Chinese, Sydney, Surry Hills, Vegetarian friendly
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Mahjong Playlunch, Surry Hills

Not quite lunch, but lots of play

Sam one day sent me a link to the Mahjong Room, asking if I was interested in playing Mahjong whilst having lunch. For most of the time, anything involving food piques my interest, but it was the thought of playing Mahjong while eating (for some reason) that really intrigued me. Despite having a Chinese background, I have never played this age old game before (I don’t really see the tile-pairing matching game on the computer to be ‘true’ Mahjong).

I know, shocking, isn’t it? 😛

It’s been a while since I went and have unfortunately forgotten our host’s name, but he gave us a brief introduction to the history of Mahjong, then proceeded to go over the main objectives and rules. We were to learn the very simplified version of Mahjong, as we only had two and a half short hours to learn and play it (and it’s less confusing what with not having to worry about the points system).

It was a bit hard to fully understand it a first, but both our host and Sam assured us that as once we started playing, we’d get the hang of it.

Oh noes! It/'s crooked!

We first played an open hand to get us used to the rules (and kind of have more of an idea of what the heck we were doing), which Ram won.

Our host would walk around to the tables, helping where confusion reigned and explained a lot of things, but we were rather glad that we had Sam – it was as if we had our own private tutor! Hehe, technically we did.

Absolutely love doing this! So much fun

We were served tea as soon as we were seated, but during the second (but now closed hand) game, we started to wonder when they were going to serve lunch – I, for one, was rather hungry (not having had breakfast and all).

It wasn’t until we were almost finished with our second game that our first dishes were served. We then realised that while the table was perfect for playing Mahjong, it wasn’t near big enough to eat at, at the same time. Our dishes were placed on any free space and, lacking that, on top of the tiles.

San Choi Bao (with Vegetables)

Our host had come around and asked us if we had any special dietary needs – Ruby raised her hand and said that she’d prefer not to eat meat, but seafood was okay. I thought it was nice that they remembered she was the aquatarian on our table, so all the special dishes were placed in front of her.

Ruby tells me that the vegetable San Choi Bao was quite delicious and I could quite help but be slightly envious by the generous portion size: she had two bao’s to our one-each.

San Choi Bao (with Chicken)

We were given bowls and chopsticks, but it was a bit awkward with the lack of room to put anything down. I’m quite sure I used the bowl to capture any errant saucy drops from the bao.

I loved how crisp the fried noodles were and how the sauce didn’t overwhelm the flavours of the moist chicken or fresh vegetables, but rather, it enhanced them. It was quite a joy to eat.

Or maybe it was so because we were quite hungry. Either or, we loved the San Choi Bao and ate it with much gusto.

Shallot Pancakes

Being not the biggest fan of shallots, I wasn’t expecting to like this dish – I love being proven wrong when it comes to food. The pancakes were made just right, so that it wasn’t over powered by the shallots, but it wasn’t hiding the flavour either – allowing the shallots to subtly add to the overall taste.

There was a tomato dipping sauce, but I didn’t think it added anything to the pancakes and was just as good eaten plain.

We got two slices each (I think one was eaten prior to the photo being taken *shake fist*).

Boiled Vegetarian Dumplings with Choy Sum, Black Fungus, and Pressed Tofu (I think)

These were lightly flavoured and while it was pretty decent, it wasn’t as memorable as say the San Choi Bao.

We got one each. There seems to be a trend of eating one of everything – in a way, it was such a teaser, kind of like an amuse bouche (hehe I’ve been watching Top Chef lately and just wanted to use it, my bad). If anything, it was making me more hungry rather than filling me up!

Tiger Prawn and Chicken Wontons - Minced Prawn and Chicken wrapped in Crispy Pastry

I personally adored how crunchy the wontons were, and they weren’t overly oily either. The slightly sweet-sour sauce nicely complimented the contents within, which tasted quite fresh and well-cooked (succulent, not rubbery).

Definitely wished I had more of these to eat.

Xiao Loong Bao - Shanghai style steamed Pork Dumplings

I can never get over how cute these always look (yes, even the mangled one on the right).

The broth inside was a little salty, but the meat wasn’t too bad though it wasn’t quite up to the standards of the bao from New Shanghai or Din Tai Fung.

I’m quite sure Ruby got something else since this was pork and she absolutely abhors the taste, but I must not have taken a photo of it… *gasp* Terrible! I’m not certain why I didn’t – I’m sure I had a good reason… I hope. Sorry!

Blue Swimmer Crab Gow Gee - Poached Dumplings served in Light Broth

More dumplings! These were okay, but sadly it was the last dish (I think we were a bit crest-fallen at the fact).

The dishes had consistently come out quickly once we started eating, but so involved in our game were we that we didn’t realise that they had stopped. We kind of looked at each other and wondered if that was it. Sadly it was.

(And sadly, we were still hungry).

We managed to squeeze in two more games (in which Ruby and I won respectively) before the end of the playlunch session.

The Mahjong Playlunch sessions run for 2.5-3 hours and cost $36 per person, which includes the dim sum “nibbles” (which I’m quite sure they’ve amended since last time I checked the website – if I had known, I would have eaten something beforehand!) above. Check the website for the dates of the sessions, as there are only 2 sessions held on every second Saturday of the month this year.

Booking is essential, where you must book in groups of 4, 8, or 12. I initially emailed them for a booking, but was politely requested that I call in, as they grab your credit card details in the event of a cancellation (full cost applies if cancellation is within 3 days of the session, or something like that).

Mahjong Playlunch
312 Crown St
Surry Hills, NSW, 2010
Ph: (02) 9361 3985

Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday, 6pm to 10.30pm


  1. So this explains the photos I saw on Ram’s FB!! Interesting concept haha, my friends would love it but I can’t play mahjong either! I learnt ages ago but I’ve completely forgotten. And don’t worry… I was taught by my ex, who is white. Oh how I have shamed my Asian forefathers!!

  2. lol Bubz… all good! They’re pretty good in explaining things and if I can pick up the basics during the session, anyone can! =D Should try it sometime if none of your friends have a Mahjong set.

  3. I’ve always been curious about this place. It sounds like fun altho’ I’d probably prefer to play first and then eat or vice versa. It doesn’t seem fair to the food otherwise :) And I haven’t played mah-jong in years. My grandma taught me and she was one helluva player – we could never win!

    Helen’s last blog post..Food Blog Awards – GYF only 5 votes off the lead

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