Chin Chin

February 22, 2012

125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
I know I am frightfully late to jump onto the Chin Chin bandwagon, but am pleased to announce that I have now officially joined the throngs of people who love this place. Let me show you why.


We arrived at 6:30 on a Friday (stupidly late by Chin Chin’s standards) and the place was packed, so we put our names down and headed downstairs to the Go Go Bar. I like this bar, it’s long and dark and has a romantic neon sign at one end. Plus those circular booths lining one wall are perfectly suited for larger groups!

I was there with T and J, and we shared a bottle of wine before our meal (actually only J and I shared – T was driving). We decided on this fabulously titled white, and I just loved the crazed label. Apologies for the blurry photo but it was very dark. The wait for our table did end up being close to 90 minutes, but with so many glasses of Monsters ATTACK! in me, I hardly noticed!

Finally we were led upstairs. With nothing inside me but wine, I’m quite impressed I was able to take these photos of the restaurant. Long and thin and unabashedly cool, Chin Chin sports a bar down one side, a kitchen in the back corner behind the glass partition, and tables crammed like sardines into the rest of the space. One wall is covered with vintage posters, and the wine menu is XXX – ADULT ONLY. The neon theme continues with a glowing pink rabbit behind the bar (2011 was the year of the rabbit, I wonder if they’re going to have a neon dragon this year?)

The girls knew I was keen to write about this place, so they both threw up their hands and refused to even look at the menu, saying “Order for us”. I was only too happy to oblige, and ten minutes later resurfaced from the Thai based menu with my decisions.

Finally, more than two hours after arriving in the rain at their door, we received our food. First up was the kingfish sashimi (no joke, I really am seeing this everywhere – St Katherine’sHuxtable) with lime, chilli, coconut and thai basil. This was just wonderful, delicious and delicate, and I enjoyed watching the lime juice slowly cook the fish. The coconut was particularly excellent at cutting through the acidity of the lime.

The crunchy school prawns were fun to eat, but I thought the serve was quite small, even for only $9. A squeeze of lemon prior to consumption is recommended, but a word of warning on the sauce, it is VERY spicy; one mouthful nearly blew my face off!

The wok fried S&P squid with nuoc nam and vietnamese mint was also brill, but again the squid looked lonely on the plate – a few more pieces would not have gone astray! Nevertheless, it was succulent and tasty with the mint and spicy-sweet sauce.

Spanner crab and chicken salad with green mango, chilli and coconut dressing. Really, really good. Very fresh (lots of mint and basil), large pieces of crab and chicken and a hot chilli dressing. An overall winner.

Sticky caramelised pork with sour herb salad and chilli vinegar. Hell yes.

This was another favourite of mine from the night. Sour, spicy, sweet. The pork threaded onto your fork in fatty ribbons and the salad gave a satisfying crunch. Just brilliant.

Suddenly, “Ladies, this has just been sent, compliments of the kitchen. Please enjoy” (!!) Hooray! Either the kitchen had a mis-order and wanted to get rid of the dish, or the staff had noticed my camera/notebook and wanted to impress, or I was very smiley after my wine and wanted to impress. I still can’t work out which one is most likely – I was stupidly giddy that night.

The dish was the oyster omelette which, sadly, was my least favourite from the night. I quite liked it, but felt that if not for the strong chilli sauce, it wouldn’t taste like much, and I struggled to pick up on the flavour of the oysters. That said, the texture was really nice, very soft.

To end the savory part of our meal, the crispy skinned duck with pickled cucumber, ginger salad, sesame salt and lemon. Don’t bother with the sesame salt – I am of the opinion that flavoured salts are a fad. DO bother with the succulent duck and the sour pickled cucumber salad (basil, coriander), which was the perfect foil to the gameness of the duck.

As a final Hurrah, we shared the palm sugar ice cream sundae for dessert. It comes with salted honeycomb and a lime syrup. One lovely waiter had been helping us out all evening, stopping by when each dish was delivered and running us through each component. He came by briefly to ask what we’d chosen for dessert and, upon hearing my answer, said “Well chosen, Miss. I’ll come by when it arrives to run you through it”. Very kind of him, but surely we can work out how an ice cream sundae works – we do have (almost) four degrees between the three of us!

Nevertheless, this was a stupendous dessert. I am SOLD on the idea of palm sugar now – it had a fantastic sweetness to it without being cloyingly so, and the tang from the lime jumped on your taste buds.

Hopefully you can see why I’m on the “Go Go Chin Chin!” bandwagon now. Before my visit a close friend had told me that it didn’t live up to the hype, and I am traditionally wary of hyped up restaurants. In this case though, I believe the hype is warranted – excellent food and service, and a convivial atmosphere to boot!

As an added bonus, here is an adorably hilarious tumblr called Food On My Dog. You’re welcome.

Chin Chin on Urbanspoon

Filed under: Melbourne CBD, Thai