Another Win Win at Chin Chin
Address: 125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Victoria
Phone: (03) 8663 2000
Hours: Open seven days from lunch 'til late
Chin Chin. The double Chin. You can’t deny it’s friggin’ delicious. Sure, you have to be there at lunchtime to queue for dinner, but it’s worth it... especially now that you can pass time downstairs at Go Go Bar (see my yarn for Agenda here).
I’ve been touched by Chin Chin once before, but when it came around to my Dad’s birthday, there was no way he was going to be allowed to decide where we were going to eat. It was time for Chin Chin take two.
This post is less comprehensive than my last, so if you want to see photographs and/or explanations of the décor, ambience, service and any of the dishes below, then I suggest you visit this link.
Last time I had:
- Crispy sardines with nahm prik pla yang and steamed vegetables
- Salt and pepper crusted soft shell crab with green papaya salad and nahm jim
- Wok fried salt and pepper squid with nuoc chum and Vietnamese mint
- Crispy, soy marinated quail with Sichuan salt, lemon and siracha sauce
- Green curry of rockling, eggplant, snake beans and Thai basil
- Caramelised sticky pork with sour herb salad and chilli vinegar
(The dish that infamously ended my 18 months of not eating pork. Clearly I went out with a bang)
- Crispy skinned mandarin duck cooked in master stock and braised with yellow bean (below)
(I still dream about this dish and wake up feeling how I assume boys feel after a naughty dream that requires the sheets to be washed)
At the end of my last visit I made a solemn vow to return for dessert and cocktails. And I did.
First up, there were the cocktails which we ordered from the drinks list marked “XXX R18+ Adults Only”: lemongrass muddled with 10 Cane Rum, fresh pressed lime, ginger liqueur and palm sugar (left), and the fig and cigar syrup with Glenmorangie Whisky, ginger liqueur and old fashioned bitters (right). The former was light and sweet with a zesty undertone from the lemongrass. The latter had more depth, a slight clove aftertaste from the cigar syrup, and was deliciously alcoholic.
Then came the food. I only took photographs of the dishes I hadn’t yet sampled. Between my two posts, you can get a pretty good idea of how Chin Chin lives up to the hype (I’ve sampled just over a third of the menu).
Spicy eggnet rolls with spanner crab and chilli jam
What an explosive mouthful! The extremely fine, thatched eggnet barely contained the sweet spanner crabmeat infused with a coconut dressing. Mixed in with the succulent crab were a chunky chilli jam and a touch of coriander for freshness. The rolls weren’t so spicy that the flavours were overpowered, but seeing as there are only two per serve and four at our table, we hadn’t counted on the spice-haters wanting a bite as well!
Grilled roti madtarbak filled with Indian spiced beef and a cucumber relish
If you’re normal, you love roti, adore beef and are somewhat impartial to cucumber. This dish was a crowd pleaser. The roti wasn’t slathered in oil, as it often is, and despite being grilled it maintained a light, flaky texture. The relish consisted of small cubes of cucumber (say that five times fast), which were steeped in a fish sauce and chilli dressing.
Chilli salt chicken wings with coriander and fresh lemon
The chilli salt jacket encasing the chicken wings was addictive. The recipe was perfection and the crisp exterior was only the beginning of the experience. Beneath it sat soft chicken meat that slipped off the bone with ease. Coriander leaves were scattered over the chicken wings but could be removed for those who find this herb too pungent. The pipless lemon wedge on the side added a delightful zing, but we were careful not to bite down on the seeds of the finely sliced chillies.
Steamed spanner crab and chicken salad with green mango, chilli and coconut dressing
Salads don’t get much more exciting than this. Green mango (and on that note, green papaya) is a Thai staple and is a fantastic base for any Thai salad. When served with the white crab meat (there’s something so appealing about not having to gouge it out of the shell) the combination was simple yet successful. The chilli and coconut dressing added some moisture while the crunchy peanuts and fried shallots brought some crunch to the party. The mint invigorated the taste buds, the juicy tomatoes and cucumber refreshed the mouth and the salty spheres of salmon roe popped on the tongue.
Pad seuw of braised Wagyu and gai lan
I must confess I prefer pad seuw to pad Thai. It used to be the other way round and then I converted. I recommend you try it. The homemade pad seuw noodles at Chin Chin are viscous and therefore all the more delicious. When the boys saw the word ‘Wagyu’, which to them translates roughly to ‘fancy, delicious steak’, they were sold. The braised meat fleshed out the slippery noodles and was tender and full of flavour. The gai lan (Chinese broccoli) had been cooked in the thick, sweet sauce and added colour to the dish.
Grass-fed Hopkins River sirloin stir-fried with krachai, green peppercorns chilli and cha om
Again, the boys jumped at this one as soon as their eyes spotted ‘sirloin’ on the menu. The sirloin is stir-fried with cha om (a stringy, herby vegetable) and snake beans. The dish had a distinctive Thai flavour, thanks to the typical ingredients. Krachai belongs to the ginger family and is called ‘finger root’ due to its appearance. Often used in Thai curry pastes, it is milder than ginger and therefore superior in recipes with multiple fragrant ingredients.
Salt and pepper kingfish wings with asian herb salad and nouc cham
I have raved about Chin Chin’s sticky pork and mandarin duck on the menu in the past, but this has to be my new favourite dish. Again, there is something so more-ish about that salt and pepper coating. Three triangular parcels with protruding fins were presented next to an asian herb salad. A wedge of lemon and a small dish of the salt and pepper mixture perched on the side. The fish was lightly fried and golden on the outside and firm and tasty on the inside. A must try!
I promised I’d do dessert, and dessert I did do.
Grilled banana roti bread with sweetened condensed milk and cinnamon sugar
Like the roti madtarbak filled with Indian spiced beef, this sweeter version arrived with four squares of grilled roti. In place of the beef was soft banana, and instead of cucumber relish it was generously drizzled with sweetened condensed milk. It was also dusted with cinnamon sugar—just in case it wasn’t sweet enough. You know something is good when it has sold out in the past.
Palm sugar ice cream sundae with salted honeycomb and lime syrup
This dessert won gold in my books. It was bestowed upon me in a glass with giant crumbs of honeycomb scattered on top like a sugary, golden crown. The palm sugar ice cream was sweet with a hint of coconut. This dessert would have been too sugary if it hadn’t been for the saltiness of the honeycomb and the tangy lime syrup, which balanced the dessert superbly.
Three colour pudding
This layered creation was the most impressive to look at. The ingredients were layered in an edible rainbow: sweet red beans, a condensed milk semifreddo and bright green slithers of tapioca infused with pandan (a fragrant, sweet, leafy plant). These were compressed under two spheres of coconut ice cream that only just fitted into the glass. To top off this magnificent dessert were blocks of semi-crushed ice in a thin caramel sauce. The mass of textures is quite extraordinary but to put it simply, if you don’t like the gooey ‘pearls’ at the bottom of the asian ‘Happy Cup’ drinks, stay away from this one… or invite me to finish it off.
My second Chin Chin visit was as delectable as my first and will be as tasty as my third. Next time, I’m keen to try the “Feed Me” option, where you are served up a selection of dishes for $66. From what I gather, you are given five dishes and one dessert. That equates to $11 a plate, pretty amazing value when you consider that menu prices range from $11-$33.
Chin Chin, I’ll line up for you any day.