125 Flinders Lane
(03) 8663 2000
A little while ago, around the time of my birthday, the girls and I visited Chin Chin to celebrate not only my, but also Miss R and Miss F’s birthdays as well (Miss K was also along for the ride). We had previously attempted to visit, only to walk away from the 3 hour wait (no joke), but this time we WERE going to succeed.
Run by Chris Lucas (Pearl, ex-Botanical), Chin Chin aims to recreate the atmosphere of Bangkok’s busy dining halls with a modern twist. Keen to stay away from any notion of formality, the menu takes its cues from Asian street food with an emphasis on sharing.
A table at Chin Chin is possibly one of the most sort after spots in Melbourne currently. A no reservations policy means that come 5.30PM, a sea of people gather in Flinders Lane in an attempt to nab one. Armed with this knowledge we planned to meet there at 5.30PM on a Saturday, which naturally became 5.45PM as we are female.
I think had we arrived at 5.30PM we would have walked straight in, because by 5.45PM there was an hours wait for a table. But not to worry: we had planned for this – who wants to eat that early anyway? And so we took a spot at the bar and began ordering from their extensive cocktail list while watching the line outside grow longer and longer..
At $15 a cocktail, they’re great value. My first choice, an ice ball studded with rose petals gently floating in a lychee concoction was delicious. Delicious and deadly. It was swiftly followed by a caramelized pineapple and tequila cocktail, although the bartender kindly replaced the tequila with gin for me as I can’t quite stomach the stuff. Too many bad memories..
Pretty close to an hour later, I received a text to say our table was ready. The place is pretty big and being so busy I guess this is the easiest way of keeping track of people! We were shown to a table next to where we had been standing at the bar and began to read the menu and exchange gifts (I scored a ticket to the Melbourne Taste Festival in September and a book called the Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit.. Thanks guys!). Sure we were a few cocktails in, but that wasn’t the only reason we had trouble deciding: everything just sounded so yum!
Chin Chin offers a “Feed Me” option for $66pp where all your food decisions are made for you, however, our waiter advised us that we should only choose this option if we were pretty hungry which, after a few cocktails, we wern’t. And so he kindly offered to pick a few dishes for us.
First up: kingfish sashimi with lime, chilli, coconut and Thai basil ($14.00). It was a delicate dish, with punchy citrus notes from the lime segments and Thai basil. The creamy coconut helped amalgamate the dish, and worked well with the buttery texture of the kingfish. Even Miss R who hates seafood tried it!
After the sashimi came the spicy corn and coriander fritters with iceberg lettuce and homemade chilli jam ($12.00). I had been eyeing this on the menu, and was very glad our waiter had ordered them for us. If you read my blog regularly, you know I love corn fritters, and I’m also a huge coriander fan. Needless to say, these too were delicious wrapped inside a lettuce leaf with a dollop of jam!
We also received the pork “Roll Ups” – braised suckling pig accompanied by pancakes, slaw and sour herbs ($16.00). I love the theatrical element of being able to roll these yourself – I loved drenching mine in the accompanying sauce which I thought was a bit mild and could have been a bit punchier – sweeter, saltier, sourer.. something.
Following our starters came the mains: crispy barramundi and green apple salad with caramelised pork, chilli and lemongrass ($24.00) and twice cooked hopkins river beef short ribs with saw tooth coriander and prik nahm pla ($25.00). We all loved the barramundi – the crispiness of the fish with the salty pork and freshness of the green apple.. Yum! Such a great match. The ribs too were delicious and melt-in-the-mouth tender. I loved the freshness of the accompanying salad on both. The entire meal I couldn’t help but notice how fresh and crisp everything seemed to taste.
After this, we were still a little hungry, so our waiter chose the aromatic penang curry with Thai eggplant and sweet potato ($16.00) for us. A great little vegetarian dish, I was glad we got to try one of their curries. It was quite traditional but tasty nonetheless.
Being a birthday celebration, we had to order dessert. Again on the advice of our waiter, we ordered the palm sugar ice cream sundae with salted honeycomb and lime syrup ($14.00) to share, as well as the “platter of little sweet things” ($13.00). The creaminess of the palm sugar ice cream was matched by the sharpness of the lime. An interesting combination. The tasting plate meanwhile consisted of homemade caramels, white chocolate truffles and mini chocolate macarons, all of which were delicious!
All up it was a very enjoyable night. The service on our visit was exceptional, with each dish explained to us as it arrived. The sommelier, who bounced around in a “The Wine Guy” apron, also spouted off wine tips when ordering for the table, even without being asked. It was a great venue choice for dinner and drinks before a night out (they also offer BYO, but with the selection of cocktails and all-Australian wine list who needs it?). Definitely will be returning.