest underground offering, a quick check of their website and an accidental click takes me straight to the YouTube clip 'Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris'. This pop-up link on Uncle Ming's website says a lot about what they're trying to be. A little bit kitsch and a little bit mysterious with a healthy dose of kick-ass.
Uncle Ming's is almost undetectable from the street sans the hastily scrawled chalk invitation on the sidewalk. A better signpost is the Roman Daniels suit shop situated next door on York St. Once inside, don't be surprised if your senses are momentarily stunned. The soft red glow of caged light blubs, vintage glamour shots lining the walls and woody trails of incense invite revelers into the debauchery of 1920s China.
At Uncle Ming's they have really committed to the Eastern aesthetic and it's the lavish décor that makes this bar. Of a weekday evening, both after-work suits and jean-clad partygoers can be seen dotted around the small floor space. Darkly lit nooks filled with mismatched Oriental chairs and rough-hewn tables are often already filled by 7pm.
As the novelty wares off, the drinks list is worth lingering for. After recommending the teapot cocktails, the eager bartender even pointed out a recently emptied alcove for our group of six to settle in. Although the "peanut" chong Asian margarita sounded tempting, a combination of chili infused Tequila, fresh Thai basil, fresh lime and soda ($17 a glass/$38 a teapot), the real stars of the bar list were the many drinks hailing from Asia. On offer are Japanese whisky, Asian beers, sake and soju. Even Walmae Makkeolli (traditional rice wine, $15 glass) and Umeshu plum wine ($9 glass) make an appearance on the menu, served in Oriental ceramic tumblers.
Uncle Ming's is a bar first and dumpling provider second. This isn't to say that the dumplings aren't a tasty bar food alternative. Combinations such as pork and chive or chicken and coriander (both $7) are winners. Also worth a try are the BBQ duck buns ($4.50). The sweet, caramelised duck encased in powdery soft dough are worth the wrestle with the chops sticks on hand.
Uncle Ming's extends its atmosphere of mysteriousness to its self branding using guerilla marketing and word-of-mouth to entice curious Sydneysiders. In the middle of Sydney's bustling business side of town, Uncle Ming's offers an escape from it all. It may not remain under the radar for long.