Cult Malaysian diner Ho Jiak opens Town Hall spin-off

Ho Jiak's spin on salt and pepper squid.
Ho Jiak's spin on salt and pepper squid.  Photo: Edwina Pickles

The cult favourite of many Sydney chefs has opened a new restaurant in the big smoke.

Ho Jiak, the Malaysian diner that started in Strathfield and championed by the likes of Dan Hong, has opened behind the QVB in the Sydney CBD.

"Dan and his family have been big supporters since we started in Haymarket two years ago," owner Junda Khoo says.

Owner/chef Junda Khoo at his new Town Hall digs.
Owner/chef Junda Khoo at his new Town Hall digs. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Another fan is fine-dining chef Justin North. "The food is awesome and authentic. The flavours are beautiful. You have stuff like sate you get everywhere and it's like the first time you've had it," North tells Good Food.

Khoo wants to take the next step at the venue, marrying his love of Malaysian cuisine with his passion for Australian produce.

Lobster gets a dry laksa treatment, a king prawn dish is inspired by the marriage of two of the chefs' favourite dishes – butter prawns and the fragrant kam heong. Lemongrass pippis also edge onto the opening menu.

Prawn dumplings, Ho Jiak style.
Prawn dumplings, Ho Jiak style. Photo: Edwina Pickles

A natural cook rather than a chef, Khoo took a long route to food. Always a passion, he did a double degree in business and IT and had a short stint working in banking before following his dream.

Ho Jiak Town Hall slides into the space previously occupied by The Cuban Place, one of the haunts Khoo used to frequent.

He has taken a restrained approach to the fitout: "It's a heritage building, so we couldn't touch too much. We've dimmed it down a little." With its new amped-up food, expect to rub elbows with its faithful chef following.

Dry laksa prawns.
Dry laksa prawns. Photo: Ellyna Tjohnardi

Daily noon-10pm (supper menu and hours to be introduced early April).

125 York Street, Sydney,