In another long list of offensive restaurants/bars here is another one of those which makes us Asians everywhere wonder – why does this keep happening, and why do Westerners who open Asian food joints, not learn about how to respect the culture and not play into the negative stereotypes? I mean we just had that thing with Andrew Zimmerman, and where his issue is not necessarily about disrespecting the culture, he did make statements which showed that he really isn’t a “woke” white guy. Anyway, this particular example comes from my neck of the woods – Sydney Australia, and it revolves around a bar owned by a white Australian guy called “UNCLE MING’S”, and this is why I will be focusing my #Chewingthefat piece on this this week.

Now, let me make it clear here, I am in no way opposed to non-Asians opening Asian restaurants. I actually think its not a bad thing as long as those opening the restaurants understand the history, respect the culture, do not perpetuate negative stereotypes and cook good, authentic food.

But in a long line of non-Asians ( particularly white peeps) who have opened Asian restaurants/bars, this one can go in the usual pile of problematic, offensive and RACIST. I know there will be people telling me – “you got to pick your battles”, and that these incidents may appear “trivial”, but if we don’t at least call out this bullshit, it will just continue to occur and making jokes about Asian accents, ignoring the significance of Asian history and culture and the making the slanted eye gesture will be normalized and seen as acceptable in non Asian societies. I am pretty sure none of us ( Asians and non Asian allies) want to see this.

So, now that I have gotten all that off my chest, here is the crux of this offensive bar. I was sent a series of screen caps by a fellow Asian Australian ( I will keep his/her confidentiality private) about replies to review comments and Instagram posts by “UNCLE MING’S” which is located in Sydney’s CBD/downtown. In its “about” on Facebook it states it is:

An opium den inspired cocktail, Japanese whisky and dumpling bar! A celebration of Asia.

On its website it has a “story” about how “Uncle Ming” came to be:

Legend has it that Uncle Ming was one of Shanghai’s most notorious figures – a sweet potato vendor who began a life of crime as a policeman collecting protection money from local opium traders. Having to leave China, Uncle Ming settled in Sydney in the 1920’s and set up a place for the local community to meet and have a drink. 

Now I do not want to say anything to the story as I am not sure of its origins ( though, doing a Google search, I found nothing about this story), so I will let that slide, but what is offensive is how it replies to review comments, and its Instagram posts- which really shows that the white Australian owner just doesn’t get it. But before I get into that, the owner of “UNCLE MING’S” is Australian guy JUSTIN BEST, and reading an interview he did with Kounta, it really shows that he just doesn’t get it nor care about Asian culture. In a QandA with Kounta he spoke how he came up with the idea of a “dumpling and whiskey” bar. Here you will see that he doesn’t care using a “Chinese” name and narrative but branding it being a Japanese inspired whiskey bar. He also states that it doesn’t matter that he mixed 2 different East Asian cultures, disrespected the histories and traditions because it is all about “not making sense”… like seriously what the fuck?

Technically, we are branded as a Chinese bar, but that doesn’t really matter, we are more focused on offering our customers a great experience rather and having a good time than ‘making sense!’.

Oh and now to the kicker. There are some negative reviews on Google about the services etc, and the bar has responded with a stereotyped Asian accents speaking broken English. Logic will dictate that the owner, Best, is the one responding to these, here are some examples ( also see images above and below this ):

* Ni Hao Mr Ray. Sorry for your bad experience. Uncle Ming was short staffed and service not that usual. Uncle Ming would like you back to buy you a drink and show you that it not normal service. Come back Mr Ray and we make it right for you.
* Ni Hao Mr Saagar, when Ming busy we cannot break rules and the wait only 3-7 mins. Ming think you say sorry to your wife for being an hour late and don’t argue with guard. Aunty Ming don’t like to wait for 1 hour and Ming always sorry to Aunty. Be like Ming xx
* That is Mings favourite niece! She nice to everyone if you nice to her. Come back and we show you how nice.

And to add more fuel to the fire, some of its Instagram posts are just poking fun at Asian memes, images and photos. Some are forgivable, but others are not, including one of a woman making the “slanted eye” gesture, a picture of Buddha’s head having a finger poking up its nose, and an image from The Karate Kid, again mocking the Asian accent in its description. I can see that where some of the descriptions are not necessarily “offensive”, but the images are majority negative Asian stereotypes and insinuate negative messages about Asians. It has a really weird obsession with putting up pictures of “awkward” Chinese men looking for “love” (from Chinese dating show “If you are the one) and there is an image which is questionable in its description as it can be read as fetishizing Asian women- it really just rubs me the wrong way. Just check it out yourself.

Now, here is my final point. The bar itself sounds like it has ambiance etc and it has many good reviews – I am not knocking this fact. You can be a top notch bar/restaurant but regardless you still have a responsibility to be respectful to the culture and history of the theme if its not your own cultural background, and you have a responsibility to be aware of not perpetuating negative racial stereotypes. This is in particular with white people who want to open Asian restaurants and bars – learn about the history and culture. Know that you have a responsibility to adequately represent our culture and stop poking fun at our culture.

 Lastly, the cover picture for the bar on its website for some reason also rubs me the wrong way, wouldn’t you agree?

If you are inclined to let Best know your thoughts about this, here is UNCLE MING’S Facebook page and UNCLE MING’S Instagram page

Images via Uncle Mings website and Kounta