Yum cha, but the Italian way

May 29, 2024

Words and pictures: Claudia Dichiera

This is the third iteration of the Aces name.

It first opened as Aces Bar and Bistro, founded by Enzo Fantasia, in 1993 in the Central Market, then Aces Pizza & Liquor in 2020 before COVID took its toll on the hospo industry.

The anticipated Aces on Gouger Street reopened at the end of March as a “restaurant built on nostalgia”. It’s an innovative mesh between traditional Italian dishes with touches of Chinese cuisine, as a nod to being in Chinatown.

They promised an Italian take on yum cha, which has been a work in progress until now.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  1. 1. What a spread
  2. 2. The mortadella bun
  3. 3. Fun snacky food
  4. 4. The culinary director, Tom Tilbury, himself
  5. 5. Seasonal fish crudo
  6. 6. Yum... ciao
  7. 7. Head chef, Kate Ottens. This picture: Jordan Rivish

Introducing, Yum Ciao.

The way it works is simple: a menu with boxes, and patrons are required to tick the dishes they want to order — in true yum cha fashion.

“It’s just a take on that classic yum cha as a play on where we are being in Chinatown, so it’s lots of small plates designed to share — order lots of little things,” culinary director, Tom Tilbury says.

“The pastas are big enough that you would want to order two for a table of two.

“So all lots of little shared plates, a few pastas — it’s fun snacky food.”

Tom says the way he creates these dishes is by looking back at established Italian food and changing them to have “two or three bites”.

“We just looked back at Italian dishes as well so the egg yolk ravioli — pretty classic,” he says.

“Girella suits yum cha [because] it’s what you’d imagine opening in a steamer and receiving at yum cha. It’s ornate and looks quite pretty.

“It’s what you’d imagine coming out on a yum cha trolley.”

Last time we spoke with Tom, just days before opening Aces, he told us some dishes crossed the hard line in the soil of Asian and Italian.

The spaghetti vongole à la Golden Century is an example of this.

“[It’s] a take on the Golden Century restaurant in Sydney’s noodle dish — so it’s a bit of a take on the fact that we’re in Chinatown and I wanted to touch on a little bit of Chinese,” Tom said in March.

“So that almost crosses the boundary between Italian and Chinese that one without you really knowing too much.”

One thing Aces is known for is its attention to detail.

While we photograph the dishes, Tom replaces the chives on top of the prawn toast as they, apparently, turned brown. Though this was blind to the CityMag eye, Tom assures us that chefs looking at the picture would notice.

This meticulous mentality lingers throughout Aces. It’s evident in all elements of the restaurant.

“The floor team have quite 80s-inspired outfits: Vans for [footwear], white pleated pants, tucked-in Aces t-shirts, the kitchen will wear flat-brimmed caps,” Tom told us in March.

“A big neon sign going up the side of the building… a little set of matches come out with the bill slips.”

The vibe was to always be an 80s bar, and feel like a celebration when dining in. The day we visit to get the full Yum Ciao experience is no different.

INXS’ ‘Never Tear Us A Part’ plays full blast and CityMag unashamedly taps our foot despite being a die-hard Crows supporter. Though the upstairs section of the multivell restaurant is empty, the party continues downstairs.

Aces is located at 96 Gouger Street, Adelaide and is open from 11:30am until late.

Connect with the business on Instagram for more.

Share —