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:
- Pad see-ew of Wagyu beef, gai lan, rice noodles and crispy shallots.
- Crispy barramundi and green apple salad, caramelised pork, peanuts, chili and lemongrass.
- BBQ king salmon in banana leaf, coconut red curry.
- Twice-cooked beef short-rib, shaved coconut salad and prik nam pla.
- 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.
125 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia
Tel: +61 3 8663 2000
Opening hours: 11am-11pm Mon-Thu, Sun