Venues

Chinese Northern Foods Restaurant

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  • Phone Number 074 498 4056
  • Location 20D Derrick Avenue, Cyrildene, Johannesburg
  • Opening Hours

    Monday to Sunday 9am to 9pm

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Cost
R90 avg main meal
Ambience
Authentic culture, Family friendly
Food
Asian, Chinese
Payment
Mastercard, Visa

Critic's review

Anna Montali

Food

Cyrildene’s Derrick Avenue features many Chinese restaurants but Chinese Northern Foods is definitely above average.

This spot is regularly packed with local Chinese patrons – always a good sign. The menu is unusually long so ordering takes time. Eventually, after deciding we are not brave enough to try the crispy pig’s ears in fungi sauce, we settle on sizzling beef ribs with black pepper, and braised streaky pork. The ribs really blow us away: tender, melt-in-the-mouth and full of aromatic Chinese spices. The braised pork served with preserved vegetables is one of the chef’s specialties – rightfully so.

Also recommended is the braised eggplant, with its distinct flavours. A great hit.

Also on offer: a generous dim sum platter. Take some home to savour the following day.

We don’t have space for dessert, but options are similar to those on most Chinese menus, with items such as deep fried ice cream and bow ties.

Drinks

Green tea and iced tea is readily available, but if you are looking to complement your meal with a glass of wine you need to bring your own.

Service

The staff in this small restaurant are more than happy to give you advice on the items on the menu, even though communication can be a problem.

Ambience

Simple, family orientated, laid back and relaxed atmosphere. It’s homey.

And…

Always ask how many dim sums in a portion, as we asked for two portions and were shocked to find our take away dish contained 40 pieces.

Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here.

  • Ambience
  • Service
  • Food
  • Ishay Govender-Ypma

    Food
    Whether you start or end this way, you can’t go wrong with a plate of steamed pork and leek or pork and Chinese cabbage dumplings – small pockets of silky dough – but at a generous 20 per plate, these are ideal to share with the table. The soft pull-apart Pie Like Hat flat bread – more like a large flaky Cape Malay roti – that opens in ribbons as you tug at it, is a crowd-pleaser. It’s a good idea to order a few dishes and share, but take note that portions are generous.

    The sizzling lamb or beef come as tender, marinated cubes with crunchy chunks of green pepper, served at the table in a hot skillet. The eggplant dish is braised with garlic and is delicious eaten with sticky rice. The diced chicken with chilli comes sprinkled with sesame seeds and can be on the dry side. Pair it with an order of braised bean curd and rice. The waiter will usually bring you a slice of melon after the meal (on the house) which is probably all you can manage for dessert at this point.

    Drinks
    You’ll be served green tea in tiny cups on arrival (which you probably will want to sip on throughout your meal in the colder months). The beer and wine selection is dismal, so it’s best you bring your own or order the iced tea.

    Service
    Not everyone at this establishment speaks fluent English and service is brusque. In fact you won’t get too far making a telephone reservation if the Mandarin-speaking owners answer. However, the younger members of the family and wait staff are always obliging and the menu is in English.

    Ambience
    Fluorescent lighting, plastic tables and chairs and the odd aroma of vegetables aging in the sun outside aside, Chinese Northern Foods focusses firmly on the food. Come with a party of six or more and grab a table with a nifty lazy Susan – ideal for sharing. While the restaurant – lodged with little fanfare between vegetable vendors and crammed supermarkets in the Chinese enclave of Cyrildene – lacks in presence and aesthetic delight, it has garnered a huge and loyal fan base that comes purely for the food.

    Derrick Avenue houses a number of restaurants and Asian stores stocked with a dizzying array of goods from the Motherland, lending an authentic charm to the city’s second Chinatown (the other being in Newtown). The menu at Chinese Northern Foods, a somewhat plain sister to the Rivonia branch, is extensive and it’s a popular choice both with families and groups of friends.

    And...
    There’s a small room next door that they hire out for private functions and parties. It’s popular and affordable but it’s best to arrange this with a personal visit to the establishment.

    (September 2016)

    Eat Out reviewers dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Click here to read our editorial policy.

  • Ishay Govender-Ypma

    Food
    Whether you start or end this way, you can’t go wrong with a plate of steamed pork and leek or pork and Chinese cabbage dumplings – small pockets of silky dough, but at a generous 20 per plate, these are ideal to share with the table. The soft pull-apart Pie Like Hat flat bread, more like a large flaky Cape Malay roti, that opens in ribbons as you tug at it, is a crowd-pleaser. It’s a good idea to order a few dishes and share, but take note that portions are generous. The sizzling lamb or beef come as tender, marinated cubes with crunchy chunks of green pepper, served at the table in a hot skillet. The eggplant dish is braised with garlic and is delicious eaten with sticky rice. The diced chicken with chilli comes sprinkled with sesame seeds and can be on the dry side. Pair it with an order of braised bean curd and rice. The waiter will usually bring you a slice of melon after the meal (on the house) which is probably all you can manage for dessert at this point.

    Drinks
    You’ll be served green tea in tiny cups on arrival, which you probably will want to sip on through your meal in the colder months. The beer and wine selection is dismal, so it’s best you bring your own or order the iced tea.

    Service
    Not everyone at this establishment speaks fluent English and service is brusque. In fact you won’t get too far making a telephone reservation if the Mandarin-speaking owners answer. However, the younger members of the family and wait staff are always obliging and the menu is in English.

    Ambience
    Fluorescent lighting, plastic tables and chairs and the odd aroma of vegetables aging in the sun outside aside, Chinese Northern Foods focusses firmly on the food. Come with a party of six or more and grab a table with a nifty lazy Susan – ideal for sharing. While the restaurant, lodged with little fanfare between vegetable vendors and crammed supermarkets in the Chinese enclave of Cyrildene, lacks in presence and aesthetic delight, it has garnered a huge and loyal fan base that comes purely for the food. Derrick Avenue houses a number of restaurants and Asian stores stocked with a dizzying array of goods from the Motherland, lending an authentic charm to the city’s second Chinatown (the other being in Newtown). The menu at Chinese Northern Foods, a somewhat plain sister to the Rivonia branch, is extensive and it’s a popular choice both with families and groups of friends.

    And...
    There’s a small room next door that they hire out for private functions and parties. It’s popular and affordable but it’s best to arrange this with a personal visit to the establishment.

    (September 2016)

    Eat Out reviewers dine unannounced and pay their own way. Read our full editorial policy here.

  • Zodwa Kumalo-Valentine

    Food
    Once you’ve dined at Chinese Northern Foods, you’ll never be able to dine at another so-called Asian eatery again. You’ll find an authentic menu and flavours, coupled with value for money just can’t be beaten in Johannesburg. The restaurant is a bit chilly in winter but a pot of green tea served as a welcome drink as soon as you sit down will help your body acclimatize. A steaming hot plate of at least 20 dumplings – with fillings such as pork and cilantro, pork and leek and seafood – will bring a grin to your face with their hot and silky softness as a starter or main course. The seafood wonton is also a winner – bobbing with seaweed, steamed dumplings and healthy greens; and the signature Pie like Hat which is like a slightly sweet roti that unravels in light, layered strips as you pull it apart, is a must. Be careful when ordering the spring rolls. While usually served in portions of two and sometimes three in other establishments, they are presented in a mountain formation of 10 here and coated in what looks and tastes like the remnants of a packet of Cheese Curls (while actually being breadcrumbs) – adding a moreish and extra-crunchy finish. The sumptuous steamed Red fish is served whole and delicately seasoned with lemon grass, soy sauce and fish sauce. Accompanied with a plate of stir-fried seasonal vegetables, it leaves you feeling sated but not stuffed. If you order all of the above, you will have eaten too much and will have no room or interest in dessert. But then you’d have a good reason to return and try the candied pumpkin and sweet potato, or deep-fried corn or prawn ball with sweet milk sauce – just so you can tell your friends about it.

    Drinks
    Tsingtao beers and very bad wine is on offer. Best to bring your own of whatever you’re drinking.

    Service
    You’re in luck if you speak Mandarin because nobody else speaks English – save for one waitress who does her best to answer questions for you, explain what dishes are and whether you may or may not be ordering too much. Still, service is impeccable and food arrives hot and promptly.

    Ambience
    There is seating at big tables with Lazy Susans for larger family groups, as well as smaller tables. Décor is sparse, with plastic light fixtures, and in bad need of repair in some instances. It’s clear that the food and the preparation thereof is the only preoccupation here.

    And…
    The more adventurous palate is encouraged to order from the “internal organs” section, where you can sample stir-fried aorta with cumin, fried pork stomach with garlic and duck blood in chilli sauce. Nothing goes to waste in this kitchen, it seems.

  • Hennie Fisher

    Food
    The flavours at Northern Foods are clean and unaffected, illustrating the regional diversity of China and offering Joburgers a glimpse into the authentic cuisine of the northern parts of the country. Cold dishes in particular may require an adventurous spirit, such as ‘sweet potato northern jelly with sauce’, ‘cold pig’s ears and fungus in sauce’, and ‘pork skin jelly with garlic sauce’. But that sense of daring will be amply rewarded by such magnificent dishes as their jelly-fish salad. Hot dishes include fried Asian mushrooms with tea tree mushrooms and pork, or a simple mushroom and potato slice. Cumin lamb, braised beef brisket with potato, and stir-fry of calamari and pork kidney further illustrate the regional uniqueness. For a tasty treat, order a lovely beef (tendon) and white radish hot pot.

    Drinks
    Your meal will probably start with a teapot of green tea, which arrives unbidden. The selection of wines is small but adequate, and there's a selection of Chinese beers and that fiery white liquor (baijiu) that smells as if it could launch a rocket. The wine selection includes stalwarts such as Alto Rouge, Alto Cabernet Sauvignon, Rupert & Rothschild Classique, Nederburg Baronne, Boschendal Chardonnay, Fat Bastard Chardonnay and Shiraz. But you’re also welcome to bring your own, since no corkage fee is charged.

    Service
    One of the owners or other family members are almost always in attendance, whatever the time of day, and even though they are not officially open for breakfast (they open at 9am) you could grab a late Chinese breakfast. Shortly after the restaurant was established, communication sometimes proved to be a slight obstacle, but nowadays this is less of a problem and if you struggle, someone from an adjacent table will always be happy to help. Expect brisk, efficient service with minimal fuss.

    Ambience
    
The interior here is just like most other everyday Chinese eateries, with functional lighting, oscillating wall-mounted fans and minimal décor that could include a child’s ‘kite’ light or a photo montage of the dishes on the menu. But it is the authenticity, exemplified by the ‘mother’ of the house serving patrons in her apron, and soy sauce and vinegar in dispensers marked with strips of masking tape that makes this such a appealing experience.

    And…
    There are almost always other Chinese guests in the restaurant, but also a constant flow of empty plates coming back into the restaurant (presumably from special take-outs ordered by neighbouring businesses) that speaks of the high quality and authenticity of the food. If you have never experienced a Chinese New Year celebration in Cyrildene, Northern Foods is the place to book one of those large round tables out on the street to watch the Lion Dance, intended to chase away ghosts and evil spirits and ensure good fortune for the year to come.

    (July 2014)

  • Food
    Situated in the growing Cyrildene strip, this restaurant is about authentic food. Whether you order eggplant hot pot or stewed meatballs in brown sauce, you’ll receive something rich, filling and warming. The traditions of the northern provinces of China are reflected in the menu. Pork and coriander dumplings, beef in cumin and crispy calamari are on offer for those not adventurous enough to try duck blood in chilli sauce or fried pork stomach with garlic.

    Wine
    Only a couple of wines are available from the shelf. Rather bring your own (for free).

    Service
    While language often presents a barrier, friendliness and patience will ensure that you are able to order something delicious. If all else fails, just point to your neighbour’s table and ask for the same. Waiting staff dress as if they’ve arrived straight from Beijing, which adds to the authenticity of the experience.

    Ambience
    On a cold night the restaurant may be slightly chilly, but then a complimentary pot of hot green tea arrives. Even though there’s no separate smoking section, the whole restaurant eventually becomes one (as it does so often on mainland China).

    And...
    Be daring and choose items with delightful descriptions like ‘little sheep with oil’ or ‘wrapped in potato sauce with chicken’. (HF, October 2011)
  • Hennie Fisher

    Even in a neighborhood devoted to Oriental food, this is a place of authenticity. Favourite for mid-week dinner. Try sea cucumber salad and the pissles, if you dare. (Eat Out magazine 2014)

User reviews

  • Review says it all. Garlic aubergine delicious as was the sizzling calamari. Basic setting. Friendly attentive staff. Recommended !
    • Ambience
    • Service
    • Food

Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Booking required
  • Child friendly
  • Dinner
  • Food
  • Functions
  • Licensed
  • Lunch
  • Parking
  • Serves food
  • Smoking
  • Takeaways
  • Vegetarian

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