[Melbourne] Modern-Asian at Chin Chin, Flinders Lane

modern-asian
melbourne
thai

(Peter) #1

Chris Lucas’ outrageously popular, no-reservations Chin Chin, known for its energy-sapping two-hour queues, has spawned copycats all over Australia. Its cuisine is best described as Australian-Asian, with a heavy slant towards Thai cooking, courtesy of its founding chef, Benjamin Cooper, who’d worked under Neil Perry, Kylie Kwong and David Thompson.

TIP: the best way to avoid the queue is actually to go there at 11am on a Saturday, when it opens for lunch. Which was what my friend suggested when we met for lunch during my visit to Melbourne recently. We were old university mates back in the early 80s, but had not met for more than 20 years. After we graduated from the Uni. of Western Australia, he went east to Melbourne to work, got married, started a family, became an out-and-out Melbournian and never looked back. My first job, on the other hand, was with Rupert Murdoch’s West Australian Newspapers - then, I went on to work for the Singapore Broadcasting Corp, became a Singaporean, and never looked back since.

I’d wanted to do lunch at Higher Ground, he wanted me to try Chin Chin - which I accepted with trepidation, having read Time Out Melbourne, which rated Chin Chin as the city’s busiest restaurant, and mentioned (jokingly?) that: “A new Melbourne City Council ordinance has decreed all reviews of Chin Chin must mention the queues, so let’s begin by quantifying a situation that falls slightly short of the Beatles’ 1964 visit to Melbourne and is roughly on par with trying to get on the 5.36pm Werribee train from Flinders Street.”

Anyway, we both got to Chin Chin at the stroke of 11am, and there was only one table ahead of us in an otherwise empty restaurant (yay!). Of course, the whole place was completely filled up an hour later. But for now, look!!

By 12 noon, it looked like this:

And these are what we had:

  1. Pad see-ew of Wagyu beef, gai lan, rice noodles and crispy shallots.

  1. Crispy barramundi and green apple salad, caramelised pork, peanuts, chili and lemongrass.

  1. BBQ king salmon in banana leaf, coconut red curry.

  1. Twice-cooked beef short-rib, shaved coconut salad and prik nam pla.

  1. Caramelised sticky pork, sour herb salad and chili vinegar.

It was a pretty meat-heavy meal, most of them with very assertive flavours, but were very tasty, all the same. I’m beginning to understand why they had these queues. Service was exemplary, as with most places in Melbourne.

Address
Chin Chin
125 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia
Tel: +61 3 8663 2000
Opening hours: 11am-11pm Mon-Thu, Sun
11am-11.30pm Fri-Sat


(John Hartley) #2

Sorry, mon ami. I don’t care how good the food is - but I’m not queuing for two hours, nor am I getting “lunch” at 11am - that’s mid morning, maybe time for a late breakfast)


(Peter) #3

LOL! Understandable. :joy:


#4

No way I am lining up for 2 hours, even 1 hour is difficult for me now. Having lunch at 11am or 2pm is very ok for me, I can be quite flexible in this sense, if it is a worthy place.

That’s a big piece of meat, with the smiling server C.
@klyeoh you are right, lots of meat. The clientele seems to be a good mix.


#5

I do need to try Chin Chin, I think I have held back because it seemed very much like Melbourne’s answer to Sydney’s Longrain but thankfully Mongrain’s peak was well before Instagram. They have opened a branch in Sydney so will give it a go…if I can get past David Thompson’s Long Chim…


(Peter) #6

If you do, give the (non-Thai) Wagyu Beef Rendang a try - we didn’t order that but other tables did, and the diners looked like they enjoyed it very much. Anyhow these ones marked on their menu are the most popular options, according to the waitress who took our order:


#7

Went to Chin Chin in a group of five on a weeknight. We got there a bit after 6pm, and there was a line out the door but we didn’t have to wait for seats as we got one of the last remaining tables downstairs. I think we were lucky as there was a long line outside when we left. It’s a good sized restaurant with two floors.

We decided to do a fixed price family style menu. There are two of these on the menu - Feed Me #1 (“The Classics”) (A$69.5pp) - and Feed Me #2 (“Chef’s Banquet”) (A$88pp). We asked our server what the differences were. He explained that the Feed Me #2 menu had some dishes with more premium ingredients, and that for first timers we should probably get the Feed Me #1 option, which is what we did.

Here’s what I think was on that menu from looking at the descriptions:

Corn Fritters w. Lettuce Cups
Shiso & Sweet & Sour Chilli Sauce

You wrap the fritters in the lettuce and apply sauce.

Kingfish Sashimi
Lime, Chilli, Coconut & Thai Basil

Tangy sour spicy citrus marinade. Strong flavors. Fish tasted a bit like hamachi. Quite good.

Chin Chin Pork “Roll Ups”
Slow Cooked Pulled Pork, Pancakes, Slaw & Plum Sauce

Kind of like Peking duck with the pancakes but with pulled pork.

Barramundi and Crispy Pork Salad
Apple & Peanuts

Interesting mix of fish and pork, with crunchy apples and peanuts in the salad. The meat was coated in kind of a Vietnamese style caramel sauce.

Stir Fry Prawn
Egg Noodle, Garlic Chive
& Hell Fire Chilli Oil

I think this was my favorite dish of the night. Nicely textured noodles and perfectly cooked prawn chunks, with a dollop of spicy chili sauce.

Twice Cooked Beef Short Rib
Shaved Coconut Salad and Prik Nahm Pla

A single large short rib, covered with a sweetish glaze.

Stir Fried Green Beans & Shredded
Coconut, Burnt Chilli & Cashew Sambal

This was fine.

Chargrilled Broccolini
Black Bean & Sambal Delek

Broccolini with a spicy salty black bean sauce.

BBQ King Salmon
in Banana Leaf, Coconut Red Curry

I liked this a lot. Nicely cooked salmon with a bit of smokiness and spices from the red curry. Drizzled with a bit of coconut milk.

At this point our server asked if we were still hungry. We said yes of course.

Green Curry?
I’m not sure what this was on the menu - it was a green Thai style curry with chicken and Thai eggplants. Very good, nice heat and spice.

Next came some desserts to share.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee Panna Cotta
w. cashew praline

Very nice, really tasted of coffee with condensed milk.

Palm Sugar Ice Cream Sundae
Salted Honeycomb & Lime Syrup
&
Coconut Sago
Sweetcorn Ice Cream, Praline & Puffed rice

Menus

Very good meal, lots of dishes and the family style menu was pretty reasonably priced (1 AUD is about 0.75 USD). Standouts for me were the stir fry prawn with egg noodle, the green curry, kingfish sashimi, and the salmon in banana leaf.