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July 6, 2023

What ever happened to… Ying Chow?

In celebration (shock and awe) of CityMag’s 10 year anniversary, the co-founder of the magazine and current Creative Director at kwpx Josh Fanning wonders (sic) through the streets of Adelaide trying to remember what happened.

  • Words: Josh Fanning

Whatever happened to Ying Chow… staying open late?

Whatever happened to East Taste… staying open later than Ying Chow as their only competitive advantage?


This is the first of a weekly column by CityMag founder Josh Fanning exploring how the city has changed – or hasn’t – since he started the city magazine 10 years ago.

Read the other articles in this series here.

Whatever happened to the sense of freedom you got from knowing (deep in your lizard brain) Ying Chow would be there to take you in at the end of an extra long Friday night knock off session?

I don’t know, but things have changed.

One Friday, two weeks ago – after I boldly made the claim that, “Ying Chow will definitely be open” – myself and a couple of friends discovered a Ying Chow that definitely was not. Closed at 11:30pm. Not even any diners finishing up inside. Restaurant clean, cleared, empty. It made me sad.

And – like all entitled, semi-outdated, pale, male, columnists – I have turned my sadness into outrage.

Ying Chow has been going soft for years.

Not the food, oh no, that glory only grows brighter. The mystery crunch of their E-Shand dishes are even crispier, and the special fried rice now – I want to say – “feels” cleaner, it’s certainly fresher. No, the food is great – it’s the culture I miss.

What used to be the Tom Gleeson of Chinatown restaurants has transformed into “somewhere nice to eat”. As if we didn’t have enough of those places already. Thanks, CityMag.

Maybe you (‘you’ are geriatric millennials or older) remember the skinny (cancel me now) maître d’? That guy with the short-back-and-sides and a bit of a veranda fringe? I want to say he wore gel in his hair because he was just so callous, and his hair was so pointy, and anyone who wears gel in their hair clearly hates themselves and everyone around them.

That guy was great.

And then he was gone. And with him went the whole reason you loved going there so much. Ying Chow went from “no you can’t sit there, wait outside, don’t combine tables, put that chair back, ‘two serves of shallot pancake’ *rolls eyes*, ‘one Tsing Tao’ *sighs*, here’s your mains before your starters, now get up – I need the table, it’s 1:30am and there’s a line outside.”

It went from that to, like, “how are you? Of course you can. Here’s some table water. We’re closing soon. It’s 10:30pm.”


The culture of a great city isn’t built on customer satisfaction and three-star Google reviews. It’s built at 1am wandering into a restaurant without a booking and eating $140 of dry vinegar pork rib between three people and paying only $5 corkage on a bottle of Spanish wine Udaberri let you take with you (if that’s illegal I’ll claim poetic licence).

The culture of a great city is built on knowing there’s an amazing restaurant you can take Hugo Weaving to when – after a cracking Adelaide Film Festival party – he confides that he “could still eat”.

Culture like that is priceless. Culture is not built on nice-ness.

Considering the changes our city has gone through over the past 10 years, I guess what I worry about is whether we’re losing some of that informal, undocumented, if-you-know-you-know, credit card surcharged, cash preferred kind of culture that great cities thrive on.

Or maybe I’ve been watching too much Netflix-Binge-Stan on cold winter nights. And so has everyone. And so our restaurants gotta close.

Speaking of Netflix – maybe you’ve been watching David Attenburgh’s Our Planet? I saw that episode about the turtles who stay out at sea for 16 years after hatching then – without Google Maps – find their way back to the exact beach they cracked out of their eggs on. They knew the way there, and there was the beach. I don’t know if that’s culture, but that’s kind of what I’m talking about with our city.

Ying Chow is a beach. Late night dinner at Ying Chow is our home.

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